Inflourish: Cebu Blog

Lovely, Leafy Lagoons

By Michelle Domocol

Back to Inflourish: Cebu Blog

Lush lagoons are a wonderful site to relax. Sitting beside a pond or dipping your feet into a leafy lake has a restorative power for some. After an agitating day, watching water flow can slow down rattling thoughts and help you escape. You can lengthen you inhale and just concentrate on the wind pass through the waterside palms.

With some sturdy construction and consistent maintainance, a flourishing pond can provide an ample amount of respite. Sound appealing? Well here are some basic elements you can consider as you brainstorm your oasis.

  • Lagoon location. Choose a spot that has partial or full shade. This inhibits annoying green algal and mosquito growth and keeps your pond healthy.

In Healing Present, our main pool is shaded by tall palms, bamboo, vines, ferns, and a variety of low growing vegetation (Photo 1). The shade also keeps the water cool and refreshing during the dry, hot seasons. Healing Present also added fun fountains and mini-waterfalls to increase water circulation (Photo 1, C). That means less stagnant water eliminates mosquito infestations.

Photo 1. Healing Present’s lagoon: The partial shade, vegetation, & mini-waterfalls create optimal conditions for a healthy lagoon.
  • Details & Depth. The depth of your pond is up to you. It really depends on the intended function of your pond. Will it be decorative and part of a beautiful vista? Do you intend to swim in it? Would you look like to keep fish in the pond? Or would you like a mini local water habitat for your respite as well as for local fauna?

Research the appropriate depths for your pond’s intended purpose. Or consult a landscape professional for suggested pond depths.

Photo 2. Stone & concrete ledges in Healing Present Lagoon

In Healing Present, the lagoon is used for respite, swimming, and a local habitat (Photo 2). We also added sitting areas, lush vegetation, and stairs to achieve these functions. So we decided to build graded ledges around and inside the lagoon (Photo 2).

The deepest part of the lagoon is 1.2m (4 feet). This depth safely accomodates our youth and adult swimmers (Photo 2, B). Ledges within the pool provide built-in seating and steps (Photo 2, A) for swimmers. Terracing or graded areas around the pool make plant and water maintenance accessible and easy.

  • Leafy & Lush. For me, plant planning is best phase of a waterside project. When we add the right plants, a boring cement pool or fancy puddle comes alive. In the Philippines, a variety of:
    • water-loving lilies,
    • irises,
    • water reeds,
    • moisture-tolerant palms,
    • flowering gingers, and
    • colorful crotons

are commonly available.

Luckily, the tropics gift us with an impressive range of water-loving plants. Remember, with planning, your can choose plants that help you achieve your water garden’s intended purpose.

Perhaps you want specific floating plants for your fish’s food and protection. Or maybe you want low-maintenance, fast growing plants that grow all year-round so you can easily and shade your swimming spot. Or you may want native, moisture-tolerant palms and grasses that songbirds will like.

  • Illuminated evenings. Consider adding lights to your lovely water feature. Solar-powered LEDs or halogen lights extend the use of your pond into the night. With recessed lights or spotlights, you can enjoy the pond without tripping or accidently falling in.

Visitors can sit waterside or swim under the stars. You can add recessed lighting to garden steps or decks around the pond. Or you can add underwater lighting on the lagoon floor or in the pond walls. Alternatively, spotlights can also amongst the vegetation bordering the pond.

  • In-ground or Above ground. Many who’d dream of grand, flowing water feature get turned off by the construction process and investment. One way to install a pond or lagoon without digging holes is an above ground option. There are a variety of materials and designs for an above ground water feature.

You can create a beautiful no-dig, container pond. Your raised pond’s exterior can be gorgeous limestone bricks, stained concrete, treated timber, bamboo, or other weather-resistant local materials. Some even use re-usable exteriors like wine barrels and bathtubs. Photo 2 shows Healing Present’s above ground pond with a gray flagstone exterior.

Photo 2. Healing Present’s above ground pond; the fountain bubbler and aquatic plants increased water aeration.

