Personal Spaces: Notes from a Homegarden

Many homeowners who are plantitos and plantitas may have heard of this garden tucked away in a town called Victoria in Laguna. The Natividad family owns Rustic Homegarden, which was started by Sweny, the family matriarch, as a backyard garden in their old home in Los Baños some forty years ago.

She started with just 10 pots of anthurium “Kaumana Red” and single-handedly grew thousands of anthuriums in less than two years. When anthurium flowers became popular, Sweny’s hobby blossomed into a full-fledged business. The family then purchased their current half-hectare property in Victoria, Laguna, and started to propagate orchids after realizing that the anthuriums did not thrive very well in the new location. The semi-terete vanda orchids, however, grew very well in Victoria, owing to the direct, bright sun in the area.

After Sweny decided to start joining the Biannual Flower and Garden Show at the University of the Philippines-Los Baños, her plant propagations won numerous awards and Sweny Orchids Farm became a household name in the ornamental plants community.

For a time, Rustic Homegarden was also a nursery for palms and bamboos. Then they grew ferns and, more recently, anthuriums, philodendrons, alocasias and other aroids. The latter was the favorite during the “plantdemic”, “when most people had no other choice but to stay home and tend to their gardens,” says Gerard Natividad, son of Sweny and her husband Warlito, who was a lawyer/forester at the Forest Research Institute or FoRI, now Ecosystems Research and Development Bureau-ERDB.

He says, “We think the plant trend is here to last especially now that it has broken through the mainstream.” But he added that it is also important for the plant collectors to transition into becoming plant propagators to ensure the continuity of a specific plant and keep the interest in plants alive. You can visit Rustic Homegarden’s Facebook page for more information.

Keeping your plants happy

Gerard Natividad offers the following tips for plant collectors:

Do your research before deciding to buy a specific plant. 

There are different levels of care and maintenance for each plant. It is important to choose a plant that will adapt well to your home or garden. See if the conditions around your home or garden are the proper environment for the plant you wish to purchase. Do not insist on growing a plant if you cannot give to it the specific environment it would require to thrive. Consider buying endemic plant species as they are most adapted to our climate.

Observe what your plants go through once they are in your possession

They will try to adapt to the new environment and will show signs if they are having a hard time doing so. Do not panic if you see some changes in the plants. Just do your research to address the issue at hand.

Remember that mortality in plants is normal and being successful at growing a plant is the joy we seek in the hobby. Even experienced gardeners and collectors have surely killed plants in their journey of growing their plant collection. Learn from your mistakes, do your homework, and be a keen observer to understand what your plants are trying to tell you.

Photos courtesy of Rustic Homegarden/Gerard Natividad