HORTICULTURE : derived from two latin words: hortus (meaning "garden") and cultus (which means "tilling").
In keeping with the terms of its Incorporation, the Horticultural Society of Trinidad and Tobago held its Annual Flower Show: "Gardening for Life" at the Country Club in Maraval this weekend. For those of you who aren't familiar with the mandate of the Horticultural Society, it's aims and objectives are quoted as follows:
"to promote and encourage all aspects of horticulture and the environmental beauty of Trinidad and Tobago through—
(a) the generation and dissemination of horticultural knowledge;
(b) the development of understanding among individuals and organisations concerned with horticulture;
(c) the organisation of exhibitions, lectures, seminars and field visits;
(d) the promotion of activities kindred to the science of horticulture; and
(e) co-operation with other societies having similar objectives."
- Act 16 of 1999 allowing for the Incorporation of the Horticultural Society of Trinidad and Tobago
Now I have to be completely honest; I had no idea this show was being held and I only found out due to the invitation that I received from one of my cultured friends, Milly, who was attending with her mum. At this juncture I must interject that one of the best ways to stay on track with attaining your goals of living the simple, yet luxurious modern Caribbean life is to surround yourself with others who share the same noble aspirations. Thanks to her timely invite, I attended the show along with my mother.
For the Love of horticulture...
"Gardening for life" did not disappoint. The event took the form of a mish-mash of local vendors offering anything from exotic flower bulbs, to young palms, and a wide array of orchids, lilies and even natural plant-based skin care products and honey. Most stalls featured a variety of plant species labeled with their Scientific appellations to give buyers the opportunity for further research linked to care, and growth cycles of their plants of choice. It was also lovely to see a wide mix of genders and generations interested in horticulture.
Simply put, horticulture has everything to do with "the science or art of cultivating fruits, vegetables, flowers, or ornamental plants" (quoted from The Spruce). Please note the science aspect of it, because cultivating green-scape is an extremely involved process. If I learned anything from talking to the vendors this weekend, it was that you really have to be acquainted with your plant species and be diligent to attend to their needs, in order to be a successful plant parent. Achieving this requires knowledge of growth cycles, propagation methods, direct or indirect sunlight requirements, water saturation requirements, pest and fungus prevention techniques, and a host of other variables. Gone are the days when I thought that all I needed was water, sunlight and soil for my plants to be at their best. It was all very enlightening, to say the least.
So, Why Garden?
From an Architectural and design standpoint, there are several reason why your garden matters:
1. Plants both indicate and maintain air quality
Where you aware that your plants can tell alert you of changes in the air- quality around your home? You can best reap the benefits of this if you know how your plant should look and behave when healthy. Oxidized, burnt, discolored, or speckled leaves can make us aware of whether air pollution has increased. If plants have smaller root systems, fewer crop yields, or shed their leaves sooner than normal, an alarm for air pollution may be being sounded by your floral friends.
On the positive side, plants simultaneously assist in purifying the air around your home. Most of us are familiar with the ability of plants to convert CO2 gasses to oxygen through photosynthesis. This means that surrounding your home in a sea of green can potentially have a slew of health benefits linked to breathing cleaner air.
2. PLANTS PREVENT SOIL EROSION
Home owners in the local landscape are infamous for their "pave-it-all" proclivities. Usually when I'm designing homes for clients, their main concern is maximizing square footage, and so many of them seem perplexed when we begin the discussion around reserving a percentage of the site footprint for landscaping. Plants contribute invaluably to preserving the integrity of the land on which your home is built, by keeping the soil intact through dense root systems, and also through managing land stripping by regulating surface water run-off.
The passage of water around the subterranean structures of you home can have a massive impact on its structural integrity, so what you lose in square footage up front, may save you money linked to structural repairs in the future. Additionally, most people tend to be concerned with their own property and its issues and little else, but your environmental decisions linked to landscaping could have devastating effects on other properties if you remove too much of the plant life ( this is extremely important if you live on sloped land). Many home owners who once enjoyed regular post- rain soil conditions, are now battling with flash flooding woes due to insensitive neighbours uphill.