Whatever decorative exterior you choose, make sure your pondliner is sealed and water-tight. Small pumps, fountains or pond bubbles also help the water aerated. This reduces unwanted mosquito and algae growth. A combination of shade, pumps, filters, and/or added vegetation keep you pond (Photo 2) easy to clean and maintain.

In many cases, above ground options are easier to construct and require less time. Plus smaller, preformed ponds or other types of container ponds can be dismantled or transferred easily. So if you’re planning to move in the future, you can transport the pond with you.

Thanks for browsing these 5 considerations. If you need more inspiration, here are more examples on waterside planting and garden stair lighting.

Atis: The Ice Cream growing on Trees

By Michelle Domocol

Back to Inflourish: Cebu

This September, atis is available at most fruit markets around the Philippines. I know most people associate atis with its custardy consistency. But I like to freeze fresh atis. Scooping out the smooth, creamy sweetness of frozen atis is second to none.

As farmers harvest ripe atis fruits, the trees continue to sprout new shoots. New atis leaves unfurl. Young fruits ripen till the next harvest (Photo 1). Under the best conditions, atis carry on  producing fruits from July to late November. Since September is part of the dry season, farmers continue to water and fertilize these precious ice cream trees.

Photo 1. Atis fruit maturing in the Healing Present agroforest. (Photo by S. Suson)

In celebration of Atis, I’ll share some cultivation tips (Photo 2):

  • Atis seedlings thrive in open, sunny spots with well-draining environments like limestone-based soils. Choose an areas with any obstructions like nearby buildings or powerlines (Photo 2). If an atis tree’s roots are crowded, obstructed, or rotting in wet soils, you will not produce healthy fruits. So be sure to give atis trees ample space and well-draining soil.
Photo 2. Main cultivation techniques for Atis tree
  • Make sure to weed around your atis trees. Ideally, 3 feet around the atis trunk should be weed-free (Photo 2).. Weeds include crab grass and common herbaceous growth around trees.
  • Atis don’t like competition from small weeds or other trees. Give at least 15 feet between atis and it’s neighboring trees (Photo 2). Many agroforests grow atis with mango trees and vegetable gardens. If you choose this mixed-crop planting technique, be sure to provide adequate spacing.
  • A 4-inch layer of vermicompost can be added around the base of the atis trunk (Photo 2). You can spread the layer 5 inches away from the trunk.
  • Atis trees are also periodically pruned to 8-12 foot high. If the grow taller, they may not get adequate air ventelation and sunlight throughout their branches (Photo 2).
  • Atis fruits are considered ripe when the segments on their greenish skin turn creamy-yellow. If they ripen on the tree, local birds and bats feast on the delicious fruit (Photo 3).  Sometimes, overmature fruits burst while attached to the branch.
Photo 3. Damaged, overmature atis may have burst or been partially eaten by a bat
(Photo by S. Suson)

Thanks for reading about my appreciation for Nature’s ice cream trees. Enjoy the rest of your week. And I hope you get to sweeten your weekend with some fresh atis.

Tropical, Tactile Gardens for Children

By Michelle Domocol
Back to Inflourish Cebu

In previous posts, I’ve introduced ways to initiate a children’s garden. Whether you’re a teacher, caregiver, or designer, you can find numerous ways promote plant appreciation in young gardeners. Trust me, it’s all worth the effort. There’s nothing like seeing younger gardeners cultivate their curiosity for the Earth.

The trick is engaging children’s sensory powers. We can build:

And what’s left? What other senses can we amplify with a magical garden? How about our human tactile powers…our sense of Touch?

Luckily, we live in the tropics. In our tropical humidity, we can grow a spectacular range of plants with prickly, feathery, furry, sticky and other peculiar textures.

For this initial introduction into plant textures, I’ll share a garden path design with smooth exteriors. This garden walkway is designed with touchable, tropical plants.

