by Vina Medenilla

A home holds a special place in Filipino culture. It’s both an area for personal relaxation as well as for entertaining guests.

In Tina Cabrera-Gerona’s residence in Pasay, a cluttered stock area was converted into an open-air dining and garden space where she now creates new memories with her growing family. They planned to maximize their rooftop and make it more alive, so they gradually turned it into a green space. Starting with her father’s yellow palmera and kalachuchi, they gradually brought life and greenery to idle spots on their rooftop.    

rooftop garden

At 40, this mom found her way to nurture plants again after her first few failed attempts. Now, she builds new memories with her family while being surrounded by plants.

From “plant killer” to super gardener

Before this, Gerona had already made several attempts to grow plants and even considered herself a plant killer, but everything changed when she became a mother. “Ever since I became a mom, the nurturing side of me just grew. And somehow, I was able to extend that to my plants too! This may be another miracle of motherhood. Everything just grew from there,” said Gerona. 

Now, she owns over 100 individual plants. Every morning, she wakes up at six to water her plants while enjoying a cup of tea. On normal days, she waters them twice a day and during rainy seasons, she places pots and pans out in the open area to collect rainwater to use on her plants. She also makes a natural fertilizer using banana peel blended with eggshells. For her compost, she piles newspapers, dry leaves, raw vegetables, and fruit, waiting for them to decompose before using.

Aside from this, she also grows crops like tomatoes, sweet potatoes, onions, and butterfly peas for the family’s consumption. Knowing that the garden receives a good amount of sunlight, Gerona also has several outdoor plants, hanging plants, and succulents placed strategically around it. They’re also planning to add fresh herbs and vegetables to their collection soon.

Measuring 22 square meters, a former storage area and housekeeper’s quarter was changed into this flourishing garden.

Never stop learning about plants and gardening

She started out using the planting materials from her father, a hobbyist, whom she got her interest in plants from. Besides the knowledge she got from him and her relatives, she reads articles about the plants she cultivates. 

Through gardening, Gerona realized that plants are like people; each of them has their own personality and peculiarity. “Some [plants] love plenty of water while some would only take in a few times a week. Some [plants] love full exposure to the sun while other plants like to be in a shaded area,” said Gerona. Because of this, she often asks plant sellers, family members, and friends for plant care tips so she can familiarize herself with the plants that she gets and their individual needs. To make things simpler, she gathers plants with similar characteristics so it would be easy to tend them per group.

Some of her hanging plants include manaog ka irog (Dischidia oiantha), wandering jew, neon Pothos, bird’s nest fern, and Peperomia obtusifolia.­

Gardening tips

As per Gerona, those who’d like to start their garden must: 

1) consider the budget and the kind of environment they envision to create; 

2) take risks and must not be afraid to learn or develop a new skill, and lastly; 

3) they must enjoy the process because once they get the hang of things, they’ll realize that caring for plants is truly therapeutic. 

Gerona added that plants add so much to her quality of life and with them, she never feels like she misses the outside world during the quarantine period.

Photos from Tina Gerona.