Monday, 02 November 2020 17:32

The Dragon Garden Under Lockdown

This year the apple and apricot trees bore an abundance of fruit which stayed on the trees to ripen. How much was due to the fact that there were no children about to help themselves we shall never know. The Dragon Garden did not fare so well in other respects. Some watering was done and seeds were collected for next year's planting but because of restrictions due to Covid-19 other aspects of the garden suffered. Jennifer Chandler, volunteer landscape architect from USA, was ready to spend some time at the school in June to follow up on her planting strategy but due to travel restrictions she had to cancel her plans. 

Future plans of creating a circle of poplar trees around the classroom mandala had to be put on hold. Angdus will set out the poplar circle and prepare it for autumn planting when Covid-19 restrictions are lifted.

2019 Poplar Mandala circle 3 2020 Poplar circle maintenance Copy

Monday, 10 June 2019 16:17

Continuing Work on the Dragon Garden

On 10th May 2019 Jennifer Chandler returned to the school, again as a volunteer, to continue her work. She was delighted to find some of the cuttings in the nursery had survived the harsh winter and seeds had been collected and stored ready for sowing this year.

2019 seedlings

While watching Jennifer at work some of the children became very interested and wanted to help. With her encouragement they planted cuttings and seeds in some of the many planters on the school campus.

2019 baby holyhock 3 2019 Hollyhock Square 3 2019 Hollyhock Square 2

During her stay, Jennifer,  continued her search in the surrounding area for idigenous  plants from which she could take cuttings. Flowers like the Himalayan Geranium, the pretty little Dasiphora Dryadanthoides, a member of the rose family, and of course the Ladakhi Rose, Rosa Webbiana.

 2019 Geranium Himalayense 2 2019 Dasisphora dryadanthoides 2019 Rose 2019 Jennifer collecting plants 2

 The goals over the next year are to maintain existing plantings and water system, create more plant materials for planting out next spring and continue to maintain the plant nursery. To help achieve these goals Jennifer left a detailed work project calendar for Tsetan and the new nursery manager, Angmo, to follow over the summer, autumn and winter.

Jennifer has expressed a wish to return to the school in 2020 to continue her work on a voluntary basis. She has been an inspiration to the staff and students and has helped to establish a green campus for the long-term in a high altitude desert landscape.

Thursday, 10 September 2015 16:23

Konrad continues with the slate paving

Some clearing of the mud from the newly laid paving took place while construction continued along the pedestrian axis.

At last the main thoroughfare was finished and visitors were able to enjoy a more comfortable path to walk on.


When the paths along the main pedestrian axis were finished work moved to the classroom area, where slate was used to pave the main routes taken by teachers and students. 


Before Konrad left Ladakh he and Tsetan went for a walk around the school to see how many different species of drought tolerant plants they could find. Konrad said “I think we were successful to locate at least five different ones. Some of the plants from the list grow at high altitude or close to water bodies. Our focus was on plants growing on rocks or in the sand that have colour and ornamental value. What we need to do now is to identify them." One you see on a picture below is: Ephedra intermedia. 


"We found good source of yellow clump forming plants on a hill outside the school. It’s possible for the plant to be Artemisia santolinifolia."


Monday, 03 August 2015 16:11

A disaster day

A disaster day... Sunshine all day with mudslide at night.

Arrived on site to find all our lovely work covered in mud. 

Mud reached the main entrance to the school but didn’t overflow into the orchard apart from the paths. The only affected building was a toilet next to Singeyla House where mud and water entered waste chambers below the latrines. 

Konrad’s main task while at the school is the paving of some of the main thoroughfares. He spent the first few days familiarising himself with the site and finalising plans.

Angdus and Konrad went to Tanglangla pass area to look for slate suitable for the paving task. Tanglangla pass is located approximately 125km from Shey. They had to drive through extremely difficult terrain but located three suitable sources of slate. The next three days were spent collecting slate, loading it into trucks and taking it back to Shey. Suitable slate had to be selected from scattered material on the slope. Some of the slate pieces weigh between 80 to 100kg and need to be lifted by 6 to 8 men. 