After the garden is built, you and your young investigators can learn how these smooth, durable plants get nutrients. This garden design features shiny, smooth Bromeliads, Succulents, and Philodendrons (Photo 1). They all possess specific ways of storing water and collecting nutrients. Luckily, these plants aren’t fragile and can withstand the tactile pressure of curious explorers.

Photo 1. Garden paths (Right) and planted stairways (Left) with tactile tropical plants can be fun outdoor learning spaces

Here’s a sample activity to help you how you and younger generation explore tropical plant textures. Remember you can adjust this activity to suit your specific budget, timeline, students’ learning preferences, and resources. You can always start with a small garden and then expand later when more resources are available.

Puzzling Paths with Tropical Touchables (Photo 1)

  • Choose a humid, sunny spot in your garden with space for a walkway. You can also adapt this project for stairs as well. The garden site can be in your home, at school, or in a community space. This will be the site of your tactile garden, the Puzzling Path with Tropical Touchables.
  • Tell your students about your special Puzzling Path project.
  • With your students or children, introduce each other to plant textures with selection of bromeliads, philodendrons, and succulents. You can explore outside in a park, at a plant nursery, or do a group internet search. You can gauge their level of involvement. For instance, 2nd graders may want to lead the plant research and design process.
  • If possible, let them choose bromeliads, philodendrons and succulents that are commonly available. Allow them to choose varieties that spark enthusiasm. Maybe they are attracted to the plants with the brightest colors, coolest shapes, and/or the plumpest appearance.
  • When you are planning your path, make sure you have gaps around each stepping stone. The gaps will be planting space for the small succulents. You can have additional planting space by adding a row of planting space on both sides of the stone walkway. See illustration below for a sample design (Photo 2).
Photo 2. (Left to Right): An illustrated closeup of a Puzzling Path; My suggested layout for the Puzzling Path design.
  • The path should be wide enough for you and the children. I suggest you make the path wide enough for at least 2 children to pass through comfortably (Photo 2). You and the children can also determine the space between each stepping stone. Mark the path outline with flags or strings. You and your youthful garden crew can customize the design.
  • Once you’ve determined the dimensions and layout of your walkway, choose a set of stepping stones. You can go to a rockery or hardware store to choose limestone, plastic, concrete, brick or other low-cost flat stones (Photo 3). I recommend choosing stepping stones with a 3-inch thickness. You can add a few medium boulders on the outer border, next to your bromeliads. This adds more textures and height (Photo 3).
  • With the help of a professional construction crew or landscaping professionals, dig out a flat path that is 5 inches deep. You will excavate the existing terrain to install the paving stones and plants. Make sure the construction crew uses layers of landscape fabric or plastic to suppress weeds. They should also add a layer of sand and soil to ensure the stepping stones are level and sitting at the same height.
  • Go to a plant nursery or farm and pick young, small plants to fill the space around your stepping stones. Choose locally available bromeliads, succulents and low-maintenance philodendrons. These young plants will grow bigger after you’ve inserted them into your garden path design (Photo 3). As they grow, the will fill in the gaps in your garden path.
  • Here’s a sample plant list for your puzzling path (Photo 3):
    • Bromeliads like Neoregelia spp.
    • Jade plant groundcovers from Crassula spp.
    • Small, clumping Echeveria spp.
    • Philodendron cordatum
    • Aloe vera
Photo 3. In my illustration, I feature jade plants and echeverias around limestone stepping stones. Purslane and hardy sedum succulents are also included.
  • Now for the botanical magic. You and the children can now plant and insert the succulents in between the stepping stones. The planting space beside the walkway is reserved for the larger bromeliads, philodendrons and succulents.
  • Make sure all your plants’ roots are covered by soil. Supervise your beginner gardeners to make sure each plant is not damaged while planting. Water the plants after the intial planting. Monitor the plants weekly. If you or your young explorers notice dry soil, water your Puzzling Path. In general, these tropical touchables are hardy and don’t need frequent watering.

I hope you enjoyed my ideas for engaging sensory gardens. I look forward to sharing more outdoor learning inspiration. Happy exploring!

