A Perfect Place for a Passionate Gardener
Look around at the wonderful world of Krabi. This is a place where shimmering blue oceans and Jurassic scenery of towering limestone karsts meet and create magic. It is a place of such outstanding natural beauties that some, once they have discovered it, decide to make it their home and build a new life in it – or, for that matter, create a garden.
This is exactly what Barb Anthony did, a California born and raised gardener and a natural outdoor person. Younger studies of botany and marine biology continued to peak her interest throughout life. After relocating to Texas with her husband Greg, Barb studied and became a certified Master Gardener in Texas then started her own business Native Nurseries of Texas. One of the original officers and organizers of the Native Plant Society of Texas Denton Chapter, Barb also assisted the University of North Texas in propagation research and prairie restoration. When queried about their move to Thailand, she says, “In retirement, we found a place where we can fulfill our dreams of having a tropical garden. ”
When asked what made them choose Nong Thale River Residence, the brainchild and the passion of Dutch building engineer Mat Ruijters, she ponders, “There is a lovely crystal clear river running through the land that immediately attracted us, but what’s more: here you have fabulous, expansive views of the surrounding mountains. The views allow you to feel an incredible freedom of space. We liked the large lots because they enable you to landscape and create a private garden while allowing for imagination; the eye needs to explore. I like curves, bends, ups and downs, so when you go round a corner, the garden invites you in, enticing you to explore and discover little surprises here and there.”
She tells us, that this is her first tropical garden, and though she had lived in the tropics before, she had never done any gardening in the tropics. What are the challenges of gardening here in the tropics, here in Krabi, I want to know? “It’s the soil,” she says, “the soil is the challenge. Though nutrient rich, it is full of rocks that the roots can’t get through, and it has layers of clay that can choke or rot your plants. Once you amend the soil, you have a perfect foundation to create a paradise to live in. Everything grows so fast here, it is absolutely amazing, even the trees grow fast; it feels as if you had landed in the middle of the story Jack and the Beanstalk!
When she sets out to design a garden, does she have an overarching concept, a guideline she always follows, I want to know? “Yes, I do,” she says, and smiles. “My garden has to perfectly blend with nature. I want it to look as if a few birds flew by and dropped seeds…” She smiles. We sit quietly for a while, and I understand what she means; it is all perfectly harmonious, looks as if it had been there always; a little sanctuary that only needed to be discovered by someone, a kindred spirit. “I wanted it to feel like you were living in nature. I wanted everything: the plants, birds, frogs, butterflies, bees, lizards, and the fish in the ponds”, she continues, “but I wanted it to be balanced.
She points to an aromatic jasmine at the corner of the terrace, “A garden is different in different areas. You need different areas for different moods, different times of the day, or different purposes. Different sizes, textures, colors, and fragrances affect the desired location of plantings. Attracting butterflies or bees to your favorite reading spot may not be desirable! “The garden should awaken every sense, sight, sound, touch, taste, and smell. I think it was originally my passion for photography that inspired me to create my own nature studio. Here I can get up close and comfortable with the wonders that the tropics offer. For me, there simply is no more perfect medium to express my creative side. I love learning! So many of the local Thais have shared their intimate knowledge of the local flora. Mat’s brother, Piet Ruijters is a retired pharmacist and owner of Natin Spicy Garden. He is a wonderful resource who loves to share his knowledge and invites everyone to his garden. Most passionate gardeners are keen to learn and ready to share what they know.”
Mat Ruijters, developer of River Residence, remembers meeting Barb and Greg for the first time, “When Barb and Greg first came here, I immediately understood that they knew a lot about gardening and that Barb did not just have extensive knowledge but was also highly creative.” I was curious to see the concept she described to me take shape. The result of her work has surpassed all my expectations, and if I ever was in favor of a garden consisting solely of a few trees and lawn, this has changed now. She really has a vision, she is an artist, and everyone here in River Residence is more than happy when she lets her genius spill over into one of our gardens,” he grins. Indeed, Mat’s own garden is beginning to look as if it has received more than just a little inspiration from her.
“My garden and I have a symbiotic relationship, I live through my garden and my garden lives through me. I awake to singing birds, sleep to croaking frogs, and spend my days exploring the garden for new surprises. Life is an adventure,” says Barb.