3. AESTHETIC BENEFITS AND STRESS REDUCTION
Few people will argue against the soothing effects of adding a few plants to a space. There have been scientific investigations which prove the psychological benefits of living and working near ornamental plants: which include increased concentration, decreased perceived stress levels and increased pleasure hormone release in the brain, among others. For those living in smaller spaces, increasing the visual dialogue between the indoor and outdoor environment is an effective hack for increasing the perceived size, and luxury of the space - especially if the landscape is also well designed.
4. increasing personal responsibility, engagement and entrepreneurship
I have noticed that people to care for plants tend to be BETTER people. I don't just mean people who OWN plants, but rather people who really invest in the care and excellent upkeep of the plants that they own. The level of engagement that is required to be an exemplary plant owner creates an inner change that is quite positive, in my humble opinion. Plant owners tend to be more patient, observant, diligent and consistent, in their work-ethic ( as per my personal observation). All the years of learning and catering to the needs of their plant babies births within them a sense of industry that permeates all areas of life. It is an activity that involves the mind and the body to equal measure.
I think another notable fact is that gardening takes diligence and perseverance, which are quite a rare find in this fast-food society. Adopting gardening as a hobby is a wonderful way to make that transition into "slow living", if it is something that you desire. I must confess that among all the reasons listed above, it is this last one that persuaded me to take the leap into being a plant parent myself.
The (modest) Plant Haul
Mom and I snapped up a few gems at this year's Flower Show.
1. Desert Rose (Adenium) - Ours is currently non-flowering, but we have high hopes for when it finally buds. When it flowers it will look like the one I snapped below right. In a temperate climates this plant goes dormant and you have to lessen the amount of watering of it during fall and winter months, but I'll have to do more research on how it is cared for in a tropical climate. The vendor did tell us about lessening the amount we watered it sometimes, and also about fertilizing it every two months, but much of the instructions were lost in the haze of the afternoon.
2. The "Tricolor" Plant (Stromanthe) - I was thrilled that mom was as seduced by this plant as I was, because I had been secretly wanting one for the work desk in my room. I've heard that this plant can be finicky and we have to be sure not to over-water it since it's prone to root-rot, but I can't wait until we propagate it and I can have my very own for my space.
A joint Orchid obsession:
3. The variegated orchids we got as a group of six should be exciting to see in a few months. The 6 are:
- Dendrobium Doreen pink (x1)
- Dendrobium Sampran brown (x2)
- Dendrobium Burana candy stripe (x1)
- Dendrobium Happy Variety Red (x1)
- Dendrobium Sonia white (x1)
I'd have you know that I have little idea of what these six will look like when in bloom, but below I have captured the Sampran Brown one that stole my heart (the vendor had some blooming ones on site as samples).
My pride and joy
I walked away with only one glorious plant that was all my own. I consider this to be my first official personal plant purchase. Before I get into it, I'd have you know that I have a dream to create my own tropical backyard haven (in the Balinese style). As such, I have to acquire a number of deep leafy plants as my base, and intersperse tropical flora like orchids, and bird of paradise in-between (at least this is what I believe until I involve a professional). Imagine then, my absolute wonder when I stumbled upon this unique beauty with dark green curled leaves.
Not even the vendors knew the name of it, which was initially quite disappointing, but it didn't prevent me from buying it on impulse. I later put out the challenge of "NAME THAT PLANT" to my Instagram tribe, and I was not to be disappointed. They soon supplied me with the much coveted scientific name of this wonder : Alocasia Triangularis
From what I've read so far, it may be that the exaggerated curl of the leaves of my new plant baby may actually be a bad sign, but I'm still investigating. My next purchase will be these Giant Anthuriums, but I have to do some garden planning first.
FOR YOUR INTEREST
In closing, I've added below a few flowers that caught my eye, and other oddities of interest, like the miniature orchids (which I fantasized as being tended by gnomes at night), and the Hyacinth bulbs that I saw for the very first time, and find to be quite beautiful in themselves.
A Question for you:
What are your favourite plants to cultivate; and if you attended the show, what were your plant picks?