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Growing Plants, Growing Minds

By Michelle Domocol

Inflourish: Cebu Blog

This September, I’ll share more design inpiration for

  • seasonal vegetable and fruit gardens,
  • outdoor learning gardens, and
  • medicinal/therapeutic landscapes.

Food gardens, outdoor classrooms, and therapeutic landscapes invite us to spend more time outside. I think expanding our outdoor connection is vital to growth and overall health.

I deeply understood this connection when I was studying my masters program. While I was studying oak forests for my masters program, I worked as a park guide and environmental educator for children and adults (Photo 1). At the same time, I regularly camped in the mountains with friends on the weekend. My outdoor recreation, work, and studies strengthened my environmental literacy. In addition, I regularly witnessed students, colleagues, and friends deepen their curiosity about nature. Through informal and formal outdoor educational activities, I also saw highschoolers and retirees:

  • re-invigorate their connection with community, and
  • take interest in environmental stewardship
Photo 1.  As a garden educator, university students, alumni groups, and pre-schoolers attended my past garden/outdoor education programs.

As a parent, caregiver, or teacher, are you interested in developing an outdoor educational experience? How do you start?

One approach is to use a garden, nearby beach, or farm as a classroom. From that starting point, you can build engaging environmental activities and curricula. Below is a booklet with a few fun environmental games and nature-based learning activities you can adapt for your students or children.

I hope the booklet can inspire new ideas or enhance existing outdoor learning modules.

I know first-hand the powerful effect of outdoor education. In particular, I’ve seen the benefits of transforming a garden into a new learning space (Photo 1). Informal and formal academic learning in a garden, schoolyard, park, or beach can spark a new appreciation for natural wonders. It can deepen a child’s connection to their environmental heritage and history. It can solidify an adult’s calling to protect clean air, water and land resources.

With all these benefits to our well-being, I look forward to sharing more garden-education-inspiration for the rest of September.

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Uphill Garden Solutions

By Michelle Domocol

Back to Inflourish: Cebu

When you drive through Healing Present’s farm gate, you’ll immediately notice sets of stone stairways and terraced gardens (Photo 1). A lush mix of vines, fruit trees, ferns, kitchen gardens and other tropical vegetation grow on these multi-level gardens. The mosaic and terrazo stone steps lead to a payag and guest houses (Photo 2). Each house door opens to a terrace with greenery, lounges and café tables (Photo 3).

Today’s terraced garden is a far cry from its original landscape. Before the outdoor lounging areas, stairs and gardens, the area was rough, steep terrain. The hill was originally embedded with large boulders, some ferns, and weeds.

Photo 1. Multi-level terraced garden in Healing Present with series of vegetable gardens, fruit trees, ferns and stone wall edging.
Photo 2. High stone retaining walls and mosaic tile stairways in Healimg Present.

The hillside was completely transformed with retaining walls, stairs and terraces. The terrace edging and steps were constructed were stones and soil directly from the property (Photo 2 & 3). This reduced costs and the volume of raw materials transported into the farm.

Photo 3. Comfortable lounging & play areas in flat areas of Healing Present’s terraces.

In general, terraced gardening is an effective way to transform a steep, eroding hillside. With terraces, the steep angle can become an easy-to-maintain garden with multiple levels of flat spaces. Then, you don’t need to worry about falling debris, mini landslides, or tripping down a dangerous slope.

If you have a slope or hilly area you’re trying to transform, here are some encouraging reminders:

1. Retaining walls can be customizable, affordable and made of local materials. In my travels, I’ve seen creative retaining walls made from locally sourced materials like:

  • limestone,
  • recycled plastic bottle bricks,
  • concrete,
  • quartz,
  • pruned tree trunks,
  • scrap lumber,
  • adobe clay,
  • old tires, and
  • bamboo

Make sure you use durable materials that suit your site conditions. In Healing Present, we are prone to termite infestations, so we don’t use wood for our retaining walls.

2. Always consult an engineer to determine the slope of your hill. They will help you determine how much material you need to form the steps, garden beds, retaining walls and edging for your terraces.

