The other day my friend Alice and I headed out of Muscat to the plant souq at Al Seeb. I’d heard about it but never been there, and all the greenery in Muscat was making my green thumbs tingle. We have no garden at our villa, only a couple of trees in front with rings of hard soil that are still begging for colour. My gardening will have to be confined to what will grow in pots. But then, almost anything will grow in a pot, right?
The plant souq is a street over 1.2 km long with nurseries on both sides. We parted at one end, and entered wonderland. The giant bags of soil and peat moss and rows of clay pots, glazed and unglazed, gave way to row upon row of greenery. The air had a marvelous, moist “green” smell. The ground within the nurseries is set up in a series of depressions, each about 10′ by 6′, to hold the pots and make it easy to water without having mud all over. each section was crammed with plants. Some I expected to see there.. the jasmine,
hibiscus and bougainvillea, and lots I’ve seen growing in the area but don’t know the names of yet, but some we were both surprised at. First there were the 3′ kumquat trees, covered with tiny orange fruit, then in another nursery we saw more, up to 12′, and then oranges and limes as well. I’d seen an orange tree on my walks with the dog, but only one. Growing tall beside a wall was a fig with green fruit on it, and also a mango.
The greatest surprise lay in one of the shops across the street (very busy street, by the way, quite a feat to cross it). There was a truck unloading evergreens…. several different sizes and types of juniper. It smelled like a Christmas tree lot, only they were late – it was already January. Tempting, but…… As we walked farther inside (these nurseries are huge) we spied a funny looking stick of a tree with leaves largish leaves held tightly upward around the trunk. Aha – I know what this is…. it’s a bay tree….. the kind you cook with. Well, I had to get that one for sure, to add to my basil, rosemary and chives from the supermarket. I didn’t like rosemary until I started to grow it, and the best bay leaves I ever used came from a friends tree. I also bought three small trailing jasmine (300 Baisa or about 80 cents each) and my kumquat there… they are just too cute, and I know I’ll get at least one crop from it.
Back to the car and then we started to pick up my purchases….. peat moss at the first shop, double jasmine, hibiscus ($1.25 each for a 3′ plant with buds) and the bay and kumquat. Good thing my little car has a hatchback.
It was great fun to get my hands dirty transplanting those plants in the big pots I brought from Kuwait. I need more, and more soil. There is a horticulture group here that I need to contact too. My Diploma in Prairie Horticulture isn’t much use here for plant identification.
Here is my garden so far, including my pot of tomato seedlings that need to be transplanted. There is also a small plume grass growing in the sun by the wall, but it is in full sun,and I don’t think my new plants are quite ready for that yet.
Colour me happy.