Going from blue to green: Seafarer rekindles a love for plants amid the pandemic 

A seafarer for five years, Jury Englis, 39, is used to a life that’s constantly moving. Traveling to new, unfamiliar places and witnessing beautiful destinations, views, and cultures is what satisfaction means for him. However, when the pandemic was declared, his life on deck was cut short.

From exploring places by sea to being stuck at home, he had no choice but to stop sailing as the COVID-19 continues to spread rapidly. The sudden shift in his routine made it difficult for him to adjust. 

Along the way, he found himself reviving his love for plants that, for Englis, are “priceless joy” that constantly reminds him of a beautiful world. He has been gardening since his teenage years, but it was only last May 2020 that he was able to find time to fix and develop his garden again. “I don’t need to roam around somewhere else anymore cause to be at home feels like in a paradise!,” he said in one of his Facebook posts. 

Gardening amid a pandemic

In an 800sqm garden, Englis cultivates various ornamental plants including his favorites and specialties, namely philodendrons, calatheas, and begonias. Englis waters his plants twice a week during the rainy season and three times a week on sunny days. Since most of his plants are placed outdoors, the rainy season is still a challenge for him. When times like this occur, he moves the plants indoors to prevent root rot. When his plants experience diseases or are in a bad condition, he repots them, changes the soil, and thoroughly cleans the new pot to revive them. 

A walkway in Englis’ garden that always makes him feel relaxed. His lush garden is filled with ornamental plants including philodendrons, calatheas, begonias, alocasias, peperomias, and aglaonemas.

He uses ordinary soil mixed with rice hull for most of his plants. Except for his philodendrons, he mixes the soil with coconut husk cubes and topped with black moss to maintain the moisture and humidity of the soil. Englis applies fertilizers such as 14-14-14 combined with urea twice a month. He also sprays a mixture of Bushwhack insecticide and crop giant fertilizer under the plants’ leaves once to twice a month to control pests. 

Englis’ plant collection has grown to thousands, to the point that he stopped counting his plants, yet didn’t stop collecting. “I collect at first, then sell the propagated plants out of my collection.” If he gets attached to the plants, he doesn’t sell them. The prices of his plants range from P100 to P6,000. His estimated plant sales play around  P5,000 to P10,000 in a month. As of now, Englis decided to stop online selling to focus on his walk-in customers. 

One of Jury Englis’ favorites includes peperomia plants, particularly the watermelon peperomia. Englis regularly checks the conditions and rearranges his plants to find the ideal spot for them.

With the presence of abusive sellers offering overpriced plants, Englis said, “The only way to stop this is to canvass first into the marketplace and search for the best price offered to eliminate abusive sellers who are taking advantage of today's trend.” 

Care tips for philodendrons

Although philodendrons are popular houseplants that can thrive in indoor conditions, Englis suggests placing them in a shady area outside at least once or twice a week. “Don't worry, moving the philodendrons from indoor to outdoor doesn't cause the plants much stress. By doing so, it will give you the chance to water the soil with fresh water and clean the leaves,” he explained. Hydrating them with rainwater rather than chlorinated water is better, Englis added.

Check if the philodendron is lacking or needing sunlight by looking for signs. If the leaves are turning yellow, it may be an indication that the plants are getting too much light, while leggy stems may mean that they want more light. 

“My philodendrons that make me feel excited to wake up every morning, checking their unfurling leaves and growing stages,” said Englis.

If the leaves are droopy, it may also signify that the plants need more water. Regularly checking the soil moisture is important. Do not thirst nor overwater your philodendrons and make sure that they have good drainage. Nourish them with enough fertilizer for excellent growth and health. “For vining Philodendrons, you need to put a supporting structure or pole for the plants to climb on. And for non-climbing Philodendrons, their width can be as much as twice their height so better give them enough space to grow.”

For Englis, owning plants is not just for collection and dumping, it requires commitment and dedication. All it takes are attention as well as extra tender love and care for plants to thrive well.

Photos from Jury Englis. 

Read more about farming and gardening at agriculture.com.ph.