3. Your sloped garden is unique to the characteristics of your hillside. Consider your soil type, water drainage, and hill angles.

4. You will also have to determine how much weight your terrace to hold. This will help determine your construction materials and stairway style. This will also help you identify the appropriate depth, width and height of your terraces.

5. Make sure your terraces suit you and your visitors. If you have elderly visitors or children, create stairs with railings and other safeguards. Add features that appeal to you and your visitors. When you create more flat areas and multiple levels in your terraced garden, you can plant more themed decorative gardens vegetable beds, play areas or even water features.

Below are 3 different terrace garden concepts I made for you (Photo 4 to 6). They have different features to inspire you.

Photo 4. Vibrant, edible fragrant garden beds wth multiple stairways & a central landing.
Photo 5. A limited variety of plants for a calmer, unified aesthetic with two main terrace levels connected by small set of stairs. Bottom level has seating built into terrace edging.
Photo 6. A formal, low-maintenance decorative border garden with central, open terraces.


When you find the best solution for difficult terrain like a steep slope, it’s incredibly rewarding. Make sure you take the time to plan your sloped landscape. Hasty decisions can make wasteful results like worsened soil erosion. So enjoy the uphill planning process to your hillside solutions.

Terrific AgroforesTrees

By Michelle Domocol

Inflourish: Cebu Blog

In previous articles, I described the environmental recovery and reforestation techniques practiced at Healing Present. In this post, I’d like to continue our chat about agroforestry and forest restoration.

We select a variety of indigenous trees that will survive the current conditions of Healing Present’s site. We also choose them for the ecological benefits. Generally, all of the species chosen for reforestation enrich the land by:

  • increasing soil fertility,
  • supporting native wildlife,
  • feeding food pollinators like bees and butterflies, and
  • controling soil erosion
Photo 1. Healing Present crew grow, plant, and monitor the health of the native agroforest trees.

Healing Present’s crew cultivates hundreds of tree species (Photo 1). Many of these species are already established or waiting to be planted. The current rainy season and typhoon repairs delay our progress sometimes. But I want to highlight 5 indigenous trees and the important roles they play in our restoration:

1. Toog (Petersianthus quadrialatus)

When respected and left alone, this towering giant can grow to 65 meters. As part of an agroforest and restoration site, Toog has the ability to repel pests like destructive woodboring beetles. Toog are homes to important wildlife and mitigate the loss of tropical forest biodiversity.

2. Dakit (Ficus benjamina)

On a sunny day, you’d want rest against a Dakit’s trunk and under its canopy. On average, its leaves and branches spread to a 21-meter crown. The canopy provides the best shade for people, shade-loving plants, and animals. Thankfully, the shade also suppresses sun-loving weeds. On top of that, Dakit attracts vital seed-spreading wildlife like birds and bats. It can endure degraded soil and quickly occupy abandoned areas that need reforestation.

3. Kapok (Bombax ceiba)

Traditionally, Kapok’s seeds and pink blossoms were used for food and medicine. In Healing Present, kapok is primarily planted for its ecological functions. Like Dakit, it can quickly occupy barren woodland. Its fragrant flowers also attract key pollinators like bees and birds. In addition, a 25-meter tall Kapok tree can serve as a boundary marker. A group of Kapok can also form a living fence.

4. Banaba (Lagerstroemia speciosa)

Banaba (Photo 1) is more than the gorgeous purple flowers. Agroforesters treasure banabas and their ability repair unstable soils, control erosion, and add nutrients to formerly degraded forests. Beyond those incredible qualities, banaba can be pruned. The pruned leaves, fruit, and branches can be food for livestock and medicine.

5. Kamagong (Diospyrus blancoi)

Finally, we arrived at the beloved Kamagong. With its reddish, velvety mabolo fruit, Kamagong has so much more to offer than furniture timber. Kamagong in restoration projects are amazing partners in soil erosion control and wind-resistance. Wind-breaks and wind-resistant trees are like environmental guardians in a country so vulnerable to typhoons.