Konrad paving 2

Konrad wrote “Despite extremely hard work our team was in good spirits at the end of the first slate trip. I took part in slate collection as well. I must admit that Ladhaki and Nepali people are much more resistant to hard work at high altitude than we are. I had to take several ‘breathing breaks’ to cope with altitude. I have a lot of respect for what they did.”

Konrad Paving 3

 Back at the school work started on paving the main thoroughfare between the students’ hostels.


The upper terrace is almost completed leaving symmetrical beds on either side. One of the main tasks next year will be filling the spine planters with more plants like willows, grasses and flowers native to the region. 


Monday, 06 July 2015 14:54

Green manure and compost


The trees in the orchard area are doing well. The alfalfa even though small has already provided a green appearance in front of the administration buildings. The sowings in the bare areas that can have access to water have germinated in a week, rest of the areas can be sown next spring when we will have the sprinkler system installed.The alfalfa which has been sown as a green manure, to be cut before flowering and mixed in the soil, has a slow growth like most other seedlings due to the cooler than normal temperatures this season. Leaving it to grow and flower is another alternative with which the staff would be happier. Perhaps in time it can be turned into a wild flower meadow.

Nepeta floccosa growing between the irrigation and domestic tanks, it formed a line where it can get a little bit of run-off water.


The wild chicory is blooming happily on the edge of the nursery beds and other dry areas.



The compost heap is developing fast with the kitchen waste coming in daily. In the last few weeks we had very little woody waste added in. So in order to maintain a good carbon to nitrogen ratio we added two wheelbarrows of sawdust to the heap, spreading it over. I tried to make sure that the staff understands that we need both the leafy soft vegetable waste and the carbon rich woody waste to achieve a balanced good quality compost.


Sunday, 31 May 2015 14:49

Tree planting and shelterbelt

We started the week with willow planting on the playground area. We planted the two tunnels; at the entrance and near the south wall.



Planting of the first phase of the shelterbelt was completed this week. In the beginning of the week we connected the irrigation system for the shelterbelt area. We started irrigating one day before planting. Angdus arranged the JCB to dig the plants out from his field and went with Tsetan on the small truck to get them on Wednesday. Thanks to the JCB they were all lifted with adequate roots.


Thursday, 30 April 2015 14:38

New Resident Landscape Architect

New Resident Landscape Architect Seniz Ocal arrived on 30th March 2015 to continue work on the Dragon Garden.

One of Seniz’s first tasks was to plant the orchard with small apple and apricot trees which had been growing in the nursery. Here are some extracts from her weekly reports:

Our first trial was with manual digging. That was hard and slow despite the labour support. So it was going to be the JCB. The digging was finished by Friday evening. Saturday we moved on with the planting.

Seniz 2

First we prepared a good mix of human waste manure, animal manure and compost in the nursery area to go inside the tree pits. We cut our stake ties out of old garments that we found in storage!

After getting stakes, compost and water ready in the area we went up to the nursery to lift up the trees that were going to be planted, working as a team of seven.

We picked the larger sized trees and the ones with no flower buds, also opening up space for the apples that are going to be planted. The trees in the nursery bays had grown good root mass in the three years they spent there.

The small truck was very handy for carrying the compost bags and the trees to the orchard area.

A total of 13 apple trees and 7 apricot trees were planted. First part of the orchard planting came to an end with the tying of the stakes and watering.

Seniz 3

The next day we went ahead with tidying up the orchard. We sowed alfalfa and raked it in. We had plenty of seeds so we were easily able to sow the whole area.


We had our meeting with the vice president and the teaching staff on Monday and decided to officially start the garden competition on 25th April. On Saturday I visited each class, talked about how to proceed and how they will be assessed with the students and teachers. Classes were given the judging criteria for reference. It was good to see the students interested and busy making their gardens.


Thursday, 28 August 2014 12:38

More news from Stuart Taylor

Repairs have begun in the playground with new seats fitted to the existing swing sets and more ordered and on their way.

