The Chronicles of a Young Plant Lawyer
Plants were never my thing. Ask anyone who has ever known me. I have always enjoyed being out in nature and going on hikes, but I never had any real interest in growing or caring for plants. All that changed when I received my first plant as a gift from my partner. I then went down the rabbit hole and became “plant crazy” as COVID-19 rolled along and working from home became the new norm. For the first time in my life, I was confined at home for extended periods of time and I turned my attention to plants to keep my sanity intact.
I needed to get my hands on every plant I came across. I would return from a trip to a nursery with 10 (sometimes 20) different plants in tow. How hard could growing plants be, right? Put them in some soil, give them enough water, some sunlight and they should grow fantastic. Well, rookie mistake. The harsh realities of growing plants hit me like a ton of bricks – they take great effort to grow and they die in the wrong conditions. No one tells you about the pests that ravage plants when in the wrong conditions (Yes, I am talking about you, spider mites). Thankfully, the Penal Code does not have a provision for plant killers like me.
Having mourned the death of too many plants, I decided to change my approach. Instead of hoarding every plant I came across, I started to be selective of the types of plants I bought or decided to grow. I then began the process of converting my space into one that would be conducive for my plants, instead of myself. I shifted my focus to plants that did not need a great deal of direct light and did not have to be watered daily. I knew that once I was back in the office and no longer working from home, I would no longer have the time or the capacity to attend to my plants daily.
Like many people on our sunny island, I do not have an outdoor space to work with, which would have been ideal. I instead had to rely on an assortment of grow lights and humidifiers, to imitate the great outdoors, indoors. Once I had that sorted, I turned my attention to the media that my plants grew in. I needed something that did not retain too much water, as the plants were kept indoors. I also needed something that did not dry out too fast, which would require me to water the plants more often. As everyone knows, us young lawyers hardly get much time to ourselves.
I started tinkering with my space and the media every other week to get the balance right. Even now, after more than a year of tinkering, I have yet to achieve perfection. My quest for (plant) knowledge became obsessive and even with Google at my fingertips, I was not satisfied with the information I was receiving. I therefore turned to the plant community on Facebook and started chatting with people who grew plants for a living. As the saying goes, “the only source of knowledge is experience”.
I soon realised that the plant community in Singapore is extremely welcoming and supportive. I have met people that I would never have come across in my daily life. Everyone is quick to lend a hand or help to find a solution if you are ever in a bind. For the limited time that I have been part of the legal profession, I must say that the plant community is very similar to the Bar.
Having bought plants from almost every nursery in Singapore over the past year and a half, I now have a handful of favourites, two of which deserve a special mention – Terrascapes and Little Botany. Not only do they sell the most amazing plants, the people helming these nurseries are incredibly down to earth and they are always ready to help you along on your plant journey. I have gained more from them than I have from the entirety of the internet.
Run by Sandy and Bridgette, it is hard not to fall in love with the space the moment you step into Terrascapes. The abundance and vibrancy of the plants growing naturally never ceases to amaze me. In the midst of the carefully curated mess of plants, expect to see a shirtless Sandy walking around the nursery with a purpose and a cigarette on his lips. As you enter the space, he would ask that you do not move the plants from where you find them, but to take a picture of your intended purchase and approach him about it. Note that there is a chance that the plant you fancy may not be ready for sale as it may need more time to acclimatize or root.
Not only are you surrounded by lush plants when you enter Terrascapes, you are also greeted with an assortment of birds and cats. With the flora and fauna at Terrascapes, coupled with some witty banter, it is easy to get sucked into the space and before you know it, three hours would have just flown by. Having been in the industry for more than 10 years, Sandy is my first port of call when I am in need of solutions to my plant issues. He is also extremely honest (sometimes brutally) and you get a sense of comfort knowing that he will not sell a plant that is not healthy and established. The plants available in Terrascapes are therefore almost unparalleled in quality.
Little Botany, on the other hand, is a quaint enclave of plants tucked in a corner of Punggol. The variety of plants available and the affordable quality prices have kept me coming back for more. I make it a point to visit Little Botany whenever I am in the area. If you ever have the opportunity, visit Little Botany as the sun sets as you will be able to experience a different side to the space.
Standing at the helm of Little Botany is Fendi. His passion is infectious and he meticulously runs through the care of the plant you intend to buy before he releases it to you. He makes it a point to leave you with the necessary knowledge to keep a plant alive when you make a purchase at Little Botany.
It becomes clear after a few conversations with Fendi, that he has purposefully aligned his business to cater to beginners and to spread the joy of the plant community. Fendi has recently set up Pasarplant at the Jalan Batu Market, which only sells plants at a budget. He also holds monthly plant workshops for beginners.
Growing and caring for plants has provided me with an escape from the law. When I am tending to them, for just a moment, I forget about the deadlines and submissions due the next day. With the unprecedented number of young lawyers leaving practice and grappling with burn out, I urge my fellow young lawyers to pick up a hobby. Something that would give you a moment of respite from the rigors of practice.
Finally, my advice for anyone wanting to get into plants would be to start slow. Do not be in a rush to get every plant you see as you certainly do not have to catch them all. Start small and understand how the plants thrive in your environment before moving on to making any big purchases. Work within your limitations and you will find the hobby a rewarding one.