There you have it…5 rockstars in Healing Present’s growing reforestation project. I hope you get inspired to learn more about our precious environmental heritage and the various ways to protect it.

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Grow your own Party Decor

By Michelle Domocol

Back to Inflourish: Cebu Blog

Nowadays, many event designers, party planners and hosts want to incorporate “sustainable” floral bouquets and “sustainable” floral décor to make their party gorgeous and delightful. The request for more sustainability has increased as people realize the negative effects of corporate floristry practices.

In short, standard flowers require lots of agricultural chemicals, fossil fuel-sourced transportation, and energy-intensive refrigeration. Many choose sustainable floral options to avoid flowers grown in this industrial way. One very fun way to get your own sustainable Bouquets and Floral Decor is growing a Party garden.

Photo 1. A collage of flowers, grasses and herbs for a Party Garden.

Below are 10 ideas for your own Party Garden:

  1. Party Gardeners might like to grow in a group of medium-sized pots or raised beds. This may be more manageable and easier to re-arrange when necessary.
  2. Plants with similar water, soil and sun requirements should be grouped together.
  3. If you have a spare garden space, then go ahead and plant the Party Garden florals directly in the ground. Just make sure your garden is well-contained with a fence so the decorative flowers don’t invade natural areas that may be near your garden.
  4. Choose flowers that are easy to cultivate repeatedly bloom in your area. Depending on your region’s climate, this may be zinnias, coreopsis, begonias, marigolds or dahlias. You may also want to choose varieties that have long stems (Photo 1).
  5. Grow plants with elegant foliage like coleus, local ferns, lilies, and irises.
  6. Select some bouquet fillers. Grow some grasses, vines, or long-stem herbs to add volume to your boquets. This can be amaranth, thai basil, pea vines, or passionfruit vines. You can also choose local field grasses (Photo 1).
  7. Make sure you incorporate wide paths or enough space around your plants. Always make it comfortable for you to cut and harvest your flowers and foliage.
  8. Have buckets of water or baskets ready when you cut and harvest your living decorations.
  9. Mulch with dried leaves, rice hulls, or coco coir. Mulch around your flowers so the weeds are supressed. Then they won’t consume your beautiful party garden plants.
  10. If you notice your flowers or foliage is dying or looking diseased, replace the weak plant with new seeds or seedlings and fresh compost.

And here’s some inspiration for using your Party Garden plants:

Once you have a successful garden, there are so many was to use your harvested decor. You can create fresh bouquets, floating flower designs, dried bouquets, framed dried flower collages, garlands that wrap around arches, and more.

For a simple & fresh bouquet, remember to:

  1. Cut the stems at an angle and remove the lower leaves before you place them in a container of water. It can be a vase, flower frog or other receptacle.
  2. Remove any lower leaves or petals submerged under water. Submerged foliage invites unwanted bacteria. This might infect your lovely bouquet.
  3. Make an arrangement you want. Generally, I add a graceful spiral of filler and foliage plants. Then add a few featured flowers. But you can have themed bouquets based on edible plants. Or add a combination of large foliage and long-stemmed tropical flowers like gingers and heliconias. Experiment with Party Gardens and have fun!
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Summer Sweetness

By Michelle Domocol

Back to Inflourish: Cebu Blog

I went to elementary and highschool on the east coast of the US. But almost every summer was spent in the Philippines. Summers meant trips around Cebu, Negros Oriental, Bohol, and Mindanao. I treasure those summers meeting extended family and making new friends.

Summers also meant FOOD—specifically feasting on fruit I never ate in the US. Those vacations imprinted enduring, flavorful memories.

I still remember the sheer volume and variety of saging and mangga piled in the back of my grandpa’s pick-up truck. And the pink plastic bags of santol hanging off my uncle’s motorbike’s handlebars. Of course, I still recall the food preparation for beach outings. Truly epic. We would fill the back of multiple cars with bukags of mangosteen, rambutan and lansones. Even though we had a caravan of cooked meals and fresh fruit, we stopped at streetside fruit stands on the way to the beach. How could we resist the golden yellows, deep purples, dark reds, bright oranges of ripe summer fruits (Photo 1)?

