I recall during my grandmother’s days, plants were grown on a small scale in the household and not for commercial purposes. There were no nurseries back then, so you may wonder how one could get new and interesting plants? The only way was to go to relatives and friends’ houses and exchange plants through cuttings.
There were times when my cousin and I would wait for our grandmother at the doorstep to return from visiting relatives. We would help carry her rattan basket in hopes of finding goodies for ourselves, but to our dismay, all we found were cuttings of plants and flowers.
In the 1980s, plastic flowers were the craze, followed by potpourri and dried flowers. Though these were considered expensive, the perception was they lasted longer and projected a certain status symbol, as most were imported.
When I started selling plants in 1991, my core business was selling terrarium, or the miniature garden. It was a hit as it was rare in the market, and anything under glass would elicit curiosity, especially from women, as it was considered cute.
The latest craze today is plant-in-a-bottle, or the “green pet”.
Plant-in-a-bottle literally means a plant growing in an enclosed environment. They are available to the masses as they are propagated in a lab using tissue culture rather than the traditional way of growing them in the fields.
MINI ECOSYSTEM What’s interesting about this plant is that it is an ecosystem in itself. When photosynthesis happens, the plant absorbs carbon dioxide and produces oxygen, but at night, this process is reversed. In the cool morning, condensation happens and water droplets which have formed at the side of the bottle fall down, like rain.
EASY DOES IT It is self-sustainable and requires minimum care. It doesn’t need watering, feeding and fertilising.
Don’t place it in direct sunlight. The ideal room temperature is 25°C.
The easy part is, once the plant outgrows the bottle or the nutrients in the planting medium are depleted, you can carefully remove the plant from the bottle and transplant it outdoors.
GO GREEN Youngsters today are more conscious about saving the environment. Plant-in-a bottle is not only the first step, but the best step to get the young interested in green activities.
Having a plant-in-a-bottle spot in your office is therapeutic as it relaxes the eyes and eases the mind. How wonderful it is to see nature develop in front of your eyes. Imagine having a carnivorous green pet like Ms Nepenthes on your table or dreaming about bananas with Mr Berangan. What a great conversation piece!
These plants make excellent gifts, too. Ideally, they should be given to friends and relatives who always have excuses such as “Where got time to take care of plants, so busy with work” or not having a “green thumb”.
The whole idea is to convert people like that into plant lovers who not just have the knowledge and passion to care for plants but also become custodians of nature in future.