I like plants. Plants present me with a certain symbol of growth and life. From a young age, I have been amazed at how a small seed, plucked into some soil, could grow into a mung bean tree. And my success sort of stopped at that. Despite attempts to grow different kinds of plant, to my mother’s dismay of bringing dirty soil to our apartment knowing that my little garden would be abandoned and the task of cleaning up left to her, I have never been successful at keeping them.
A few days ago, I decided to order two succulents from the internet. Yes, I just ordered plants to be transported to my apartment lobby through the internet. And this is where the motivation to write an article on plants began. Come to think about it, I have many imprinting pieces of memory about plants. This article will revolve around my various encounters with and thoughts about plants at different stages in life with the hope that I will not fail this time round.
The Childhood Lessons
- One of the first practical lessons about nature was growing beansprouts. We were given several beans to start with and some wet tissue papers. It was such a life-changing experience for me. As a kid, it was wonderful to see a new life growing from a tiny seed/bean. We were then taught to put the different seeds and beans into soil to learn that some plants take longer to grow. Then things got harder and my skills plummeted. Apart from beans (which do not need any effort to make them grow), I don’t think I had been successful in any other plants. As a homework, I was tasked to grow jasmine (not from scratch but from a blooming jasmine (tree?)). After a while, leaves started to fall and no more flowers were to be seen. I should probably have taken heed of that lurking omen that I did not have a green thumb.
- In science lessons, I was introduced to the concept of oxygen and carbondioxide. At this point, you can probably guess what happened. I learned that plants give out oxygen during the day and emit carbondioxide which is not good for us to breathe during the night. This concept stuck until well into my twenties. When I was in the UK for my university, despite the urge to grow a plant, I did not dare to do it out of fear that I would suffocate at night. I only learned that the CO2 amount that plants emit is minimal as long as I don’t grow mangoes in my tiny unit when I started working at 25 years of age.
Vegetables in my own backyard
- Despite my unsuccessful attempts at growing plants when I was a kid, I was still confident that it was only because I was too ambitious. Every flower is difficult to grow. This is what I kept telling myself. Herbs and vegetables might work. Since one of my favourite dishes is stir-fried pork/chicken with basil, I decided to grow basil in the house I shared with my friends at university in the UK (not in my room of course! the tree would make me suffocate!). Some of you may have seen the ready-potted basil sold in supermarkets like Sainsbury’s. I bought one of those. I cut the first few leaves to cook and was so happy that I would not need to buy basil leaves ever. I continued to water it but no leaves grew back. I kept the basil pot at the windowsill near the kitchen. I was in Durham at the time. I did what most Brits do. I blamed the weather! The wind was just too strong and the sun was no where to be seen for 360 days a year. So I abandoned the basil experiment.
- After I finished my studies and came back to Bangkok in 2014, the idea of growing my own vegetables reemerged. This time, I was told that nothing could go wrong with growing morning glory. So I brought home some soil and morning glory seeds. I put the pot on top of the air-conditioner’s compressor on my tiny balcony. It took only a few days for morning glory shoots to be seen above the soil. I was very happy. Yet, they stopped growing. They stopped at the height of about 4-5 inches. I thought to myself, ‘well, maybe they did not have enough sun since there was another medium-rise condominium next to mine. Also, the trembling AC compressor was not conducive to plants. Another failure.
Starting afresh, plants for aesthetic purpose
- Now this bullet is connected to the revelation that one can grow plants indoor. Special mention needs to go to my supervisor at work, without whom, I would have continued to resist having plants in my room. Having failed at various kinds of plant in the past, I resolved to grow cactus. I bought two from a market one day. One for me and one for my colleague (who is now my girlfriend). Cactus for me is probably the most fool-proof plant in the world. You can go wrong with morning glory but you really can’t go wrong with cactuses. But I did. Both plants started shedding yellow leaves/spikes. And they were slowly giving up. But then, maybe they did not have enough natural sunlight.
- So here I am. In Jakarta, my unit has a lot of sunlight especially in the morning. A colleague asked me a couple of weeks ago where could she find decorative plants in Jakarta. That gave me the inspiration of getting plants for myself. To my surprise, they sell them online. I have never thought of buying plants online before. After payment, I was excited to think how they would transport my plants (yes I bought two). It turned out that the shops were really good at this. The pot and soil were packed separately. Each plant was covered with tissue paper inside a box with protective wrappings.
I put them on the windowsill, with a lot of sunlight. I even looked up how to take care of them this time. I resist giving them names for now. I hope they will survive.
And I will update you, my dear readers, on this.
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