Simple ways to keep gardens neat, impressive
Published on: Sunday, November 22, 2020
By: Eskay Ong
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GROWING a garden is a relatively simple job.  Some people would engage contractors or nurserymen to get the work done, while others with weaker frames or leaner budgets, or who are true plant lovers, would probably do it themselves.

For those who choose to grow gardens themselves, a number of options are available.  Beginning with the simplest one, the method includes the ‘throw and dump’ method where suitable soils are just dumped onto and over the planting materials which have been thrown in earlier on.  

A glaring example is the way sods of turf grasses are thrown about in so-called turfing works with the hope that nature may take care of the rest.  In most instances, the turf may survive although with an unacceptably high degree of surface irregularity.

In the case of the skilled and keen gardening enthusiasts, gardening tasks are normally done in measured amounts with regular and meticulous checkings for positively correct results. With such skilful hands and sharp eyes, the “throw and grow” method won’t do, and no guess work or “tidak apa” attitude is allowed.  Also, the question of time, expenses and effort are not critical issues as long as success can be achieved.

That is why stark differences are visible in the standard of gardens that are done by professionals or serious gardening enthusiasts compared to those done by people with a ‘can do’ kind of approach..

Generally, it has been acknowledged that a beautifully planted and professionally manicured garden adds greatly to the value of the property and the quality of living of the occupants. This is undeniable as an unkempt garden often causes the property to appear run-down, no matter how posh the interior is.  

Worse still, it may create an impression of a sort of den or nest where bad hats or other crooks congregate in furtherance of their illicit activities.  Ultimately, the external scenario tend to create a negative image of not only the property but also whoever stays there.

Unfortunately, the hardest part in keeping a garden going on indefinitely in an impeccable condition is the care and maintenance that must regularly be put in.  This requires a singularly firm decision to be made about whether to carry out the tasks personally, or else engage the services of specialists or professionals.  

Another choice would be the hiring of oms to do the grasscutting, trimming and pruning, manuring and fertilising, shaping, training, pest and disease control, and so on.  A half-hearted decision can only result in the garden being ruined or at best converted into something like a half-past-six job. 

Oms have been unhoned and untrained workers on the move since decades ago but as they got involved deeper, they soon converted it into their niche business as young local Sabahans tend to shun this profitable field.  But still, at least half the work cannot be wholly entrusted to the oms without close supervision.  

In the beginning, such oms could not even hand over an evenly trimmed lawn, or set a straight planting line for simple ornamentals such as red iresine or golden duranta, but through perseverance, they have over the years learnt a trick or two and as such, the oms whether legalised or illegals, now have virtually the whole industry under their thumb, and many have become very arrogant, aggressive, demanding and very customer-unfriendly.  

Perhaps it is now time for the relevant ministries, departments and agencies, now fully energised after the recent state election, to open their eyes to do something about helping the local boys to take over such menial but highly profitable tasks from foreigners by first giving them sufficient training in recognising and handling tools and equipment and their relevance to a particular task or plant.  

The next thing to do is to assist them by providing, in lieu of seed capital, the necessary tools such as a beaver or backpack grasscutting machine which may cost only about RM285, a machete which costs only about RM14, a pair of secateurs, a turf rake and a trowel which may add in another RM28, and a bicycle which may cost about RM200 for the trainee to paddle around to peddle his trade.  

The total amount of investment per trainee need not exceed RM550 and he should by now be known as an entrepreneur and a sole proprietor at that.  After adding in an extra bundle for the intangibles such as training, the total outlay by the government for 100 young local entrepreneurs would not exceed RM80,000. The economic returns on investment in the years ahead for the local communities would be very, very high. Incredible? Believe it.

Along the way, a certain number may drop out of the opportunity to develop in this business, but the rest may, hopefully, succeed to upgrade to motorbikes at a later stage, and then later on, may progress to a light truck or van as their client base expands, while in the meantime employing more and more local boys.  Perseverance indeed pays in the long run. Again, believe it.

The above analogy, which is not intended to discredit any party, may appear to be very simplistic but to be realistic, at that level the need for digital high tech, robotics, cloud computing, nano science or AIs is still far away. 

Just look at the Pakistanis, Banglas, Indians, Filipinos, Indons, Africans, and perhaps some day in the future the Eskimos, etc., etc., etc. in Sabah. Many have exploited loopholes in the state while taking advantage of the lackadaisical attitude of many young local Sabahans and state authorities.  

