Everyday life can sometimes take a hectic turn that leaves most of us burned out. It’s important to take some time to breathe and find a safe space where we can spend some time to relax.

In the case of Nerisa Guevarra, a Literature professor from the University of Santo Tomas, she finds peace of mind in the lush gardens found right in her own home in Quezon City.

At first glance, it looks like another normal townhouse. But once you take in the entire facade, you will surely notice that there’s a sense of greenery and serenity found within its walls.

“Gardening is great for [countering] mental illness because if you’re overwhelmed with the world, you have a little world you can call your own,” she said.

Guevarra also explained that seeing plants grow by your own hand invokes a sense of purpose in a person.

She spends most of her mornings or evenings in her garden where she enjoys the tranquility that her plants give off.

Nerisa Guevarra in the comforts of her own home and garden.

“When you garden, you learn more from plants than from people,” she said. “The overall effect is peace. They think that a gardener controls everything, but actually the plant controls more.”

Her three-storey home has an outdoor garden on each floor where she successfully grows ornamentals, fruit trees, vegetables, and herbs.

Starting Out

Guevarra has 15 years of experience in gardening. Her inclination toward nature stemmed from the exposure she had to the lifestyle when she was in her younger years.

“Mahilig ako mag-trekking, [and] backpacking. So talagang mga bundok or halaman makikita ko. And then later on, I wanna do stuff related to nature na din,” she said.

When Guevarra began her gardening efforts, common herbs like basil were still rare. She started out with some seeds that she bought from the Manila Seedling Bank found in Quezon City.

“I saw all the fads from osmocote fertilizer until the community shifted to organic fertilizer,” she said. Guevarra tried these trends until she settled on organic fo her garden.

Nowadays, Guevarra is growing rare plants in her home like a Japanese Ornamental Pomegranate and a lotus.

Guevarra also grows exotic plants such as the Japanese Pomegranate flower.

She gets seeds for rare plants from Eton Centris or from the Quezon City Memorial Circle. But before she purchases any uncommon plants, she has to ask the following:

Is this expensive?
Can I make it thrive?
How much will it cost me to grow this?
These questions are important in helping her determine her ability as well as the growing conditions of the rare plants.

Overcoming City Problems

However, gardening wasn’t always a walk in the park for the Literature professor. Because her house is located in the urban jungle, she has to deal with external forces such as pollution, space, and even a limited amount of sunlight.

But Guevarra didn’t let these stop her, and she has skirted her away around these problems.

Without worrying about the small space, Guevarra managed to create a harmonious setting for her plants. Herbs are planted in pots on the second floor of her house. Sharing the space is an eggplant whose fruits are used by Guevarra in her dishes.

Culinary herbs also grow in Guevarra’s home garden. She uses these for her cooking.

As for the sunlight which proved to be her major problem, Guevarra solved this problem through proper positioning. The plants that need the most sunlight are located at the entrance of her house and the third floor balcony because that spot gets a lot of sunlight.

For her shade-tolerant plants, Guevarra placed them at the indoor garden on the first floor of her house.

When it comes to pollution, she has little to worry about because she has her plants to help her enjoy a healthy atmosphere.

“The plants act as air purifiers by absorbing the dust here in the city then they produce fresh air,” Guevarra said.

Among all this, Guevarra said that when you garden, you have to be patient in tending to your plants because it’s not a “one time, big time” activity that should be abandoned if it doesn’t turn out right.

“You have to pay attention to timing. Don’t just say you want to grow this dry season plant in the middle of typhoon season because you want to,” Guevarra said.

Little by little, Guevarra transformed her home in the city into her own personal space where she can find peace among the shade and leaves of her plants.