Monday, 16 June 2014 04:19

Garden trends: All in mind

By Zahra Nasir

When one really — and very deeply — considers the art of gardening in Pakistan it is clearly evident that, for the most part, the ‘art’ is completely missing and has been absent since the days when the Mughals designed and constructed their gardens with spectacular, extremely artistic, pleasure.

Having mulled over the myriad images of the gardens that I have visited throughout the length and breadth of Pakistan and having tried — for days running into weeks on end — to fathom exactly what the missing ingredient is, I have recently come to the conclusion that, except for in a very small number of gardens, what is missing is the artistic freedom which, sad to say, has disappeared from almost everywhere else in the country too.

It’s true that current garden trends are perhaps a little ‘softer’ than those predominantly evident in the years gone by but, it still appears that so many home gardeners stubbornly, perhaps completely thoughtlessly, stick to what they have been ‘informed’ is the right way to go. What we have today are unimaginative straight lines, uniform rows of ‘matching’ plants, square or oblong horrors of ‘lush green lawns’, vegetables — if there are any — hidden away out of sight and often out of the sun, behind the house. And everything is sprayed, with chemicals of course, to within an inch of its life unless it is an insect, beneficial or otherwise, which is routinely sprayed into extinction. Then we hear the owners of such ‘lifeless’ gardens expressing, when an opportunity occurs, dismay at the disappearance of butterflies and birds whose demise they, themselves, are responsible for.

Strict observance of gardening trends which are not our own — they were largely imported during the days of the British Raj — is just one possible reason for the mindless garden trends that ‘custom’, not culture, dictate. But, I strongly suspect, there is a far more important, far more serious reason and one which the majority of gardeners completely overlook solely because closing eyes and ears is far easier than opening them to the realities of life in their own garden as well as, it must be said, life in general. Use your imagination rather than just sticking to tradition to create beautiful gardens

This reason, not at all an elusive one, strides or shuffles depending on age and health, into the garden on usually a daily basis and regardless of the instructions issued, goes about doing whatever it is they think needs to be done and done in a certain way. Yes, I am talking about those people who so proudly — and often without just cause — call themselves ‘malis’.

It is customary for those who can afford it, and most owners of large gardens can, to use the services of a mali who will cut the grass, cut back everything promising to burst out of line, cut off weeds at ground level rather than using any effort to pull them up, cut off any plant he doesn’t recognise or hasn’t personally planted and, when the cutting is done, will lug around a hosepipe to thoroughly drown the evidence!

The problem with the majority of — not all — malis, is that they think they know the answer to every single garden related issue and refuse, point blank, to either listen or learn anything a knowledgeable employer attempts to share. Thus, garden trends go absolutely nowhere if they happen to be beyond the malis comprehension, which in most cases they are. In the garden, especially so in the gardens of the wealthy, it is the mali who rules the roost and who, to put it bluntly, holds the power of life and death over every living plant, bird, animal and insect in his domain. He wields his power ruthlessly and, unfortunately, often with a great deal of ignorant intolerance too.

Malis are indispensable to a high percentage of gardeners. Who wants to crawl home from the office and tackle the garden during the blistering heat of summer or, horror of horrors, which fashionable ‘lady’ is going to risk getting dirt underneath her meticulously manicured finger nails which may even get broken if she so much as glances sideways at a plant screaming out for attention? Oh no, no, no! Malis are deemed as necessary as the latest fashion trend or designer aftershave to hit these shores. Gardeners they may boast to be, but getting out there actually gardening is not the ‘done thing’ which is quite obvious if you think about it. Everything in the garden falls apart at the seams and the boring, mediocre result is absolutely nothing to write home about as nothing ever really changes. And, as for garden art, what on earth is that?

Please continue sending your gardening queries to Remember to include your location. The writer will not respond directly by email. Emails with attachments will not be opened.

Published in Dawn, Sunday Magazine, June 15th, 2014



, posted in Design
Saturday, 29 March 2014 09:31

Garden of Versailles on Google earth

For Landscapers / Gardening professionals, Hortist presents here landscape photos of "Garden of Versailles." These photos have been taken by Saif Malik through Google earth for the requirement of his article "Famous gardens of Europe" on Google earth: a bird's eye view." These landscape photos may help Landscapers / Gardening professionals in context of Landscape design ideas and landscaping/gardening concepts of European historical gardens.

, posted in Gallery

British homeowners spend £30,000 on their garden over a lifetime, a study has found. Researchers found the typical green-fingered adult will spend a third of the amount on plants alone. The rest of cost includes keeping the lawn, flowerbeds, shrubs and trees in tip-top condition, as well as forking out for garden buildings, ornaments and patios.

The survey by online garden centre,, asked 540 gardeners about their spending habits.

They found gardeners spend £9,500 during the course of their life on plants alone. This included buying seeds, bulbs, bedding plants, shrubs, trees, grass seed, turf and vegetable plants.