Remember, most successful businessmen today had, in their early days, started from the bottom with nary a bother about being looked down upon or despised, but in time, many of them became very successful and wealthy.

Simple and routine gardening tasks

There are a number of ways in which simple tasks may be performed to keep gardens in an impeccable state.  These include pruning, trimming, edging, cutting, mowing, raking and removals, among others.

Pruning usually covers the cutting and trimming of bushes, shrubs, hedges and ornamental trees. These plants normally grow in all directions especially towards the source of light. As such, unless regularly rotated, it is necessary to prune them so that its direction of growth can be controlled.  

Also, in cases of implementation of a programme of planned pruning and cutting, trees or shrubs can be brought up and trained to grow into the desired forms and shapes.  But whatever the function of pruning, the most widely accepted benefit is the neat, trim and fit condition that the plants always end up in after a round or two or pruning.

Apart from trees, shrubs and bushes, potted plants also benefit by a great deal under a regular pruning programme. This is without doubt as virtually all potted plants require some form of pruning or simple training. Left untended, plants grown in containers can very soon turn into a very untidy mess.

Bedding plants or ground covers on the other hand, do not remain at the same spot or grow forever within the same confines.  

They grow and expand in the area covered, particularly when using the kinds of plants that creep.  One such type is the often-seen Wedelia which may creep all over the place if they are not regularly trimmed.

With spot-grown groundcovers or bedding plants, the usual trimming tasks are quite similar, except that instead of stopping growths at the sides of boundaries, it is necessary to trim off the tops. Such detoppings are resorted to with plants that do not creep extensively.  

Plants like Durantas and Portulacas are usually detopped to produce a neat even growth to induce a pattern of sheet flowering.

Boundary plants such as those grown along the edge of the fence, pathways or driveways, can be given both lateral and top trimming. Plants like Alternantheras, Ixoras and Durantas, are often used to line the boundary, or to demarcate certain zones in the garden, or as bedding plants to cover certain slopes.  Such is the wonder of plants that if beautifully maintained, can add a great deal of satisfaction to the grower.

Normally, boundary plants are trimmed from a low level.  Growth is allowed to a certain extent after each trimming, to be followed by the next trimming at a level that is a little higher.  

In this way, a very compact and solid growing line of plants may be maintained. As growth progresses, patterns such as waves, zig-zags, mounds or curves may be cut into the line to increase its attractiveness.

When carrying out trimming and pruning, remember never to be stingy about the amount of materials to be removed.  Save a gram of leaf and there will be a ton of horror and agony later on.  It is difficult to achieve compactness or solid growth when superficial pruning or scratching is practiced, for this will leave the lower portions quite sparse and open.  So, if there is a need to cut, just go all out la.

On many occasions, the number one flora in the garden is the turf grass. This must be kept regularly mown preferably once or twice a month to maintain a finely manicured appearance, but don’t take your friendly om’s advice to trim your lawn with the sensitive plants in seeding stage. The edge of the lawn must also be trimmed.  This is of particular importance in places where the lawn meets something else, such as a row of plants, trees or shrubs, or even concrete walls, pathways or fence.  

It is therefore necessary to cut the lawn edge neatly to that the grass does not overlap unnecessarily or grow into areas where they are not supposed to do so. Edging may simply be done with various cuttings tools, but obviously, a sharp parang can do wonders.

The last thing to be done is removing the garden discards and wastes. Usually composting is suggested so that there is equilibrium in the movement of materials into or out of the garden.  

All composted materials should be used generously on plants within the garden, and only the large chunks such as tree trunks or stumps may be considered for removal.  But there is also the possibility of creative hands converting the chunks into highly-priced artistic items to decorate the garden.

- The above writer may be reached at : [email protected]

A neatly-trimmed hedge made up of Bauhinia kockiana in full bloom.  

Pavers on a very neatly-trimmed lawn.  


In a well-maintained garden or fruit orchard, it is never too much to expect sweet, pulpy, wangi-wangi and creamy Musang King to fall onto one’s lap.  



It is easy to grab this bird, which is a merbok, with just a few fingers after having been patient for a while. The friendly bird was unharmed and was released after several minutes.


A neat garden is tempting enough even for birds to make a landing in search of food and some comfortable rest.   

A swathe of Portulaca trimmed into a flatbed to create a flowering surface with a sheet effect.


A pot of closely-cropped Lantana that is induced to yield lots of colourful blooms.



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