April 29, 2013


Grow Write Guild Prompt #1: Write about your first plant.

This is my first entry following the Grow Write Guild -- bear with me as my writing is pretty shoddy at best. My first plant, where to start?

For as long as I can remember, I've had a fascination with plants that bordered on obsession. As a child I remembered hanging out in farms, taking daily walks around this semi-suburban/semi-farmland area called Metroville. I remember the sweet scent of jasmine and coconut blossoms as I traipsed along, humming or grabbing random flowers that seemed too pretty not to take home. I remember humid, tropical days, where I would just hang out in my front yard, literally drinking flower nectar from this one flower I don't even recall anymore. Oftentimes, I would break away from my nannies to run to a nearby patch of grass that had mimosa pudica plants (Makahiya or "shy plant" in my native tongue -- a weed there but a novelty plant here) and watch with fascination as the leaves would close as I touched them. I collected seeds, picked flowers, tore leaves apart (regrettably so). My curiosity must have wrecked a lot of neighbour's plants and for that my 26-year-old self apologizes.

I had a curiosity about plants, as they were and continue to be a part of the medicinal history of the Philippines. The thought of possibly healing someone with random leaves and flowers that grew in my backyard was entertaining and made my childhood magical. In short, my life was always filled with plants. I was surrounded by luscious flora, tropical plants that looked like rubbery fake things, glossy in the sun.

I was 7 and left all those plants behind. I left the only home I ever knew, my house with a verdant back and front yard, for the cold embrace of Canada. I arrived here in the middle of July, just when the plants were dying back and fall was fast approaching. I saw neatly manicured lawns and yearned to have one of my own. Instead I lived in an apartment building and was the only one in my family that really loved to grow things. My mother liked plants enough to have a couple around the house -- a couple of wildly growing pothos, some dracaenas -- but it was never enough for me. It wasn't until spring came that my love of growing things was renewed (very apt).

My mom and I went to a Canadian Tire and there I saw nurseries, flowers of all shapes and sizes, plants that grew into tasty vegetables and fruits. It was all there, and they were all mine (or so I thought). I begged my mother to help me grow some Roma and cherry tomatoes and the rest was history. We made a makeshift balcony garden, and I tended to the plants as best as I could. I remember being scared to death when blossoms fell off, or the leaves would turn brown. We had a pretty good harvest that year and I fell in love with the idea that I could grow my own food, a passion that lives on to this day, a passion that manifested itself in my politics and affects how I go on with daily life. To this day I can remember the first time I smelled those tomato leaves; it's such a happy memory and I hope to one day share that should I ever have children. My mother happily indulged my need to grow things, and slowly I graduated from tomatoes to peppers. I swear tomatoes are a gateway drug. From growing peppers, herbs and ornamental flowers, then suddenly I stopped.

It was a strange time in my life in which I stopped doing things I liked, probably due to the fact that I felt as though my hobbies were pretty odd for a middle-school kid. I loved to knit, garden, cook... I didn't feel like I could relate to some of my peers, or perhaps I wasn't hanging out with the right ones, I don't even know. I simply stopped gardening altogether. I don't know why I stopped, but I just did. It was odd not to have plants in my life, and it went on for a couple of years. A summer would roll along and there I was, feeling somewhat empty. There is something about plants that made me feel comfort and joy. It was something I had all to myself and gave me peace in a time where things were confusing/scary/frustrating.

A vacation in the Philippines in 2005 brought plants into my life again. There I saw the familiar flowers and plants that I fell in love with. It was refreshing to see fruit growing in people's backyards and in particular, my own backyard which was filled with citrus fruit, mangoes, starfruit, chicos, and orchids.

I came back to Canada with a renewed love of all things green. Suddenly, I started buying plants and went on overdrive. Perhaps that previous hiatus from plants was a bad idea. I remember dropping lots of money on random impulse buys. Not the smartest thing to do. My need to grow food and grow anything was suddenly all I cared about. I bought everything, herbs I didn't eat, tomatoes, random flowers -- it was out of control. This love I had was overwhelming and made me so unbelievably happy at the same time. Life got in the way, papers and exams took priority, and a crazy social calendar put them on the back burner once more.

It was 2009 when I saw a random packet of seeds my cousin made me buy years before for a school fundraising event. I stared at this lonely packet of tomato seeds, and I don't know what prompted me to care enough to put some seeds in the soil but I did it. Maybe it was because it was out of obligation, or maybe it was because I was curious as I never grew anything from seed before but I decided to do it. I was scared the first time, I didn't think my thumb was that green to grow something from seed before. The seeds flourished under my care and it was heartwarming and wonderful to see something so little grow. From there, I decided that I wouldn't be without a plant anymore.

If you know me a little or a lot, you would probably associate me with something related to plants. I am perfectly fine with that. I have thirteen work plants, about 7 types of succulents, I have a fridge full of seeds, and I'm currently growing some tomatoes, herbs, and peppers for this season. This odd, childhood fascination with plants grew into something more. I am surrounded daily by these beautiful and fascinating things and I wouldn't have it any other way.

Plants are a big part of my life now, a constant. With plants, I can always find happiness and peace -- a home.


crassula at 8:02 pm

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