The joy of being with plants

It was in Grade 4 (I was about 10) when I first became responsible for planting vegetables on a small patch of land. It was a school assignment to plant some vegetables or crops in a small corner of the yard. The task wasn’t difficult; I just cleared a rectangular piece of land, got camote (sweet potato) cuttings from our backyard, and planted them in my vegetable plot. In a just a few weeks, the green-purple leaves were lush.

In Grade 5, we had a similar project. The difference was the vegetable plots were in school and we worked in pairs in planting onion bulbs and other vegetables. It was not just a matter of making the vegetable grow. We were also particular with the aesthetics–how straight the plot was, how perfect the way it was tilled such that the small piece of land looked like a cylindrical chocolate cake.

In both of these cases, I felt the thrill of the process, of waiting for the green leaf slowly poke its way out of the dark, damp earth. I didn’t have much gardening experience after that. But I did see around me, for as long as I can remember, the bounty of nature planted in our yard in Albay — towering coconut trees, two mango trees, a sampaloc tree, guava trees, an avocado tree, bananas that grow perenially, camote, cassava, squash, tiesa, star apple, passion fruit, and many others.

The soil was so rich; we didn’t put fertilizers but the plant thrived. It may be because of the ashes that came from the nearby Mayon Volcano, an active volcano that has erupted several times since the 90s, two of which I personally experienced. Or it may be because the natural cycle of nature is at play, with the leaves from the trees, falling on the ground and fertilizing it.

We had a garden that didn’t require much maintenance, except to trim the leaves when they become too thick that they covered a portion of the house’s facade. Some of the plants that lent loveliness to the front and sides of our house were the santan, bougainvillae, the Japanese bamboo, cypress, roses de alas diyes, etc. The carabao grass blanketed our yard with a rich green color, the leaves padded the paws of our pets that roamed freely in the yard and provided a bit of a snack to the ducks as well as the cats and dogs that would occasionally go to the yard to chew a plant (I don’t know what plant they were exactly looking for).

I didn’t have a crucial role in maintaining these plants and trees, except to pull out the weeds, rake/sweep the leaves in a pile, and sometimes trim the grasses and the santan.

Fast forward to college life, I stayed in a dorm. I was given this cute cactus with leaves looking like a rose petal. It gave me much joy. However, its life was short-lived perhaps because of the heat. After about 2 weeks, despite maintenance, the leaves started to turn yellow one by one until the plant withered completely.

During college too, when we went on a hike in a hilly area during a vacation, we came across a lush growth of wild roses. My friends and I (a small group of females) got some cuttings to be planted back home. The rose thrived for a few weeks but eventually died.

Then two decades after, after my first foreign assignment in Paris, I brought home some tomato seeds. These came from homegrown tomatoes in my friend’s grandparents’ yard, which were organic and bigger than the usual tomatoes. I monitored their growth and was thrilled by each millimeter of green. Now, I ask, what happens when a plant that grows in the cool weather of a town in Southern France is transported to the Philippines? You probably guessed it right. The heat was too much for the plant to withstand the warm climate.

Now you ask me, where’s the joy in planting when I obviously don’t seem to have a green thumb? 😀 My sister, who lives in the UK, could easily transform her yard into a garden and has harvested lots of strawberries, lettuce, etc. from her backyard, should write about this joy of planting.

But no…

I may not be a plantita and my efforts in planting here in Manila are not to be proud of. But just the same, I have experienced the joy of being with and trying to grow plants.

Now, I help a little by quenching the thirst of our indoor plants in this hot summer season and ensuring that our Office indoor plants are given enough water and brought out once a week for sunlight and fog.

We have potted plants in in the garage area — fortune plant, snake plant, Japanese bamboo, Aglaonema snow white, spider plant, and others that I don’t know yet the names of including a vine. These really enliven the area and the best we could do in this place where the ground is mostly covered by cement. (I miss the grassy yard in Albay but it’s not easy to get a wide ground for plants in urban residential areas.) But now, we keep them in a netted area at that same side of the wall because our two pet dogs chewed the leaves and “killed” a few plants several times in the past. 😀

Here’s a photo of my brother making a 5-level plant rack last year. The plants in the background have grown and increased since then.

Also, I intend to plant vegetables and indoor plants in big pots as soon as I have found the time to have my terrace renovated. And get a nice set of table and chairs with plants as the main decoration. That’s something to look forward to. 😉

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