BY PATRICIA BIANCA S. TACULAO

The love for growing plants goes beyond the concept of age. Even though some people think that the youth aren’t interested in gardening, many young gardeners enjoy what they’re doing. 

One example is Albert Tang, a fourth-year college student who’s studying BS Management at the Ateneo De Manila University. 

“Ever since I was a child I already had an interest in nature and this is what inspired me to start gardening plants when I was 12 years old. I started seriously collecting plants around 2014,” he said.

From a young age, Albert Howell Tang has shown an interest in gardening. Now, he has around 120 cultivars and species in his garden.

His collection started with cacti and succulents. Eventually, he developed other interests in caudiciforms, euphorbias, haworthias, aroids, begonias, and jewel orchids. 

Currently, Tang is working on his other garden space that houses some of his plant collection. One plant that catches attention, and which Tang is very fond of, is the Victoria amazonica which he acquired from another collector in January of this year. 

Growing the largest water lily 

Victoria amazonica is the largest water lily species whose leaves can grow up to three feet. It is a very fast grower and newly emerging leaves can grow 1.5 meters a day. The Victoria amazonica is Tang’s first-ever pond plant, which is why he’s doing what he can to accommodate the plant in his garden.

Tang posing beside his Victoria amazonica pond.

“I am growing it in a small pond inside a 2.5 by 2.5 meters basin. The pond is around four by three meters, but I am currently building a 10 by 10-meter pond. Whoever decides to own this plant must be willing to provide an ample size pond for this plant,” he said. 

He added that the recommended pond size by the previous owner is 25 by 25 meters, deep enough so the whole plants’ stems would be submerged.

The flower of the Victoria amazonica.

Tang also planted the water lily in clay soil and he placed it in an area that receives a lot of sunlight. And since Victoria amazonica grows leaves rapidly, the previous owner of the plant advised Tang to remove older leaves to accommodate the new ones, especially in areas with limited space. 

“I would like to advise new Victoria amazonica owners that we must be responsible hobbyists and not plant this exotic species in natural bodies of water so it would not escape cultivation and become an invasive species,” Tang said. 

Some tips on begonias 

Among all the plants under his care, Tang specializes in begonias. It was around 2015 when he bought his first uncommon begonia species, the Begonia kui. After that, he began collecting other exotic begonia species, thus growing his collection to 120 cultivars and species of the particular genus.

Begonia kui, the begonia that started Tang’s interest in the particular species.

“What I love most about begonia species is that they are prolific when kept in ideal conditions and easy to propagate. I do propagations mainly by getting leaf and stem cuttings as they give less stress to the mother plant. But rhizome cuttings usually give faster results,” he shared.

Many begonia species, according to Tan, such as Begonia melanobullata, Begonia kui, and Begonia chlorosticta come from the highlands. Based on his experience, these plants require cooler temperatures compared to those in Metro Manila.

Since keeping these plants outdoors is challenging, especially during the warm season, Tang decided to keep these begonia species indoors so he could better manage the lighting, temperature, and humidity of the plants easily. 

“I grow most of my begonia collection eight inches away from T5 LED lights while keeping the temperatures below 24 degrees Celcius. I also plant these in soilless media made up of different mixes including peat moss, sphagnum moss or cocopeat, and pumice or perlite, depending on the species,” Tang said. 

Tips for future hobbyists 

Because Tang started cultivating his love for plants at a young age, he has acquired ample knowledge and experience which enabled him to grow the various plant species in his collection.

Among all his plants, Tang is espcecially fond of begonias.

And there will be others like Tang who will realize their passion for gardening and act on it. Tang has three pieces of advice that he would like to share to help future hobbyists in their gardening journey. 

First, he said that future hobbyists and gardeners should buy plants that suit their lifestyle. They should consider the amount of time and effort that they could devote to caring for plants before making the purchase final. 

Next, he said that learning to grow plants is a never-ending process where they will continue to learn new things from fellow hobbyists, new articles, and personal experiences. Even Tang is still learning from his growing collection which is why hobbyists like him should be eager to learn new things when it comes to gardening. 

Lastly, Tang said that there is no correct way of growing plants. The conditions vary from one to another so they must be willing to do proper research and provide the best environment for their plants. 

Age shouldn’t be a factor in whether or not a person should pursue gardening. Like Tang, young plant hobbyists should start cultivating their interest since gardening does more than just serve as a productive hobby. It can also be a source of income and a great way for the youth to learn values like patience and responsibility which could help them in the future. 

For more information, visit Bert’s Begonias atbp. on Facebook.

Photos courtesy of Albert Howell Tang