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.