Garden Photo of the Day

A 40-Year Labor of Tropical Gardening Love, Part 2

More tropical splendor

Today we’re returning to Kannan Pasamanickam’s tropical garden in Malaysia.

The garden has undergone many modifications over the years, and I have cultivated roses, lilies, heliconias, jasmines, orchids, bauhinia, Thai and Chinese ginger flowers, bottle brush, passiflora, and frangipani with varying degrees of success. The flowers attract butterflies and birds, which have built nests, laid their eggs, and raised their young. This evening we discovered a nest built by a yellow vented bulbul in a powderpuff combretum bush behind our kitchen; I managed to get a picture of the baby birds as they stuck their heads out waiting for their mother to feed them.

In a small pond at the northern corner of the garden, I once grew lotus plants with beautiful red flowers, but aphids destroyed them a year later. Herons and kingfishers are attracted to the koi fish in the pond and occasionally succeed in stealing a fish. Bauhenia kockkiana and Rangoon creeper (Combretum indicum) have been trained to climb the pergolas in the southern corner of the garden, and they produce beautiful bouquets of flowers.

Now that I’m in my mid-sixties, my worry is maintenance of the garden; I am physically less fit and am unable to spend the many hours that I could as a younger man, tending to the needs of my plants. But there are no regrets, as this garden has given unbridled joy to me and my family over the years. It has been a wonderful journey and a feast for all our senses.

This koi in our pond was five years old. Sadly, it died of a parasitic infection that I could not control.


Pink waterlilies blooming in the pond.


The garden pond surrounded by plants.


I inherited this lazy chair from my father. I’ve spent many a hot afternoon lazing next to the pond, protected from mosquitoes by the fine netting surrounding our porch.


Bauhenia kockiana


Black-naped oriel on a bottlebrush bush (Callistemon sp.)


Two hungry baby birds in their nest in the powderpuff bush (Combretum constrictum).


Flowers on the powderpuff bush.


Roses are very difficult to grow in the tropics, and hot weather and aphids are big enemies.


Desert roses (Adenium species and hybrids) love the heat!


A desert rose hybrid


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  1. LauraJaneS 03/26/2019

    Lovely! A lot of these flowers remind me of my years spent in Australia. Thanks for sharing ;)

    1. GardenSantuary 03/26/2019

      Thank you Laura. Yes LauraJane, Australia has many flowers similar to what we grow in Malaysia but they thrive so much better in Australia - makes me jealous !! - I think it is due to the cooler weather in Australia. We are visiting our son in Brisbane currently and have just finished reviving his tiny garden. Have planted Camellia, Azaleas and Summerscents which do not grow in Malaysia. Also stumbled upon a gorgeous Curcuma Ginger variety - gorgeous red - bought a pot and am enjoying seeing the flower every day. The Curcuma flowers are very hardly - the last one i cut and put in a vase with water lasted 2 weeks !!

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    meander_michaele 03/26/2019

    Good morning, Kannan. Your pictures from today and yesterday make me feel like I've taken a mini vacation to a very beautiful place. I love the handsome wood framing of your screened in's so elegantly architectural and it is a perfect compliment to the treasured lazing chair from your father. I can easily imagine how easy it is to relax there and drift in and out of a pleasant reverie.

    1. GardenSantuary 03/26/2019

      Thank you Meander Michaele.
      We got the wood framing done after years of wondering how to enjoy our garden by sitting in our porch - mosquitoes and Dengue fever caused by their bite is a big problem in Malaysia. We used to "sterilize" the porch by using mosquito repellent spray but this is not environment friendly, leaves a unpleasant smell and is not totally effective. We thought of enclosing our porch with glass and air conditioning it but then it would have cut off the natural breeze and garden sounds. Then I thought about using the fine metallic screen mounted on wood (I love wood) - this worked beautifully as you saw - we were lucky because we have a carpenter who is passionate about his work. The lazy chair brings back happy memories of my late father and my childhood whenever I lie on it - great combination - childhood memories, tricking water sounds from the fountain, natural breeze and the scent of my flowers

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    simplesue 03/26/2019

    Wow! I'm so enchanted with your garden- it's just magical and packed with beauty and so well designed! So many exotic plants I've never seen or heard of until now. I love your appreciation of the little creatures that live in the garden.
    The garden room and the "lazy chair" are fabulous with the garden just outside as the view. And I know what you mean about being in your 60s now and how it is all getting harder, I'm also going through that myself. I had a neighbor, Dr. Vrabec who started his first garden in his 60s and continued gardening into his mid 80s. I helped him a little here and there, but he did most of it on his own. So that always gave me inspiration and I hope it inspires you also- that we can keep on gardening!

    1. GardenSantuary 03/26/2019

      Thank you SimpleSue
      Aging and gardening reminds me of a story about a passionate gardener in Singapore. This physician had a large garden that he tended himself. As he aged he employed a gardener to help him. As the years passed the physician became wheelchair bound and his gardener too grew too old to work. So the house and garden had to be sold and in its beautiful place, several houses were built by developers - so sad !

  4. btucker9675 03/26/2019

    Lazy chair and baby birds - you’ve created a Garden of Eden!

    1. GardenSantuary 03/26/2019

      Thank you BTucker

  5. sheila_schultz 03/26/2019

    Kannan, your gardens filled with the wonders of nature are magnificent, and obviously a joy to all the living creatures that call it home. You have created something truly beautiful, thank you for sharing it with all of us.

    1. GardenSantuary 03/26/2019

      Thank you Sheila

  6. cheryl_c 03/26/2019

    Kannan, your gardens are enchanting and so rich with plants I've never seen before. The hot colors throughout are joyful and exciting. Thanks so much for sharing your story and your gardens, and blessings on you as you figure out how to metamorphose yourself and your gardens to continue to suit each other so well.

    1. GardenSantuary 03/26/2019

      Thank you Cheryl

  7. paiya 03/26/2019

    Kanaan, I have to echo what others have said- your garden is a tropical paradise! You have had lots of pleasure in creating it. Every plant is spectacular and obviously thriving. Your having to move plants around to find the ideal spot is our experience too. Thank you for sharing with us

  8. GardenSantuary 03/26/2019

    Thank you Paiya

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