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.
With so many under-utilised little pockets of land available on Singapore’s street verges, why not grow some food and educate others in the process? The Farmers, Justine Ong-Farmer and Scott Farmer – decided to do just that. After trying their hand at growing edibles less than a year ago, they have come a long way in such a short period of time with their trial-and-error approach and some helpful advice from Justine’s mother.
With this knowledge of growing and cooking with local herbs and vegetables, they started offering workshops to connect Singapore residents to local plants and food. After realising that local ingredients are more readily available on sidewalks compared to supermarkets and wet markets, they wanted to communicate that there is a value to eating and growing plants native to Singapore.
As part of their regular workshop, A Seat at The Farmer’s Table, participants pick ingredients from their garden and get involved in making nasi ulam and chilli chukka, and savour some of their tasty nasi ulam – I’ve tried it, it’s really good!
To date, they have grown cabbage, rosella, ulam rajah, bittergourd, Thai basil, pear and cherry tomatoes, marigolds, turmeric, okra, papaya, and blue butterfly pea among others, on this newly reclaimed verge alone. At home and on another more established verge, there are edible plants like banana, neem, soursop, pandan, wild pepper, torch ginger, lettuce, cucamelons, bayam, and more.
I sat down with Justine and Scott to find our more about their urban farming journey and their verge garden situated at Yio Chu Kang.
1. When did you both discover that you loved growing plants?
Justine: I was never really interested in plants until Scott and I bought our first plant together for his place in the early days of our relationship. We call him Lazarus (nickname ‘Lazzy’) because he has looked dead and then come back to life several times over the last couple of years we’ve had him. He’s alive and kicking today.
2. You both use a lot of natural farming techniques, which makes use of the materials already available to you. Where did you learn to grow edible plants?
Justine: My mum has been growing fruit trees and vegetables in our home garden for many years now. She’s usually the first person I turn to when I have questions. She’s very crafty and super innovative, always encouraging us to come up with solutions using what nature has provided or what we can find around the house.
Scott: I think we’ve learnt most of our techniques as we’ve gone along. Back in the UK, we always had a vegetable garden when I was growing up but I was never actively involved – I guess I may have picked up some knowledge through occasional digging, picking and watching. But really, we just make sure we spend a bit of time every day fiddling and talking to the plants – I don’t think there is any real secret!
Agatha Lee, or Agy, for short, is a long-time environmental advocate who raises awareness of environmental sustainability through her work with textiles. Formerly from Hong Kong, she has been living with her family in Singapore for almost two decades now. She spent half of that time here at the National Environmental Agency before finding her true calling in sustainable fashion, starting with an informative blog on repairing and upcycling clothing, and then co-founding Connected Threads Asia, which runs the local Fashion Revolution Day annually. She eventually moved on to focus on personal artistic projects.
After spending many years honing her craft, Agy developed into an artist, using natural materials and discarded fabrics to create wearable fashion or art pieces, always remaining true to her sustainability roots. She now goes by the name Agy Textile Artist. These days she also busies herself with The Green Collective, a gathering of local eco lifestyle brands in one place – offering retail, co-working office space and workshops.
I’ve known Agy for some years now in the environmental sector, but it was only last year that we began collaborating on workshops, mainly beeswax wrap classes. I’ve always admired the work she does and I love her refashioned pieces, especially her latest wardrobe addition – espadrilles made with fabric scraps. Agy is very creative indeed!
Apart from natural dyeing, she specialises in free motion embroidery, a technique she has used to create artwork from her Nature in Stitches series, and Ocean series, the latter being a collaboration with another artist, Arana Kennedy. Some of this work is documented on her YouTube page, along with other artistic endeavours such as various mending techniques, the natural dyeing process, as well as hand embroidery, so be sure to check it out!
I spent some time with Agy and created my first Garden Stories video on YouTube. Here’s my interview with her.
1. When did you discover your love for working with plants? I enjoy working with plants and experimenting with their colours. I realised it when I started to explore the parks in my neighbourhood two years ago when I needed to slow down in life. As I reconnected with nature, I started to notice their different textures and how their beauty could be translated into stitches and colour in textiles. There are so many plants in Singapore, and I have to admit I have only touched the surface.
2. Where do you get your inspiration for your creations from? Nature! There’s so much inspiration out there, you just have to look! I love observing my surroundings and how the public interacts with it. My first work was a series called Nature in Stitches, where I interpreted the bark of common trees in Singapore using natural dyes and free motion embroidery. I then worked on a collaborative piece called Ocean, which looks at how man’s interference with nature has a negative impact on corals.