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.
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 : )
Hidden away at Sungei Tengah in Singapore is a serene air plant haven, aptly titled ‘Airvatar’, managed by Tillandsia enthusiast Daniel Goh. A senior financial consultant by day, Daniel makes time to tend to his plant collection daily, and regularly runs workshops to spread his joy for air plants, sharing knowledge while highlighting its aesthetic qualities.
Daniel’s air plants are neatly laid out and well presented. There is a lot to take in, with hundreds of plants on display yet it feels moderately minimalist. At Airvatar, Daniel showcases his plants, a collection amassed from places like Pick a Plant and other private air plant collectors in Singapore. Here, he also runs workshops and uses it as a space for visitors to experience the beauty of Tillandsia, inspiring them with the possibilities of decorating their homes with air plants.
I sat down with him to find out about his passion for air plants.
When did you begin taking an interest in gardening?
I was as young as 10 years old. In school, they used to get us to grow beans into bean sprouts. From then onwards I liked growing plants. But if you ask about when I started liking air plants, it was 6 to 7 years ago, when I got my first air plant. I thought it was very intriguing because it is a plant that doesn’t need soil to grow, and then I started my air plant collection.
What do you find intriguing about air plants?
It is an amazing plant to have because you can hang it by the window, or glue it onto a rock. But what really got me interested was as I started my collection, I realised that every plant is different. When you talk about species alone, there are around 3500 species of air plants. When you look at the varieties — the shapes, the sizes, the colours, the leaf structure, textures, they are all different. Singularly as a plant itself, it is very sculptural. When you put two separate plants side by side, they each look so different. That to me is like an art piece by itself. When you hang it up, it looks like a floating sculpture to me. That’s how it started for me, I was really, really amazed by air plants.
Subsequently I decided that I wanted to do more with just growing or collecting air plants, and that’s when I started designing. I used branches, rocks, materials that you can find from gardens or aquarium shops, and put them together and made art pieces with it. From then onwards, I called myself an air plant artisan and then I started doing this to share with people that air plants are not just a plant in itself, but it has a lot more dimension and aesthetic value. So it is no longer just growing plants but appreciating the aesthetics of the plant itself.