Detours from home: Plant parenting in the time of pandemic

[Editor’s note: Detours from home is a Rappler column where readers can share about the new things they have learned while in quarantine. A Filipina journalist from the Netherlands takes us through her plant parenting journey. You, too, can share your own Detours from home story.]

I have been in love with plants long before the quarantine started in the Netherlands, and during the quarantine period, I may probably have transformed into a full-fledged plant mom.

The outbreak came in the most ill-opportune time in Europe: lente [spring]. Days were becoming longer as the sun started to show up more and the temperature rose week by week. Spring also meant that leaves were popping out from the dry branches of trees and little daisies were starting to magically appear from the lush green grasses by the meadow. Spring is my favorite season of the year, but alas, the virus came and spoiled it for many.

But not for me. Spring meant that my indoor plants, which were formerly in hibernation, started to wake up from their peaceful slumber during winter. I have noticed my Wandering Jews beginning to sprout more baby leaves, and my Swiss cheese monsteras becoming livelier each day. Exciting times, I thought to myself. 

All photos by Hon Sophia Balod

In the early days of spring in March, my partner, Carlos, and I would spend most of our weekends wandering around the park or forest, occasionally picking wildflowers. During this period of lockdown, I learned to appreciate wildflowers even more as I paid less visits to commercial flower shops. I also learned the art of flower pressing. I would carefully press some flowers like daisies or forget-me-nots between the pages of my books, hoping to immortalize their fragility and beauty. “Pressed Flowers from the 2020 Pandemic,” isn’t that quite a story to tell your grandchildren?

Gardening by the balcony

By April, I found myself glued to my laptop looking for the best pots and mixing soil to start a mini garden in our small balcony. The Netherlands is under a “smart lockdown” which means people have the freedom to go out as they wish, provided that they follow strict social distancing measures and hygiene. I paid a quick visit to our local flower and plant shop and grabbed some gardening tools and a bunch of flowers that I thought would go well with our outdoor seats. I carried a 25-kilo bag of soil to our apartment on the third floor and nearly broke my back, but at last, I managed to gather all the tools I needed to start my mini garden.

I started with potting flowers and some greens but soon I also became interested in the concept of self-sustainability through gardening. Carlos and I lived in a tiny apartment, and without a proper garden, we couldn’t really grow a lot of seedlings. But I started to try it out anyway by growing some vegetable scraps such as spring onion, mint, and even carrots! The spring onions, I think, were doing okay, but the carrots not so much. 

In a crisis like this, self-sustainability is the key if you want to be able to survive. While I have yet to harvest any of my self-grown vegetables (save for mint, which is a trooper), it is a start that I am proud of. 

Building our own ecosystem

Working in the sustainability industry myself, I have become quite attached to the concept and I wondered if I could create a self-sustaining ecosystem myself. I got the inspiration for building my own terrarium from my dear friend and co-plant parent, Eva, who has successfully built some of the most beautiful ecosystems I’ve seen.

I got myself a big jar to house my dream ecosystem, a Plumosa fern, some small Nerve plants, and a bunch of hydroton clay pebbles from the Tuincentrum [garden center]. The next mission was to find some rocks, pebbles, twigs, and moss. I spent two hours in the forest searching for “supplies”.  I was quite successful in getting some rocks, but it was hard to find the moss. In the end, I got them from a shop for a euro. 

Building an ecosystem was a therapy for me. Carlos and I built it together one sunny Saturday afternoon. It was quite challenging to stack all the needed materials in the jar and to carefully place the plants inside. We felt personally responsible for these living things, and thus, we followed all the steps in terrarium-making quite ceremoniously.

Almost a month has passed and my tiny fern has survived the terrarium, with a healthy amount of moisture inside the jar. Project Ecosystem was a success.

The quarantine period was and has been a chance for me to connect to the basics of nature, from indoor gardening to vegetable growing. Taking care of plants has taught me that we all need the basics to survive in this world: a rich, nurturing ground, some water, some sunshine, and a lot of kindness and love. If you think about it and get down to the basics of it all, that’s about everything one needs to live. – Rappler.com 

Sophia is a journalist based in the Netherlands. She is also the editor and the co-founder of Subselfie.com, an online magazine collecting stories of young Filipinos. She likes yoga, music, arts, spotted begonias, English ivys, lilies and forget-me-nots.