When your love for plants
has expanded to more than just
cultivating a garden.
I loved plants and trees ever since I was a child. I am drawn to them, I want to be near them, to touch them, and to care for them. It could be one strong tree to climb or a fragile flower to hold, I always longed to be surrounded by nature. Apart from my parents, you could say that plants are my first love. I am not into pets, so plants are the next things that warranted my affection.
Nature is just so beautiful. If you frame a natural scene in any which way, you can paint the most beautiful of artworks. No wonder that the great artists of olden times painted so many natural scapes—perhaps, they are the most wonderful of subjects—vibrant, vivid, and unpredictable.
I care for these gentle living things so much that I feel really sad if someone just picks a leaf absentmindedly from a potted plant and crushes it or like if a little boy hits some bushes on the roadside with a stick—just for the heck of it. I remember running after the little boys in our neighbourhood who vandalize our or even our neighbor’s plants. These greens are harmless, provide us with oxygen, and beautify our surroundings. Why would someone want to destroy them that way?
That apathy towards plants is beyond me. I find it appalling to say the least.
A Childhood Dream
When I was young, I lived with my parents in our home in the suburbs. We owned quite an expansive residential lot in a subdivision that allowed my father to grow several fruit trees like coconuts, chico, papaya, guavas, mango, duhat, jackfruit, and lanzones, vegetables, as well as many ornamentals and flowering plants, including orchids. The perimeter of our lot was also lined with trees. I likened our home to a little cabin in the middle of a dense forest. Inside the property, it looked dark because of the tall trees that surrounded the house. I surely loved it there!
Every afternoon while my parents burned dry leaves to create smoke and ward off mosquitoes and other insects, I pranced around the garden in my long skirt, traipsed through the billowing smoke, with my long black hair trailing behind, and imagined that I was a “diwata” or wood nymph. I didn’t care that I smelled charred afterwards—I could easily take a shower before I have dinner. But the thrill of being part of a magical ensemble satisfied the soul of an introvert in me.
When Adult Concerns Set In
Eventually, though, I got married and had to leave my childhood home. I was sad to leave my parents and I was also saddened to be removed from the home I grew up in. But it was simply a law of nature. I moved in to the city where my husband lived. We lived in a three-storey commercial building, with the living quarters on the top floor. We were surrounded by concrete and metal. While plants and trees sprouted around our area sparingly, they were obviously not enough. I was sad to leave my wonderfully vibrant home of more than 30 years in exchange for the predominantly gray urban jungle, but I was also excited to start life anew as a married woman.
The kids then came, one after the other. My eldest was very sickly. She had allergic rhinitis and often caught cough and colds, sometimes giving us just a week or two of respite before getting another infection. It was a really tiring experience for a work at home mom who did not have a helper or babysitter, especially when I had to clean up after her vomit several times a day. My daughter might have inherited my allergies but I also felt that where we lived affected her health so much. We were cooped up in a small bedroom with windows that open only to one side, so a cross breeze was not possible. Being on the top floor also meant that we could feel the heat from the top and two sides of our bedroom. Even with the air conditioning and electric fan on, it was still so hot in our bedroom that I would often say that we already know how it feels to be baked in the oven.
This situation continued for many years as we did not really know how to solve our situation. But about two years ago, things changed when I started giving attention to the open space just outside our window. It measured about 4 x 12 sq. m. Ever since I moved in here, there was already a fish pond and some plants. But when one of the helpers left, I had no choice but to continue tending the garden, otherwise, everything will just dry out.
First thing I did was re-arrange the elements. I positioned the potted plants against our wall, propping some makeshift wooden stands just so I could create different heights. Then I added more plants and propagated what I already had. I also put more plants in another pocket garden just outside our living room. Our bedrooms and comfort room also have small plants.
Since then, I noticed that the temperature in our bedroom has dropped. Still it is hot, after all this is the Philippines, but not the constricting kind of heat as before. I believe that the plants lined up against our wall kind of neutralized the heat from the piercing afternoon sun as it shone directly on that side.
