The Gardens of Chiconia 45: taking the plunge

It has been nearly half a year since I was able to do any ‘proper’ gardening. Spinal surgery, all that stuff.

The result is horrible weedy junglyness, huge amounts of overgrowth, plants dying back and a general lack of order and soothing beauty for my eye to enjoy. Frogtopia has become so lush as to be almost impenetrable, and its pond became so choked with roots, dead leaves and other detritus that I’ve had to remove the pump. It was completely blocked and I didn’t want the motor to burn out. Since the water’s no longer circulating, it had become a dengue-fever hazard, so I emptied it out. The frogs have slowly moved out and into other accommodation, although not far: there is still a wonderful chorus every night.


From the back: frangipani, murraya, ZZ plant (Zamioculcas zamiifolia), ginger lily, dieffenbachia, edible ginger, custard apple seedlings, white and purple phalaenopsis orchids


Frog refuge, half full of water and stones

I have missed the sound of trickling water. Yesterday, I decide to get on and do something about it. Frogtopia will remain a jungle of huge leaves and ferns, but the water element has to move, or the same thing will happen again and again. So I went out and bought a large round black plastic builder’s tub, about 80cm across and 40cm deep (30 x 15 inches). I plunged into the Frogtopia jungle and reclaimed all the rocks from the dry water feature. Some of them were quite large and really a bit too heavy still, but I was on a roll.

By the end of the morning’s work, I had taken the pump apart, cleaned and put it together again, the rocks were all hosed off and free of soil and vegetable matter, and the tub, pump and rocks had become a free-standing water feature some distance from any source of falling leaves and close enough to the house that I can hear the trickle of water.

Today, I moved a bunch of plants and things in tubs to stand around it. It’s not a vision of beauty yet. There are plants which have clearly suffered from a lack of sun and not-so-benign neglect, plants which will enjoy the slight spray from the water feature, and enjoy the humid micro-climate. One plant had to be uprooted from its previous home; it had sent a large taproot out of the bottom of the pot and into a crack between the paving stones on the patio. I’m waiting to see if it will survive this rather brutal treatment, it’s looking a bit dejected… I have also given the water feature a frog/toad refuge, an old ceramic pot on its side in the water, with stones in it for them to sit on in the cool.

Yes, OK, my back is making a bit of a fuss about all this hauling rocks and tubs of plants around. But my mind and my eyes are delighted by a little bit of something pretty in all the mess. I’m giving my back the day off tomorrow, and then I shall start getting stuck into more mess, working out from the haven of trickling water and greenery.

Now I know my back is up to the treatment, I’ll be out there at work to get things shipshape before it gets too hot in a couple of months.


28 thoughts on “The Gardens of Chiconia 45: taking the plunge

  1. Kathy D says:

    Kate, you are amazing – is there no end to your talents? Taking a water pump apart and then putting it back together. In a few months you will have a full frog hotel. I wish we were getting warmer but we are heading to at least 7 months of snow & cold.

    • katechiconi says:

      It wasn’t too tricky; there’s a simple propellor inside a cage inside the casing, it was just a matter of cleaning out the gunk and replacing the casing…
      Come November, the temperature and humidity here will start to climb steeply till we’re hovering just under 100°F and 80% humidity, making yard work a bit sweaty!

  2. EllaDee says:

    Soon it will be all green, abundant & lush and you’ll be hanging out a No Vacancy sign 🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸

    • katechiconi says:

      I have another pump, this one solar powered, so I can set up another Frogotel elsewhere. I’m hoping the plants I’ve moved in will do better in their new location too.

  3. Debbierose says:

    Take care, baby steps, with great satisfaction. Which frogs are local to you? Green tree?

  4. kathyreeves says:

    Hurray that you are back in the garden and not suffering for it!

    • katechiconi says:

      My cunning strategy for working outwards from the new water feature means the heavy job of moving two raised beds won’t happen for a while. With luck, I’ll work my way up to that!

  5. tialys says:

    It’s surprising how hard on the back gardening is. Just planting up a couple of pots either side of my front door a few weeks ago had my back complaining and I count myself as fairly fit. I suppose it’s a different sort of bending, at a different height, doing something you don’t normally do – your back just knows doesn’t it? How my husband does all the hauling around and digging and whatever that he does in the garden always amazes me but he’s used to it I guess.

    • katechiconi says:

      I’ve learned that the hardest thing of all to do is to bend and hold the bend. So your potting would certainly cause grief if you did it for a while. Next time, sit on a stool to work, which works nicely for me!

  6. What a great idea! And I see from your comment above that you can get solar powered pumps. Hmmmmm *ideas forming*

  7. Excellent start! But don’t go TOOOOO fast….. 🙂

  8. Conor Bofin says:

    Delighted to hear you are on the mend Kate.

  9. Frogtopia sounds wonderful. I’m sure you’ll have an orchestra of peeping, croaking, and other frog gallumphs.

    • katechiconi says:

      We have everything from bass booming to almost cricket-like chirping; a full orchestra indeed. And I’ve noticed the birds have found it too, and are stopping briefly to dip up a beak of water.

  10. magpiesue says:

    Ah yes, the urges of spring gardening. Looks like you’ll have a delightful little water feature to enjoy eventually. Glad the back is holding up well!

    • katechiconi says:

      I’m feeling a dreadful urge to go and get a load of pots and potting mix and transplant everything that’s outgrown its current home. Slowly but surely… or my back will not thank me.

  11. claire93 says:

    I do hope your back isn’t going to be complaining after all that physical labour

    • katechiconi says:

      It’s been OK after the first day, so I think I can do some more so long as I rest it every other day. All the relocated plants look much happier now, and there are buds on the frangipani!

  12. nettyg says:

    Ah our backs….laws unto themselves! I’m going to test mine today and venture back into the garden to do some gentle potting and tidying. Like you, I sit on something low and work at a better height. I like your pond solution, and isn’t it satisfying to come up with a workable alternative and to see your re-located plants are happy with the arrangement.

    • katechiconi says:

      I listen very carefully to mine now, seeing how much I paid to get it fixed before! Yes, the stool is a good solution to the ‘bend and hold’ problem. More yard work today, hauling palm fronds to the dump. It’s the time of year when every palm in the garden drops at least two, and there’s a LOT of palms…

  13. Your back must be getting stronger though – well done! c

  14. Lynda says:

    You busy bee! I have two words for you: BE CAREFUL! I don’t want you snapping one of those titanium screws and then having to go back in for surgery. (This happened to my friends son!!!) OK, that was way more than two words but I worry about you. ❤

    • katechiconi says:

      I doubt I’m up to anything strenuous enough to actually snap a screw! I need to move some irrigation hose and hook it back up to the watering time so all of this doesn’t die while we’re away, but any other yard work is going to wait till we’re back.

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