Summers feasts introduced me to new tastes, textures, and distinct methods of opening fruit. Most american kids never needed a precise or unique way to open common grapes, apples, and pears. So it was marvelous to watch vendors remove pineapple eyes and decoratively cut mango cheeks with such finesse. Or it was wonderous to learn how my cousins ate mangosteen, marang, and santol. I recall Lola sharing her special technique for opening pomelo. She didn’t pierce the bitter skin with a knife. Instead, she used her hands to open the pomelo. This way, the skin’s bitter juice wouldn’t escape and ruin the sweetness inside.

I hope you too have precious and remarkable memories of fruits and summer fun.

In celebration of fruity sweetness, I’d like to share how summer mangosteen is grown. Depending on your location in the Philippines, mangosteen fruits may already be available this month. I hope you feel inspired to to grow your own backyard fruits. Or maybe you’re urged to interview local farmers about their fruit cultivation techniques. Either way, below are some fun techniques for mangosteen cultivation.

Marvelous Mangosteen

Photo 1. Summer fruits like (clockwise from top) mangosteen, durian, santol, marang, and mangga.

When I was younger, most of the mangosteen sold in Cebu came from Mindanao. Through the years, I learned farmers in Luzon and Negros Oriental also cultivate mangosteen. Here are a few mangosteen techniques:

  • Soil health is vital for a successful mangosteen harvest. They thrive in soil that is regularly watered. However, the soil should drain well so many amend it with sand or silt. Otherwise, mangosteen roots suffer in from standing water or waterlogged soil. A layer of mulch is also added above the topsoil. Many farmers add a layer of compost, rice hulls, and/or coco coir as a mulch. As a fertilizer, compost is mixed with the tree’s topsoil to improve the texture and nutrition.
  • Since mangosteen takes up to 15 years to produce fruit, many farmers add fast-growing crops in between the mangosteen trees. Mangosteens can be grown with fast-growing beans, peanuts, and other legumes.
Photo 2. Diagram with young mangosteens grown in fruit tree agroforest.
  • Other fruit farmers may want to build an agroforest with multiple types of fruit trees (Photo 2). So they may add young mangosteen trees to an orchard with mature trees like banana, durian, marang, papaya and/or lanzones. The taller, older trees can provide partial shade and protect young mangosteen from damaging winds. The variety of fruits ensures farmers can profit from fast-growing fruits while they wait for slower-growing fruits like mangosteen. For instance, in 7 months, papaya starts to bear fruit. And you wait for less than 2 years (around 22 months) to produce bananas.

July Joys & August Arrivals

By Michelle Domocol

Back to Inflourish: Cebu Blog

How has your farm or garden faired in the July weather? Are you letting your soil rest and adding layers of nutrient-rich compost? Or maybe you’re harvesting some fruits?

This July, I spent my summer enjoying new places and learning a new language. But now August has arrived and I’m ready to share more design and garden inspiration.

Throughout August, I’ll post more design inspiration for food production, outdoor relaxation, and habitat restoration. I’ll feature:

○ Seasonal fruits available in August
○ Indigenous Philippine re-forestation species
○ Terrace Gardening
○Unique Floral Arrangements
○ Outdoor Eco-Activities for Children & the Young at Heart

and more! Also remember to check out my other blog, Inflourish: Around the World, to learn about gardening techniques in environments and gardens outside the Philippines.



August Arrival: Caimitos

In the meantime, did you know many delicious fruits are available in August because they need the dry season to develop their fruits. Caimitos (star fruits) are one of those delectable fruits available in August. Check your local vendor to see if they are available particular area. Before caimitos reach your local markets, they are grown in the ground or in containers.

