Gan Hong Chew, Resident Uncle of @philoisland
Plant Parents of Southeast Asia: Gan Hong Chew, Resident Uncle of @philoisland
Plant Parents of Southeast Asia is an initiative dedicated to celebrating the greener side of life in every plant parent's journey. Because behind every plant parent, is a story of growth. Know an inspiring plant parent in Southeast Asia? Nominate a plant parent here.
What does this photo mean to you?
HC: This is a sanctuary where I come to seek refuge every weekend away from the hustle and bustle of the city. Here, I can wind down after a hectic workweek, as well as reset and recharge for the week ahead.
Tell us what inspired you to start and continue caring for plants
HC: Like many people, I started this hobby post-circuit breaker last year. Growing up, I have always been a fan of the great outdoors instead of the concrete jungle that is Singapore. Gardening has provided an avenue for me to destress and meet new people in the hobby. The plant community is filled with really kind people from all walks of life, and I am grateful to have made many new friends thanks to this shared interest.
Tell us about your most memorable plant story
HC: I was gifted a homemade closed terrarium by my intern a couple of years back, and only remembered its existence one year later when I was cleaning my room! Amazingly, the fittonias were still alive. I decided to reward them for surviving my neglect with a nice new pot and some fresh media. Ironically, those plants did not survive the repot because I didn’t know what I was doing back then! I would like to think that I have come a long way since then, but I am still learning every day in this hobby.
What's a misconception about plant parenthood?
HC: “Big pots equal big plants.” This is definitely not true! When re-potting you should only increase the pot size a little at a time. Using too big a pot will result in constant wet feet and eventual root rot for the plant. Of course, this also differs for different genera. I’ve found that Alocasias in particular generally prefer smaller pots as compared to Philodendrons and Anthuriums as well.
How has plant parenthood changed you?
HC: I have learnt to be more patient and take things slowly. The sense of accomplishment I get from growing a small plant into a large mature specimen certainly brings more joy than buying a bigger (and more expensive) specimen off the shelf.
I also used to be fixated on every leaf’s blemishes, discolourations and other imperfections. Slowly, I have internalised wabi-sabi, which is the Japanese philosophy of appreciating imperfection and impermanence. Nothing is perfect, and I have learnt to embrace every imperfection as it is.
These lessons from plant parenthood have become deeply entrenched in my own life, and I would like to think that these takeaways will serve anyone well as well.