BY PATRICIA BIANCA S. TACULAO

By now, we’re familiar with the benefits of gardening to those who engage in it. In mid-2020, there has been a surge of aspiring gardeners and enthusiasts who have dedicated areas in their homes into a space to grow plants, either edible, ornamental, or both. Since then, they have experienced firsthand how gardening has benefitted their health, provided them with an alternative source of income, and increased their productivity while passing the time during quarantine. 

For the Guanlao family in Quezon City, gardening has been an important part of their lives even before the pandemic started. Gardening has become their way of spending time together and honoring their grandmother, who has inspired their love for growing plants. 

The Guanlao family consists of mother Peth, a housewife, father Allan, a former OFW, and daughters, Alyssa Camille and Aira Claudine, a chemical engineer and architectural apprentice, respectively.

Peth Guanlao had already been growing all kinds of plants from a young age. Her family followed her example and began gardening as well.

“Our mom has been gardening ever since we were little. She has been planting all sorts of plants—edible, flowers, and ornamentals in our garden. With her influence, the whole family has been involved in gardening. Even our father has become an expert in propagating different plant varieties,” the sisters said. 

The Guanlaos currently grow a variety of ornamentals such as philodendrons, anthuriums, syngoniums, bougainvilleas, gumamelas, along with fruit-bearing trees and vegetables like calamansi, lemon, avocado, pomegranate, kamias, malunggay, ampalaya, eggplant, okra, and chilies. 

But the family’s affinity for gardening didn’t just start with their mother. Their mother is just a product of her early exposure to growing plants, as her parents—their maternal grandparents— were farmers. 

According to the Guanlao sisters, their inspiration for gardening came from their grandmother, Lucia, whose kindness and gardening techniques have stayed in their mother’s, and the entire family’s, hearts. 

Seeing as how gardening brought their family together, the Guanlaos started a plant business called Ang Hardin Ni Lucia to spread the joy of gardening to other plant enthusiasts and aspiring gardeners in the metro. 

“Hardin ni Lucia exemplifies that planting and gardening in the metro can be achievable. We want to inspire people in the city that this hobby is achievable and can relieve the daily stresses in this fast-paced community,” the Guanlao sisters said.

Hardin Ni Lucia was named after the Peth’s mother, whose love for plants lives on in the family.

Catering to plants’ needs 

Many gardeners in the city experience challenges in growing plants. Part of this is because of the weather in Metro Manila, which is usually hot, with an exception to rainfall scattered throughout the rainy season. 

“It helps to be a part of a community of plant enthusiasts. This community can help in keeping you updated on the varieties that are currently in demand in the market. They could also give you advice on the specific plant care of the new variety that you’d like to propagate,” the sisters said.

Learning about specific plant species and providing them with the proper requirements allowed the Guanlao to maintain a thriving home garden.

The Guanlaos eventually adapted to meet the different needs of the plants in their care by gaining as much knowledge as they could on how to care for them. 

“For example, philodendrons and anthuriums are sensitive to the temperature, humidity, and amount of sunlight they receive. During these weather changes, we relocate them or install humidifiers and source of shade,” the sisters said. 

On the other hand, bougainvilleas love the sun and must be exposed to an ample amount of sunlight. These only require to be watered once in a while or when the soil has completely dried out. Using well-draining soil for bougainvilleas also prevents root rot, especially during the rainy season. 

The sisters added that they favor their bougainvillea plants because these produce beautiful flowers that adorn their balcony and are easy to maintain and propagate.

The Guanlao sisters prefer bougainvilleas because of their beautiful flowers and how easy it is to maintain them.

Most of the plants that the Guanlaos sell in their store come from their mother’s personal collection, which are then propagated so that others can also experience growing these varieties.

Although maintaining a plant collection isn’t always easy, the Guanlaos’ affinity and patience for growing plants have helped them find ways to ]make it easier. 

“We suggest positioning similar species in the same area so that the care like watering, sunlight, and humidity given to them will also be similar. This would help in creating easier plant care routines,” the sisters said.

A piece of advice that the Guanlaos offered to plant collectors is to keep similar species in the same area.

They believe that even though the pandemic will come to an end, the “plantdemic” will continue to flourish. The gardeners who became exposed to the advantages of growing plants will keep coming back to tend to their collection during their free time or to take a break from their busy schedules. 

For the Guanlaos, growing plants runs in the family. This has served as a way for them to connect with each other and commemorate their grandmother’s love for plants. Through Hardin Ni Lucia, they hope to spread this experience with other gardeners in the metro. 

For more information, visit Hardin Ni Lucia on Facebook

Photos courtesy of the Guanlao family