SHARING IDEAS: Johor Green aims to inform, inspire and encourage more people to join them in creating sustainable gardens
THEY may have different interests and come from various backgrounds but a group of individuals in Johor Baru share a common concern for green issues.
Aware that rampant consumerism is leading to unhealthy lifestyles that compromise our planet, they want to do something about it. At a garden party organised by Johor Green, they learnt about reviving the lost art of gardening, self-provisioning and techniques to create a sustainable garden.
Johor Green is a group which feels strongly that there are many in the state who share their concern and aims to inform, inspire, connect with and encourage more like-minded people to join them on this path to a greener Johor.
Last Saturday afternoon they hosted a garden party to celebrate the garden's enduring role as a source of food, medicines, sanctuary and inspiration.
Guests enjoyed refreshments, not just in the garden but from the garden, learnt new technologies and were reminded of proven ideas that were respectful of the environment.
In the garden aesthetics segment, Chris Parry discussed garden design, colour palette ideas, xeriscaping and therapeutic landscapes that are created with indigenous plants.
A graphic artist and textile designer with a passion for gardening, Parry writes a gardening blog called The Occasional Gardener. He presented various gardening ideas, including a vertical dark garden (with a dark colour scheme) created with branches from a fallen tree and a range of native plants, creepers and lichens.
He introduced the art of xeriscaping through a gravel garden that was created mainly with succulents or drought-tolerant plants like cacti.
Xeriscaping, which is of particular relevance to arid regions, is a form of landscaping that suits our changing weather patterns because it reduces the need for supplemental water from irrigation. He said many of our hardy tropical and exotic plants are suitable for the creation of pretty Mediterranean gardens.
"I learnt many things, especially about creating the Mediterranean garden," said Cheong Nai Cheong of CNC Architect, one of the guests at the party.
Renowned for embracing Nature in his eco-friendly and sensible tropical designs, he agreed that more people now relish living closer to Nature. He is glad that Johor Green is creating more interest in sustainability and reducing energy costs through tropical garden designs.
Alex Kee discussed composting techniques and the finer points of organic gardening and commented with a laugh: "Composting is not rocket science!"
He assured guests that it was easy and taught them basics such as ingredients and quantities and what materials we should or should not compost and recycle for use in the garden.
Those who did not have space for composting found the recycled chemical drum fitted with a tubular contraption that Kee designed to turn and aerate the materials regularly, useful and quizzed him about acquiring one of their own.
"I bought it off him," exclaimed Suzie Yap, who has a similar drum at home and only needed this contraption to help start her own compost pile.
"My mother-in-law loves gardening," she added, as she introduced her mother-in-law and a helper.
She quickly explained to her helper about how they should start putting small quantities of organic materials such as food scraps and garden trimmings into the drum to make compost.
Belinda and her husband, Ronnie Lim, who were also paying rapt attention to Kee, said they had picked up useful tips and were determined to apply what they had learnt.
Kee, inventor of the award-winning solar kettle-thermos flask and solar vacuum tube oven, also demonstrated how his inventions could provide safe, solar-pasteurised drinking water in a sustainable and renewable way, and cooked fresh cencaru fish coated with sambal to serve with the refreshments.
He said the oven could double up as a tandoor oven for baking naan and pizza because it could maintain a constant temperature of 220oC.
Refreshments from the garden included ingredients that can be sustainably grown in our gardens. There was a delicious luo han guo drink with aloe vera bits, prepared by Koh Jit Huat, that tasted refreshing with a dash of roselle syrup and ice-cubes.
Freshly baked ciabatta bread and cookies by Lisa Shedd were spread with Nyonya kaya made of three types of eggs -- chicken, duck and goose -- by Stephanie Fam and local calamansi lime and kaffir lime marmalade prepared by Flora John.
Guests also enjoyed crunching into celery sticks and chips dipped in a tasty hummus dip made by Sue Amy. Two more delicious dips by Shedd were made with eggplant and papaya from her own garden.
Local cakes like bingka ubi (tapioca cake) and steamed pumpkin cake, snacks of deep-fried spinach and pegaga leaves and green bean rempeyek completed the menu of interesting quality homemade food from small cottage enterprises.
For details on Johor Green and future events, visit www.JohorGreen.com.