Sun, 07 Sep 2003

Sights and sounds to soothe the senses

Maria Endah Hulupi, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

Transforming an austere house into a pleasant, inviting home with a strong "green" element is a challenge of time and creativity.

For young couple Ari and Agung, it was their dream to remodel their house and small garden in Bintaro, South Jakarta, since they moved in eight years ago.

Back then, the house was unwelcoming, with its small, dull and disorganized garden shut behind high fences.

"But for the first couple of years, things remained that way since we didn't have time to remodel the house as well as the garden," said Ari, a mother of two.

Occupying 100 square meters on a 170-square-meter plot, the home did undergo minor changes two years after they moved in, with the addition of some artistic design elements and more ventilation.

But it was not until Ari left her job five years ago that she started making plans to transform the small garden into a living homage to her love of plants.

Although from a family of devoted gardeners, Ari as well as her mother and sister were unable to experiment much with their hobby due to land constraints.

But once she had the chance to experiment in her own home, Ari found it was not as easy as she thought. She turned to magazines and books for reference and also inspiration in landscape gardening.

"At first, I still made mistakes. I put plants in spots that are not suitable for them to grow," Ari said.

"Several days later, they started to wilt and I had to replace them with new ones. It happened several times."

During a period of trial and error, she started learning from her own mistakes and soon enjoyed improved results.

Encouraged by the progress, she started tending plants indoors to fill the empty spots in the front and rear garden, as well as the space at the side of the house.

Several months later, her patience and hard work paid off with the blossoming of three small gardens beautifully accentuating her house.

Some unplanned experiments yielded excellent results. For instance, in her front garden, a combination of red, yellow and orange frangipanis with a Balinese style decorative umbrella gives a hint of Balinese nuance.

"Actually, we did not plan to have a Balinese-style front garden, we just planted some frangipanis and added a decorative umbrella that we bought when we went to Bali ... and it turned out great," explained Ari, who also uses lesung (a traditional container) as a pot for the side garden.

In the rear part of the house, there is a kitchen, a terrace/dining room and a tropical garden. Before the makeover, the garden had a pond with water cascading from the wall, but it was remodeled after one of their children was injured in an accident.

From the terrace, the owners can enjoy their meals while relishing the breeze as well as rich textures and colors of leafy plants, neatly arranged in a bed and stretching along the sides of the garden.

A pathway was added on the space where grass does not grow due to little sunlight. Later, a miniature pond made out of brick and equipped with a pump was added at a corner to provide the gurgling sound of rippling water.

The soothing view of the garden and the sound from the pond relaxes the senses. "It's sort of a therapeutic garden and the pond was specially built for that purpose," Ari said.

Maintenance includes removing dead leaves, watering plants twice a day and adding fertilizer, depending on the type of the plants.

Her gardening success has drawn praise from friends and neighbors. Some even came to her for advice or sought help to redesign their gardens -- but she has learned to be selective about who she helps out.

"It's such a pity to find out that after all the hard work, the plants are not properly taken care of," she said.