Rage gardening blossoms in Ph


BY Myrna Rodriguez Co

First published in the Philippine Daily Inquirer, May 2, 2021

The current  social distancing restrictions have given many of us  way too much time in our hands.  The challenge is to pre-occupy ourselves lest we brood and sink into depression.  Thus have we rediscovered old hobbies like cooking, baking, , gardening,, needlework, etc.

Arguably, gardening has become the most popular go-to project among people desperate to fill long, empty hours as they wait for the crisis to blow over.

Many who have taken to the soil have found themselves thriving as their plants do. 

Thus, in the time of pandemic, gardening has become all the rage, prompting some people to call the trend “rage gardening,”

Rage gardening is sometimes explained as negative energy “greened” or redirected to positive channels. It is the ordinary lockdown-weary public, turning to the nearest comfort zone for some breather.  Where else but out in our gardens where there is a bit of fresh air to breathe and a rose or orchid to smell.

Maribeth Reyes Estepar of Novaliches, Quezon City,  has been growing  ornamental plants long before it was trendy to do so.

The long-time zumba instructor was forced to stop dancing, then her only source of income,  when the lockdown began in 2020. 

Sidelined by unaccustomed idleness, furious about being home-bound, and worried about money and health issues, she would have begun climbing walls if she did not have her garden — her refuge.  With her hand on the soil and her face against the sun, she hardly dwells on negativities nowadays.

It When it became clear  that the lockdown would stretch longer than expected, Maribeth began to. think of cashing in on her green thumb.

The first step was to expand her production space.  She now has two: a spacious garden in Bauan, Batangas, where she and partner Joey Acuzar are based, and a smaller one in Novaliches, where her daughters reside. Maribeth calls her gardening enterprise “Tagong Paraiso.”

Most of the  production takes place in, Batangas which boasts of a half-hectare of high-nutrient, volcanic soil.   She has a  hardworking partner in Joey, who does the repotting, moving/transporting  and other muscle work.

The garden in Novaliches is basically a display and sales outlet. Daughter Maikha, with her extroverted personality and gift of gab, is in her element handling sales.

At first, Maribeth  was selling exclusively to friends and neighbors who would drop by to admire her work and cajole her to part with a pot or two.      

Today, Tagong Paraiso is widely known among plant lovers, thanks to marketing opportunities afforded by social media. Soon, she found herself engaging customers on real time on Facebook Live.   The platform enabled Maribeth to showcase and sell products online, demonstrate how to care for them, and respond directly to customers’ concerns.  

The Tagong Paraiso FB page has generated 500 followers, while her live selling sessions are viewed by 300 regulars called “miners.”

Another enterprising plantita, but of the vegetable variety is Annabelle Barnedo Aysip of Barangay Krus na Ligas, Quezon City.

She herself is amazed that a 50-square meter space in the veranda of her condo-style unit, can produce seedlings way beyond the bahay kubo spectrum.  Pechay, lettuce, ginger, tomato, pepper, oregano, basil, insulin, aloe vera..  Name it, she probably has it or will try hard to have it, given time. 

She has always loved gardening, but hardly had time for it  before April 2020. 

Annabelle recalls her “down in the pit”  moment:   She was then recovering from pneumonia which had kept her bed-ridden for months.   She had just then also lost her  abubot shop called “A little bit of everything.” Earlier, she had resigned her BPO job. To top it all, she could not go out because of the pandemic.

She experienced an epiphany of sorts when she turned to gardening. Being surrounded with greens helped her cope with depression and made her healthier.   “Planting from six to nine in the morning, the sun on my back, I was  totally healed.”

Once she began, it was all-systems-go.  “I consulted friends and relatives who were plant enthusiasts.  I checked vlogs of well-known growers.  The wonders of the Internet! – you can get all the information you need, wherever your interest lies.” 

She’d plant, say, a Thai basil.  When it thrived, she’d take a picture and post it on FB.  A lot of interest is generated this way.

Annabelle believes anyone willing to work hard can plant successfully.  The key is never a green thumb but patience,. “Growing takes time, money, effort.  You always have be present –available and reliable.  Otherwise, your plants will die.”

Nowadays, she sells strictly on order..  “Customers ask for certain seedlings and I  deliver in a week.” She is also is trying to revive her shop, where she is about introduce an item:  ornamental plants in novelty containers. 

For more entrepreneurship stories, visit the Small Enterprises Research and Development Foundation website at www.serdef.org.