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February 2013
My journey in creating a truly Malaysian garden


As I sat down to write this first article of 2013, I couldn’t help but get a little reflective. This year marks the 25th year of my journey as a “farmer”.

Desmond, in younger days, with terrarium.

It was in 1988 that my love affair with Mother Nature started. Funnily, when you’re doing what you love, time just flies but you never feel old (until your body catches up with you, that is).

I remember it was while in the UK that I saw the “plant in the bottle” – also known as terrariums. Awhile after I came back to Malaysia and after a wayward period of searching for what to do, I then got into building terrariums. This then led to plant trading.

Those days, there were very few indoor plants that could go directly to your dining table, or living room, not unless you didn’t mind the dirty pots and chicken dung fertilisers. So our business was importing well-finished plants from overseas, such as Belgium or Netherlands.

In 1999, we set up a garden centre in Subang Parade, which is like a garden version of a “hypermarket”. It was the first of its kind.

The birth of the Malaysian Garden vision

The garden centre outside Subang Parade.


While running the garden centre, a lot of our customers with the 5 x 8 feet and 8 x 10 feet gardens (typical for link houses) ask us what to do with them. Many of them are eventually just tiled it up.

Then we realised that there was actually a need for such advise. After helping a number of them design and landscape their small garden space, the idea of turning these spaces into a functional garden “room” came naturally.

I sometimes wonder how did I end up on this journey, but now I know that I had always been in tune with the elements of nature through my upbringing. Whereas the passion to bring out a distinctly Malaysian identity in my garden designs was probably due to my heritage.

It certainly is easier to “tell our own stories” when, I am proud to say, my Baba heritage is such a unique one. My wife, meanwhile, is from the Melaka Chetti community.

Malaysian garden and tissue culture

When we were still plant trading, I observed that many of the plants we were importing eg ferns and palms were actually tropical indoor plants native to our rainforests. This seemed very ironic and didn’t make sense to me, just like importing rubber or palm oil from Europe. Eventually, we started importing semi-finished plants and then tissue culture for our own growers to grow. Suddenly, we found ourselves heading into plant biotechnology and tissue culture research.

With our forests’ rich bio-diversity, the technology gained can really open up the potential for ornamental plants native to us. For example, we managed to tissue culture the Nepenthes, aka monkey cups, which is a vulnerable carnivorous plant. By doing so, we’re also happy to do some conservation work.

The dream


The Malaysian Garden concept is something I hope to see all of us embrace, as it doesn’t belong to me. While we want to be known as the ones who created it, the only way it will truly become a successful vision is if Malaysians own it. It has to be relevant and even up-to-date.

We at Terra Garden would like to share the knowledge we’ve gained through a franchising program.

Over the years, we’ve focused on bringing the Malaysian Garden concept overseas through exhibitions, international competitions and events, as well as some foreign partnerships. From now on, we want to focus on home.

Along the way, I hope to see a truly Malaysian garden identity take shape. This is my wish for 2013. Happy New Year all!

February 2013
My journey in creating a truly Malaysian garden
January 2013
Stone and brick can make a modern garden
December 2012
Modern Materials
September 2012
Light Up Your Life

Watering is key to lushness

August 2012
Virtue Of Starting An Edible Garden
Sharing The Fruits Of Labour
June 2012
May 2012
Natural Wonders At Home
Enjoying The Sky
April 2012
March 2012

Maximising outdoor space

Febuary 2012
Green, Green Grass Of Home
Instant Garden To Help Sell A House
January 2012
December 2011
November 2011
October 2011
September 2011
How To Take The Buzz Out Of Those Bugs
August 2011
June 2011
May 2011
February 2011
Malaysian-themed gardens for modern homes

Choosing Reputable Landscaping Contractors

January 2011
December 2010
November 2010
October 2010
Balcony garden for condominiums
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