I went through the plans for the playground with the volunteers from Cambridge and we discussed different options for getting involved in improvements to the space. Volunteers worked on my design for augmenting one of the structures with a cargo climbing net; fortunately the volunteer leader knew how to produce the net and so saved much time in trying to acquire a ready made one. The volunteers also assessed the existing climbing frame from top to bottom, put together by the same organisation in 2009, and spent much time making good and adding new features, including a second cargo net and tyre swing; both of which are very popular with pupils. The playground was given a thorough tidy up with all litter, extraneous items and large stones removed from the surface.

8 Adventure Playground IMG 9630 1   9 Adventure Playground IMG 9651

Designs for the entrance path and Outer Ring have been discussed and I am awaiting availability of the JCB and truck to take the river stones to the front of site so I can start setting out with the volunteers from Cambridge next week. I spent some time making logistical arrangements for the volunteers and developing a schedule of work for the them.

Whilst they still need a little work I was pleased with the progress and results from laying out paths to the entrance of the school.

10 Pathways 1

Monday, 21 July 2014 12:31

More from Stuart Taylor

The artichokes planted last year have borne fruit and whilst some have been left to seed we set up a temporary kitchen in the landscape office and cooked a number of them with Tsetan and Ritzen to try. They seemed happy with the results and before I knew it had a number others keen to try them too. A number of the artichokes were taken home by the staff so, who knows, it may be more likely to turn up on the local menu.

2 Cooking P1080184

In the nursery we started to thin some of the higher undergrowth in the orchard beds; two weeks of hot weather coupled with steady water from irrigation and rain resulted in the Alfalfa and Artemisia beginning to compete with the trees for water. As water supply from the irrigation system is still most “challenging” in the nursery the Artemisia was removed and the Alfalfa more selectively thinned and lowered; the latter is nourishing the soil quite effectively and so worthy of selective retention. Other work included harvesting and replanting Coriander, which would appear to be indestructible, and planting on ornamentals from the nursery into the landscape; The beds for the secondary school were prepared and planted with Marigolds and Cosmos. The irrigation laterals were extended to include the bed and it is now covered by the irrigation schedule. The compost pile was also watered and turned and the smaller Alfalfa plants relocated from the nursery to supplement the beds in the landscape.

5 nursery 1

The site is generally really looking good with much of the planting of previous years, and earlier this year, coming into full bloom and shows the full potential of a well irrigated landscape.

4 IMG 9630

At the weekend I was invited to the school picnic at site by the Indus, which is both idylic and a great example of what can be created to the front of the school with quality planting; I estimate that at mid-day the river combined with the planting lowered to the ambient tempreture by as much as 3-4 degrees so clearly something worth striving for.


Much of the week, starting on the 24th June, has been spent as “project hand over” from Elaine to me and this offered the opportunity for me to familiarise myself with the site and landscape, as well as meeting key people at The School. I am really impressed with what has been achieved so far on site and very much hope to be able to continue the good work.

I have been briefed on Elaine's designs for the residential courtyards, Zojila/Khardongla House (Courtyard 1) and Warila/Penzila House (Courtyard 3) and we have had a refresher meeting with Angdus to ensure these remain on the schedule of works for the next couple of months. The courtyards are easier to identify since the arrival of some rather smart signs in time for the opening of the Ladakh International Film Festival at the school.

This week in the nursery we have been continuing with the ever expanding watering regime. Tsetan and I have continued with our quest for more vegetables to plant.

The landscape team has been building wigwams from old willow stems for planting up beans as well as planting still more veg into the bays.

Rigzin and I finally spent a day together to get the willow arch into the ground in the Playground with the help of the house mothers and some drop in assist from some of the labourers. It's not the prettiest arch in the world but it is currently alive and well. It's a little late in the season but the willow had been stored in water and had roots sprouting from the stems so I am hopeful that it will take with appropriate irrigation.



We have artichokes forming from last year which is rather exciting. It's a new vegetable for the people here so I might suggest a cook up one lunchtime.


The infants made an impromptu visit to the nursery on Tuesday morning and I showed them around, which was fun.

Infants  Infants 2

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