• April 26, 2020

The writer with a green thumb

Every spring, when the world starts waking up from a long, sleepy winter, I become another woman. One who is seized by the madness induced by tender shoots appearing in the soil and enthralled by the increasing greenery to be seen all around. Eagerness to “re-organise” the garden, I wear self-designed straw hats and don linen apron, delighting in the physical work of digging, moving, sowing and watering.

Energised by the longer days and warmer weather, bolstered by the spirit of “carpe diem”, I jot down ideas on how to improve from the failures of last year while planning how to maximise space and terracotta pots, all the while hoping the seeds are sown at the right time. I throw myself whole-heartedly into working under the sun, thinking of my maternal grandfather (my Wai Gong), who was the best gardener I know, feeling a little of his green-thumb blood coursing through my veins, reminding myself that one day I will be old and perhaps could no longer labour in the garden like I do now, hence this palpable enthusiasm.

I plant flowers not just because I love them. Watching them bloom and grow reminds me of all the time that I had spent in Wai Gong’s garden in Malaysia during school holiday, destroying his balsams, lilies and amaryllis. So benevolent and loving was he that he would never reprimand me. Instead he allowed us, all his grandchildren, to wander and play around the house, while he quietly did all the hard work of maintaining the land. Even when he became too old and had to move away from the plantation to live in the city, he would find tiny parcels of land to grow whatever he could. I still keep a small jar of peppercorns that he had planted in his neighbourhood. When Mother asked him why he had done that when he himself did not eat that much peppercorns, he replied it was so that everyone could take some and enjoy. So big was his heart and so great was his generosity.

I am proud to be a gardener and even prouder to say that I have a green thumb, just like my Wai Gong. While he might no longer be with us, each time I step into my garden, I would remember him and recall all those lovely afternoons spent in his house.