Additionally, when we open our bedroom windows and the sliding doors in the living room in the morning, a fresh morning breeze greets us. It overpowers the city’s smog and pollution. What a wonderful change that plants gave us.
I also noticed that my oldest daughter’s health has significantly improved. She still sneezed but it can be easily relieved with a single dose of antihistamine. I believe that a big part of her wellness can be credited to the fact that we have fresher air in our living quarters.
Family Comes First
Now, at this point in my life, family comes first. Whereas plants used to fire up my imagination about mythical creatures living in the forest, they now serve a more pragmatic purpose—and that is to provide a fresher environment for my children to live in, even if we are city dwellers.
Sure, I still adore plants for the beauty that they give us, but I no longer have the time to really cultivate the beautiful yet delicate flowers. If ever, I am looking for sturdy woody trees and shrubs that require low maintenance but can purify the air and help provide us with a cooler home because of their shade. And yes, I do all that on the third floor.
But if you think that I forgot about the magic that I use to associate with plants, I want to let you know that I have also developed three fairy dish gardens complete with toadstools, little houses, and of course, fairies! My children and I made them and we had a blast doing them together. I guess I can say that my two loves have gone full circle.
At present, I am in the process of re-arranging another area—the small space that opens up from the stair case to our main door that leads to the living room. Potted plants are lining up the area in order to spruce up the dark and gray hallway. They will also provide a fresh welcome sight when one goes up to our living quarters. This will entail some work for me because I will have to rotate the plants around here but that’s okay. All for the love of my family and my plants.
An Advocacy for a Greater Good
Ever since I realized how plants have given us all the benefits as city dwellers, I thought how wonderful it would be if our home scenario would be replicated. Wouldn’t it be nice if all the stores around the commercial district of our city would have at least two pots of big plants in their area? I know that’s not enough but, oh what a change the plants could bring as compared to just seeing stretches of concrete!
So, I made it my advocacy to capture commercial establishments here in Bacolod that have include potted plants, trees, and pocket gardens in their places of business. Wherever I go around the city, I whip out my phone camera in order to capture buildings with plants around them. These worthy landscapes are then immortalized in my Facebook album called “Bacolod Needs More Plants.” Huawei P9 would really be a big help for me in this endeavor because I know that I can take more vibrant photos of our cityscapes. Since it is co-engineered with Leica, I am assured of its quality as well as of the photos I take. Its dual lenses will allow me to take superior digital photos of plants and trees around Bacolod City that will hopefully encourage more Bacolod business owners to include living greens in their business operations.
With this move, I am trying to encourage more proprietors to include plants and/or trees at their establishments. If they are already an existing business, they can at least add potted plants wherever they are. If they are constructing a new building, I am hoping that they will remember to include a pocket garden in their plan with the constant reminders that I publish online. I have also published a blog post related to this. Read:
For me, not only will plants provide us with fresher and cooler air, they will also give us a refreshing sight. In the midst of a stressful day at work, everyone can just go out and relax their eyes and mind by looking at their green surroundings. It sure is a healthy way to take a break from a toxic day at work.
I Have a Dream
Now, a dream has grown in my heart. My love for plants has gone beyond wanting to just cultivate them for myself and then for my family. For me, plants now serve a higher purpose–to purify the air we breathe for the health and well-being of the future generation. I would like to be able to live with my family in the city, to have all its conveniences, but still be able to enjoy the fresh air provided by these pocket gardens scattered all over the commercial districts. You can just imagine being in a modern commercial area surrounded by trees and plants and flowers like you were in a park! It’s going to be a massive dream come true for me.
This is the reason why I am pursuing this advocacy—citing those who already have “green” facades and telling people how lovely it is to have plants and trees in their places of business. I do this so that more and more owners will be spurred into action. My love for plants has covered my family and now, with great faith, I believe that it will extend and cover the entire city of Bacolod.
Since then, many have responded. A friend of mine has started her own garden. Even the former mayor of our city has replied to my Facebook post. I have also seen some business establishments who now have potted plants in front of their stores. Oh how I love the results, which is why I keep doing what I am doing. Through my voice online, I know that more and more businessmen will heed the call for #MorePlantsinBacolod.