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Tsang Chi Fan
Christie's Hong Kong
Paola Dindo & Associates
RC Landscape Specialists
I've just bought a house in Sai Kung and would like to plant a lawn at its front. How and when should I go about it?
Richard Coumbe replies: The best time to lay a lawn is during the growth season from mid-March to the end of September, as emerging grass will appear more lush and dense. Laying a lawn at other times is possible, but it won't grow well until the start of the next growth season.
Lawns in Hong Kong are either Buffalo, a broad-leaf grass; or Bermuda or Korean, both fine-leaf grasses. Buffalo is easier to maintain and quite hardy.
Make sure your patch of ground is free from weeds, then cultivate the soil with peat moss. This contains the necessary nutrients that should correct pH levels and organic matter which give soil a good texture and help it retain moisture. Mix 5cm of peat moss into the top 15cm layer of the soil.
Don't grow grass from seed: it's messy and time-consuming. Bare patches are common as seeds are eaten by birds, blown away by wind or simply don't germinate. Rather, go for instantaneous turf - one-square-foot pieces that you can lay directly on to prepared soil.
Once laid, 'top dress' with a 5mm layer of peat moss and river sand in equal parts, and sprinkle 100 grams of fertiliser for every square metre. Water thoroughly and repeat daily for the first month, reducing to three times a week thereafter. After two or three months, top-dress again if required.
I need to create an office area in my living-room, but I want it to blend in with the decor and not look too corporate. Do you have any ideas?
Gary Chang replies: Start by working out the absolute minimum furniture and office equipment you will need and look for space-saving, multi-purpose technology like phones that are also answering machines, fax machines, printers and photocopiers.
To make the office area blend into the living area, avoid 'office-looking' furniture and opt instead for a writing desk similar in style to the rest of your living-room furniture, with lots of drawers to hide stationery. Rather than a swivel office chair, look for a domestic chair with good back support, and instead of a hulking desktop monitor and CPU, get a laptop which can be hidden away at the end of the day.
If you can't face the thought of clearing everything away on a daily basis, create a study area at one end of the living-room and construct a sliding screen on tracks or a simple curtain or blind to hide it all.
I visited the Hong Kong Museum of Art last weekend and saw some wonderful bronze vessels on three thin legs. Can you tell me anything about them and where I might be able to buy something similar?
Tsang Chi Fan replies: These sound like jue (literally nobility or rank) cups, which are thought to have been used for ritual purposes. Raised on three-bladed legs splaying outwards, and usually 15 to 20cm high, the receptacles have an elongated spout which supports the idea that they were used to pour liquid such as wine.
The earliest jue dates from before the Shang dynasty (1600-1100 BC) and 40 pieces uncovered from the tomb of famous warrior-queen Fu Hao (circa 1250 BC) imply that drinking was an important part of life at that time.
Molten bronze was poured into pottery moulds which were then broken to recover the vessel. Often, the interior of the moulds were intricately carved to transfer a relief decoration on to the vessels. The most common decorative motif is a mask known as a taotie with shamanistic significance, and the most desirable vessels bear pictograms denoting clan names.
There are many reproduction bronzes on the market, so finding a reputable dealer is important. Ask for advice at auction houses, and look through catalogues, as prices are dependent on the quality of casting and condition. Expect to pay from $55,000 upwards, but remember that pieces from old or published collections will best hold their value.