By VINA MEDENILLA

The several months of isolation due to the health crisis has resulted in an increasing number of budding home gardeners. Gardening, for some, serves as a coping mechanism and stress reliever, while for others, it is a source of income that tides them over amid the difficulties that the pandemic has brought.  

One of the many individuals who took a liking to ornamental plants during the quarantine period is Alvin Bryan D. Jamili, 24, a senior high school teacher at Liceo-De La Salle Senior High School – University of St. La Salle Bacolod.  

After witnessing how others transform their idle spaces into refreshing green areas, Jamili got inspired to do the same in his residence in Escalante, Negros Occidental. 

The fulfillment that gardening provides was the main driving force that urged him to start collecting plants. “Every time I see my plants thrive, there is this feeling of relief.” The plants are also a sort of investment for this grower. “Someday, I can propagate more of my plants, I can sell them, and earn back the money I spent.” He adds, “It also motivates me to care for our environment and become a good steward of God’s creation.”

Alvin Bryan D. Jamili, part-time gardener at 24, with his favorite alocasia variety, alocasia macrorrhiza Albo Variegata.

Jamili educates himself about gardening by watching online videos, researching, and getting ideas from garden owners and the sellers he buys plants from.  

A lush garden that mimics a forest

Jamili’s collection consists of diverse varieties of philodendron, anthurium, alocasia, colocasia, monstera, calathea, fern, and more. A large portion of his garden is covered with alocasias, but he also plans to add more specimens to his philodendron collection. He also cultivates rare and uncommon plants like  Philodendron Warscewiczii Aurea Flavum, Philodendron melanochrysum, Anthurium crystallinum,  Philodendron bipennifolium Aurea or gold violin, and variegated Spathiphyllum Sensation. Combining all these, Jamili was able to accumulate about a thousand plants after a year of gardening. 

The residence’s parking area that Jamili also turned into a garden.

For philodendrons and anthuriums, Jamili prefers using loose and well-draining soil. Since these plants like moist but not soggy soil, he only waters them as needed and as less often as the other water-loving plants like Spathiphyllum or peace lily. Despite having different soil mixes for each plant, he still prefers a mix that includes rice hull, pumice, coco chips, burnt wood chips, and other material available.

Since most of his plants are in an open area, Jamili has to protect them from harsh sunlight, especially for those that require shade or bright, indirect light. He installed nets in the garden to filter the sunlight and lessen the heat. Caterpillars, as per Jamili, is another struggle he still encounters today. He regularly checks his garden and picks caterpillars, should there be any that attack his plants. 

More than a gardener, Jamili also integrates his hobby with fishkeeping by making a mini pond in the same area with his plants. “A pond also contributes to the garden’s humidity which the plants love.”

Jamili started a garden in an estimated 75sqm idle space and added a mini pond to boost the area’s humidity.

To make a pond in his garden, he said, “We decided to dig a hole in the ground and covered it in flat stones to make it seem like a natural pond. We are also working on developing artificial waterfalls to add flow to the feature.” He raises 30 or so fishes in it including koi, goldfish, shubunkin, angelfish, iridescent shark, and pleco fishes. 

Ashrin and Jayden, Jamili’s niece and nephew, take a dip in the garden pond.

Investing in plants 

Jamili considers himself more of a collector than a plant seller at present. For the sake of trying, he sells a few of his plants with prices that range from P200 to P1000, which varies depending on the plant type and size. “For example, I sell my juvenile philodendron tricolor for P300, a juvenile philodendron Black Cardinal for P3500, a lush philodendron Micans is for P300 and a lush variegated Syngonium albo is for P500,” he added.

A lotus starting to bloom in Jamili’s pond.

Despite not earning much from selling plants just yet, he is still considering establishing a plant business in the future. He also wants to develop the space into a tropical garden that is “a little more unique than the usual ones in our time.”  

Photos from Alvin Bryan D. Jamili.