Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Gardening for joy

I have green fingers, meaning I can just about grow green, leafy plants where I’ve failed miserably at flowers and fruits. Fortunately, nothing delights me more than the sight of lush greenery. Nothing too manicured or trimmed for me. I’m happy to just let foliage thrive, although a neighbor has complained that my balcony of plants looks unkempt. I prefer to think of it as looking natural and lush!

I live in an apartment complex but enjoy quite a large balcony where I grow an assortment of plants both tall and small. While I would adore to have a dog keep me company, I’ve decided that it wouldn’t be fair on the animal when I am away from home so much. So my plants are my babies. I’ve watched some of them grow big and tall through the years, and mourned the loss of many as well. As many avid gardeners would attest, caring for plants brings all kinds of happiness.

While I detest housework of any kind, I can spend hours on my plants. I’m careful to water according to the needs of the different pots, and fertilize when necessary. Nothing gives me more satisfaction than to buy a tiny plant and watch it grow under my watchful gaze. I used to marvel at a friend’s garden, where her husband made everything look so beautiful. She let me in on a secret - he would visit the nurseries and replace plants that weren’t doing too well with new ones!

Rather than trawling through the mall for clothes and shoes, my retail therapy is visiting plant nurseries both at home and abroad. When I encounter a plant I’ve never seen before and it’s not too exorbitant, it’s deeply satisfying to bring it home and see it thrive. I was ever so excited to find a tiny bay leaf tree in a Singapore nursery about a month ago. Imported from the Netherlands, it was pricey, and I had to smuggle it home in my check-in baggage, ensconced in a water jug that was about the only thing I could find to fit the plant in, pot and all. Now it’s doing well among friends on my balcony, and nothing makes me happier than to pluck a leaf or two to add to a dish.

That’s the other thing about plants - I was told by Mrs. Lai, one of my favourite nursery owners, that plants do better among friends. I don’t doubt that, when I look at all the different species of plants mixed together. She also said that you have to talk to them. Fortunately no one is around when this crazy plant lady strokes the leaves and tells them, “Grow, okay, babies?”

Not only have my plants brought me joy, they’ve also provided homes to some of the birds in my area. On numerous occasions, bulbul couples have built nests in my fiddle leaf fig tree, and a pigeon laid her eggs in one of my potted succulents and raised two little birds as well. When my balcony is turned into a feathered maternity wing, I dart out to water the plants only when the birds are not around, and even if my plants are neglected for a month or so, it’s more than worth it to see little birds born and staying safe until they’re ready to fly away.

I had a quiet chuckle when I read that the fiddle leaf fig is now the It plant of the design world. Who knew, when I planted it more than ten years ago that it would become so trendy! I just liked the look of the plant and its leaves. Over the years, it's grown to more than ten feet tall and I have to constantly trim it before it hits the roof! Have a read of what the New York Times is reporting on this plant:

I know many who can’t be bothered with gardening, considering plants dirty and messy. For me, there’s something so primordially satisfying about planting, getting dirt under my fingernails and watching living things grow.

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