FOR SHIRLEY Briñas Sanders, no piece of land may be left as is—if she has anything to say about it, or if she is allowed to do something to it.
Her less-than-a-hectare property in Calamba, Laguna, is really nothing more than a nursery for plants and trees she uses in her landscaping projects. But Sanders, a well-known landscape artist who has done work for big local mall chains, plush villages and foreign property development projects, is not content just looking at rows and rows of planting materials, even if they are essential to her line of work.
She has changed what was once simply a space hosting a collection of plants into a pleasant, relaxing spot for herself, her relatives, friends and acquaintances.
The Calamba property has now become a mini-showcase of the kind of garden that Sanders does for her well-heeled clients. The small hut she used when she checked out her inventory and selected the plants she needed has been replaced by two lodging structures—at the front, a two-story dormitory type building; and beside the pool, a one-bedroom bungalow.
The small, quaintly-shaped pool with hot, almost scalding water fed by Laguna’s natural hot springs is in keeping with Sanders’ landscaping principle. She always seeks to complement what is already in the site.
As the book “Philippine Gardens: Collector’s Edition” says, “To her (Sanders), a living thing can never be out of place. It can only be enhanced.”
The water in the pool is so hot that cold tap water is often added to make the temperature more comfortable for users.
Complementing the pool are interesting pieces of furniture. Woodworkers from Paete, Laguna, have made pool chairs out of discarded tree trunks and branches, keeping their asymmetrical natural shapes intact, and accented with carved flowers and leaves.
Color and texture
Sanders herself painted the chairs in bright colors.
Vertical gardens surround the pool. “I chose… a variety of ferns, Ficus nana, Bridal Bouquet, variegated dracaena and kamuning because these are sturdy plants, sustainable and low maintenance,” she says. “They also provide a variety of color and texture to the landscape.”
The rest of the space is a typical tropical garden with ferns, Philodendron selloum, Asplenium nidus and Alocasia macrorrhizos.
Sanders calls the property her weekend hideaway, but admits she usually spends only a whole day there. Friends and their friends are more likely to enjoy the amenities for a whole weekend or several days than Sanders herself.
But even just a day spent in her Calamba garden is enough to help relieve the stress of her work. “I’ve got a pool with hot, therapeutic water, which is good for my arthritis. The lush green wall surrounding it ensures privacy and keeps the noise down. It really makes me feel relaxed,” she admits.
Although small compared to most of her landscaping projects, the Calamba property gives a glimpse of what a Sanders garden is about.
In “Philippine Gardens” she says: “Creating gardens is more than simply putting plants in harmony with its surroundings… It is creating living spaces which can improve others’ lives in significant ways.”
Former First Lady Amelita “Ming” Ramos, in her foreword to the book, says that Sanders, through her work, is “ensuring a healthy environment by creating gardens which feed the soul and nourish the mind.”
Whether it is her own garden or somebody else’s, Sanders is always mindful that a green spot can help improve everyone’s quality of life.