By Patricia Bianca S. Taculao 

Several studies have noted how gardening has several health benefits that affect both the physical and mental well-being of those who engage in the activity. There are even reports on how gardening can help medical patients heal faster or feel less stressed about their afflictions. 

Evangeline Villegas Almoite, a retired government employee and agriculturist, can attest to this claim as she finds refuge from her ailment when she gardens. 

Almoite is diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, a brain disorder that leads to shaking, stiffness, difficulty with walking, balance, and coordination. Symptoms of the disease begin gradually and tend to get worse over time. 

Evangeline Almoite is a retired government employee and agriculturist. She suffers from Parkinson’s but finds respite in gardening.

“In gardening, I forget that I am a victim [of Parkinson’s]. I find happiness in gardening; I am a survivor through gardening,” Almoite said. 

She currently grows a variety of plants such as crotons, pothos, calatheas, philodendrons, agloenemas, sansevierias, cutharitas, anthuriums, and more. But among these plants, Almoite prefers her mayanas (Coleus blumei Benth) because of their multi-colored leaves. 

Among her other ornamentals, Almoite prefers growing mayanas.

Mayanas, also known as Coleus or painted nettle, are fleshy, annual herbs that can grow about one meter high. These are characterized by bright leaves that come in different variations depending on the species, and its durability, making it an ideal houseplant. 

Almoite acquired her mayanas through various purchases and by swapping with her friends. She added that these plants are planted in several areas of her 17,064 square meter property while some are planted in pots. 

How to care for mayanas

Mayanas are known to be low-maintenance and easy to grow. But that doesn’t mean that they should be left to grow in less than ideal conditions. 

Whether planted directly onto the ground or in containers, this particular plant needs fertile, well-draining soil, and should be placed under partial shade. But this requirement can differ from one variety to the next so it’s best to do some research to secure what particular mayana plants need to grow. 

Almoite strategically placed her mayanas in partially shaded areas around her house, away from direct exposure to sunlight to keep them from burning when the temperature rises to above normal conditions.

The retired agriculturist’s mayanas are grown in different areas of her residence.

The former agriculturist also waters them often because they tend to wilt easily if the soil is not kept moist.

Almoite often waters her mayanas to keep them from wilting since mayanas prefer moist, fertile soil.

While some gardeners add fertilizer to their mayanas, Almoite prefers not to add any, whether natural or commercial, since the plants don’t necessarily require any growth enhancers. 

If properly cared for, mayanas can grow prolifically in a garden or pots. 

Seeing gardening as a challenge 

According to Almoite, her gardening allowed her to continue her career of being able to work with plants before she retired. But her fascination stemmed way before she became an agriculturist. 

“I got this love of plants from my mother. Since elementary, we had a vegetable garden that we tended to,” she shared. 

Eventually, the ability to be able to grow her food as well as other plants is what motivated Almoite to become an agriculturist. 

“From planting to propagation–all the processes of growing any plant, I love it. There is a challenge in it,” Almoite said. 

But aside from her general interest in gardening, Almoite also makes a profit from her plants which she then uses to supply some of her needs. 

In gardening, Almoite has found something that she truly enjoys. Not only did she manage to turn her passion into profit, but she also made a career of it as well. And as she battles with Parkinson’s disease, the former agriculturist said that gardening will make things easier for her somehow as she found a respite where she feels safe and capable to do what she wants.

Photos courtesy of Evangeline Villegas Almoite.