The second highest expenditure was on hard landscaping at £9,000, with homeowners changing their patio or deck six times over the course of their gardening lifetime.

Garden furniture, including tables, chairs and outdoor lighting accounted for £3,600 of the total amount.

Those questioned said they needed something decent to sit on or relax in to enjoy their garden which explained why furniture was updated or replaced around eight times.

This was closely followed by essential tools like spades, forks, rakes, shears and secateurs which totalled just under £3,500.

Gardeners admitted to spending over £1,800 on their sheds and greenhouses claiming they replaced their shed four times and even their greenhouse twice.


The cost of garden electrics, including a lawnmower, strimmer, hedge trimmer and garden vacuum, came in at £1,320 with the remaining spend, £720, being used on the barbecues gardeners purchased for the summer months.

One male gardener, who was involved in the research, said: ‘I spend hours in the garden but had no idea quite how much it was costing me.


‘For that I could buy myself a decent car or give my daughter a deposit for her house. I see my garden as an investment – if it looks good then it adds value to my property which has to be a good thing.’

A female respondent added: ‘Plants are my biggest weakness. Even if I just pop to the garden centre for a browse around, I end up leaving with a car full. Many I don’t really need – my garden is full up already, but I always manage to find a space to plant it in, even if it means digging up something else and giving that to a neighbour.’

Another added: ‘I never scrimp when it comes to garden furniture. It has to look good and it has to be comfortable. My husband loves pottering around in the garden. I like to use the garden for relaxing – a sun lounger on the deck with a glass of wine beside me and a good book is my perfect summers day. ‘


Chris Bonnett from said: ‘I would imagine very few gardeners would expect their garden to be costing them £30,000.

‘Many of the tools and electricals can last for years. It’s only plants that you need to buy every year so it’s very easy to lose track of how much you are actually shelling out.’ A study last year found those who spend their free time pruning the roses or pottering in the vegetable patch are trimmer than their non-gardening neighbours.

Women were a dress size smaller, while men who went to an allotment could expect to be around a stone lighter.

Previous studies have credited gardening with a host of benefits, from raising zest for life to boosting happiness.


Published on: 03/19/2014

, posted in News
Sunday, 01 September 2013 07:40

Garden Talk: September showers

By Zahra Nasir

As always, when monsoon rains have graced us with their presence, gardens should be looking fresh and exceptionally green, with most varieties of plants, especially trees, shrubs and perennial climbers, having renewed themselves with some amazing spurts of new growth which, as mentioned last month, may need pruning back. More importantly though, if your locality received a decent amount of rain, it will, aside from transforming your garden into a temporary rain forest, have shown you exactly where the drainage you took for granted, has gone wrong!

, posted in Gardening
Sunday, 18 August 2013 12:55

Garden talk: It's a date

By Zahra Nasir

It is heartening that so many readers have requested information on date cultivation as, for those residents in the south of the country, this productive palm is an eminently sensible addition to any garden and should, in my humble opinion, be far more widely grown in both urban and rural locations.

, posted in Gardening

By Saif Malik

While breathing in the fresh air of October (2009) morning, I was thinking on the possibilities to visit the world famous gardens, but how, was the most intricate question at that time. I kept on walking and thinking until a novel idea came into my mind. The idea was that I should locate at least all those famous gardens on Google earth, and see what it shows.  May be, my curiosity get some fulfillment in this way.

, posted in Earth

By Saif Malik

While wandering on Facebook today, I came across an amazing landscape design image. The design idea and its on-ground furnishing were totally mind-blowing. I felt myself lost in the curves of this design for some moments, and got curious to know this beautiful mind. Eventually, I came to find a living legend of Landscape architecture world, Mr. Charles Jencks.

, posted in Gardening

By Zahra Nasir

Brilliantly bright, certainly colourful and somehow happy — at least they make me smile — nasturtiums are a must for any garden, balcony and just about anywhere else it is possible to grow them. Not only do they add a blazing dash of cheer to their surroundings but, and this is wonderful, you can eat them too!

, posted in Gardening

By Ben Inder

If you have an outdoor space that you would like to turn into an art form then you are in luck! If you have good lighting and good soil then the outdoor space is one of the most malleable and customizable spaces that can be designed as if there are literally no limits at all. Today we are going to go through some creative garden ideas to get your creative juices flowing. 

, posted in Gardening
Sunday, 17 March 2013 04:44

Gardening: Some like it hot

By Zahra Nasir

Some winter vegetables can now be grown in summer, says Zahrah Nasir  

, posted in Grow
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Hortist is a sustainable source for landscape horticulture news, solutions and resources, managed by a Landscape horticulturist from Pakistan. Hortist reports on importance of this very unique niche and how it improves the landscape of this world and lives of its inhabitants.