Russel is a plant collector that I got to know through Instagram. His user name is @journeythroughparadise and it’s easy to see why this description is apt. His account showcases his exceptionally wide range of plants. From bromeliads to cycads to palms, gingers, and aroids, this is one of the most amazing private gardens in Singapore that I have viewed.
In this garden plant tour and interview, he shares how he designed and built his garden from scratch. Also, meet his four friendly dogs, who get along well with his plants.
For the full garden tour and interview, please watch the videos below.
I learnt of Singaporean ceramic leaf artist, Davy Young, through my father, who was once classmates with him. My dad shared about him with me, and I was enamoured by his nature-inspired ceramic artwork but also the story behind him starting Leaves with Memories.
In his 50s, Davy discovered his passion for making ceramic leaves after seeing it in a magazine. He got in touch with the artist, Judy Brown, and through her guidance, he learned how to make it himself. After taking classes at a community centre, he eventually invested in his own tools and an electric kiln. He makes his artworks at home, mostly pendants, chopstick rests, and plates. These works are functional as well as ornamental.
He creates these ceramic pieces using real leaves taken from his or his friends’ gardens, or they are wild foraged. He does not use leaves that have fallen on the ground because it is likely to have started to dry up and turn brittle. Some leaves he has used include frangipani, fig, bodhi, bauhinia, water lily and wood nettle, with grape leaves being his favourite. He has also used leaves of reeds to make pendants.
Melissa Mak has the magic touch when it comes to ferments. For a few years now, I have been drinking her kombucha at her home, affectionately known as Simei Sanctuary, and at cafes. It never fails to settle my stomach on days when it’s feeling dodgy. This happens frequently, which is why fermented products appeal to me. Melissa runs Fizzicle, which specialises in kombucha in Singapore.
In her HDB corridor garden, Melissa grows a variety of edible and non-edible plants for fermentation purposes or to suit her curiosities. These include Ylang ylang, Eau de Cologne mint, Moroccan mint, chin chow, Brazilian spinach, sand ginger, mani cai, sweet potato, butterfly pea, pumpkin, among others. One of her current experiments is making perfume using Eau de Cologne mint.
She gives us a peek into what a fermenter’s garden looks like.
What got you into fermentation, and what made you start Fizzicle?
Bad health. I got into fermentation when I had really bad IBS. Travelling and street food did not do very much for my stomach so I had very bad IBS for a very prolonged period. I discovered that fermentation would help me out and it did, it lifted me out of the doldrums.
My family surname is “Mak”, it is a young surname, you will not see a lot of us out there, our Chinese surname is 麦 (mai). Before it was called “mai” it was “qu”, for fermentation starter. So fermenting is like respecting my family heritage We thought we were farmers in the past, but it turns out that we were fermenters in the past. So I am doing my family job, so to speak.
Other than kombucha, what else do you ferment?
I’ve made koji, so I have made my own miso at home, and sugar ferments. I take inspiration from the garden, there was one time when I had too much kale, I made kimchi kale. So whatever inspires me, whatever’s in season or in the garden, I just go ahead and do it.
There was a salted egg episode which hasn’t been repeated yet, it is very hard to get fresh eggs here. That was pretty good though, and it was a fun experiment.
In her private domain, Nicole Seah is a plant hobbyist who simply loves her aroids.
Her growing collection of foliage plants are beautiful and are elegant accent pieces in the home. These include Philodendron pastazanum, Philodendron verrucosum, Monstera esqueleto, Monstera albo variegata, Begonia tamaya, Anthurium Big Bill, Anthurium veitchii, among others. From the set up it is easy to see that she is pretty serious about plants.
Living in a well-lit apartment, she found that the surroundings were not necessarily suitable for all her plants. As an Anthurium enthusiast, she quickly realised that she had to provide special conditions for them. By housing some of these plants in enclosures kitted out with adequate lighting, humidifiers and handheld fans to create a rainforest microclimate, her plants began to fare better. She also uses a light meter and humidity meters to to aid with this.
In my chat with her, she shared her journey as a plantswoman, both the joy and the challenges — all of which is highly relatable for plant parents. For the full house plant tour with Nicole Seah, be sure to watch the video interview below. I hope you enjoy it as much as I enjoyed creating it : )