As feelings of distress simmer in times of collective grief, we are called to create new routines for resetting and reflection. From Zoom to Google Meet, the affordances of digital platforms have allowed us to stay connected while being apart. Yet when screens become overstimulating, I am learning to divert my attention offline. 

With a longing for green spaces, my houseplants become my new companions. There is an emerging obsession with houseplants, and I take this rising trend in my stride to connect with the community of house-plants lovers and grow my plant knowledge.

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Care takes the form of receiving a gardening tip from a stranger halfway across the globe after posting “What’s wrong with my plant?” They say you create more green thumbs when you share plant tips. Surely, I am learning something new every day – be it moisture control, root systems, plant species, or making my potting mix, organic fertilisers, and pesticides.

It is uplifting to witness how we can grow a community when we share our knowledge generously – or simply, anecdotes about everyday life. Fascinating discoveries go beyond practical gardening tips to music. Recently, a dear friend, Judea shared with me Mother Earth’s Plantasia (1976). Composed by Mort Garson, this electronic album has music dedicated for plants to listen and grow.

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Image credits: Sacred Bones Records, released 6/21/2019


Stream the album on Youtube below.

These might be the early signs of becoming a plant mum, but it is surely uplifting to witness how we can grow a community when we share our knowledge generously – or simply, anecdotes about everyday life.

Living to grow

Caring for plants brings wonder. The process is both rewarding and revelatory when I witness them thriving day by day. Growth is distinctively made visible during plant propagation by leaf cuttings, stem cuttings, air layering, root division, and more.

Each plant requires differentiated care, which forces me to pay attention and embrace its unique traits. There is something cathartic about this enduring process as I journal and await new growth.

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Pages from Jia Qi’s plant journal.

Moving towards growth, relationship and regeneration 

Through the routines of gardening, tending, and pruning, these green companions remind me that we can grow as we find our flow. Grounding in nature, Adrienne Maree Brown’s writings in Emergent Strategy: Shaping Change, Changing Worlds has been a timely complement, bringing wisdom to both my gardening and life’s work. In particular, her chapter on Intentional Adaptation is compelling to me as she meditates on how we can stay purposeful to adapt for the better in constant change.

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Making notes from Adrienne Maree Brown’s
Emergent Strategy: Shaping Change, Changing Worlds

We are part of nature. Brown and Walidah Imarisha, author of Octavia’s Brood: Science Fiction Stories from Social Justice Movements, remind us of that, urging us to be intentional about where we channel our energies and let go of what no longer supports our visionary work. While easier said than done, the resilience of plants is humbling in showing us how we can work towards this possibility.

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We repot when plants outgrow their pots. When leaves turn yellow, we prune to let go of what stunts growth. We keep going when things are working. When things do not, we lean in and figure out how we can adapt. Other times, we learn to take a deep breath.  

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Our plants as mirrors of our well-being 

In a way, this is a confession. There is a parallel desire to nurture, as well as to be nurtured. By carving out space and time to reconnect with beings around us, we begin to find grounding for stillness. In precarious times, caring for our surrounding beings reminds us of the importance of healing, nourishment and patience for the body and soul. For plants, care is made visible through pouring time, water, and love.

Perhaps we too would appreciate some watering and pruning as we recharge our fuel to create our new normal.

Quek Jia Qi is an interdisciplinary artist who works at the intersection of art, education and civic practice. Her socially engaged practice investigates how forms of learning can emerge through experimental modes of storytelling, community engagement and care. She loves connecting with and bringing people together – plus, being a plant mum. 
This article was adapted from a piece published by Brack. Images courtesy of Quek Jia Qi.