Here are some tips to help you grow caimitos in your garden:

  1. Many experienced gardeners plant caimito seeds just before the rainy season. For beginners, I suggest you get a healthy young caimito sapling (aka a young caimito tree) to plant in a container or in the soil. Plant your young caimito sapling in a spot with full sun exposure. These plants thrive with sunlight and warm soils. Ideally, your soil should have great drainage. But I’ve seen caimitos thrive in poor soils around Cebu.
  2. If you have a small caimito sapling, make sure your hole is 3 times the diameter of the container. Dig a hole as deep as the container so the roots remain healthy.
  3. Fill in the hole with soil and water thoroughly. Make sure the water is directed at the roots.
  4. Fertilize your caimito every 2 months within the first year of planting your sapling. You can use vermicompost with rice hulls or other types of mature compost. After the first year, you can apply the organic fertilizer to the soil around the caimito 3 times a year.
  5. Make sure the caimito is watered every two days for the first week of planting. Then reduce the watering to 2 times a week for the first two months. Increase the frequency during the dry season. And reduce watering during the rainy season.

Lola’s Bam-i Garden

By Michelle Domocol

Inflourish: Cebu Blog

Last week was my grandma’s birthday. She passed away more than a decade ago but my family still celebrates her birthday every year. We mark her birthday with small blessings to maintain our connection and to ensure her afterlife is peaceful.

My mom and her sisters call a priest and request grandma’s name is included in the mass petitions. I usually take a nature hike and quietly recall fond memories with her. Or I watch one of grandma’s favorite movies.

Families in Cebu practice many beautiful and creative traditions to honor those who passed. Another way to commemorate or celebrate a loved one is to build a garden.

I would build a Bam-i Garden to remember Lola. Bam-i is a dish with two types of noodles, vegetables, and chicken. In Cebu, it’s commonly served on birthdays and a delicious symbol for long life. My grandma’s recipe was especially delectable.

Lola’s memorial garden would feature her signature Bam-i ingredients. I’d add garden beds of carrots and celery with potted napa cabbage and sweet peas. Limonsito (calamondin) and wood ear mushrooms are also essential to Bam-i.

In a cooler dark shed, I would install an indoor mushroom bed. Finally, in sunny spots of the garden, I would add clusters of limonsito trees. Since Lola was a movie buff, I might add some seating and a white wall so we could project her favorite comedy films. Photo 1 shows my sketch of Lola’s Bamb-i Garden.

Photo 1. A sketch of Lola’s memorial garden

On All Soul’s Day, in Cebu, I see many families honor the dead in joyful and beautiful ways. Some families visit the graves of deceased relatives and set up picnics. They eat the deceased one’s favorite snacks, offer flowers, conduct mass, and recite prayers.

A memorial garden can be an extension of those joyful rituals. It can be a small, intimate space to remember and reflect by yourself. Or it can be an outdoor room to gather, honor and celebrate loved ones together with family and friends.

If you feel inspired to build your own memorial garden, you can plant it with loved one’s favorite flowers or fruits. Or maybe fill it with ingredients from a favorite dish. Hope you have a peaceful and creative time celebrating loved ones!

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Savvy Seed Collecting

By Michelle Domocol

Back to Inflourish: Cebu

Some of the most important parts of plant cultivation occur after fruits and vegetables matures. So far my blog posts describe seedling care and daily garden maintenance. After harvest, what happens? What about collecting or saving seed from your prized flowers, vegetables, fruits or trees?

Will the seeds we collect be viable?

These are all fair questions from a beginner seed collector. If you want your plant to be ever-giving, here are some tips to extract its seeds.

  • Choose a flower, vegetable, fruit, or other amazing plant in your garden. Make sure it came from non-GMO and open-pollinated seeds. These plants are viable and can pass on their genetic traits. Photo 1 shows popular vegetables and flowers that produce seeds you can save. These include lettuce, beans, tomatoes, squashes, eggplants and cucumber. Irises, marigolds, hibiscus and sunflowers are flower seeds you can also collect.

Garden Bonus! Download this fun seed saving envelope activity. Happy Seed Collecting!


Photo 1. Clockwise from Top Left: Hibiscus; marigolds, lettuce; squashes; cucumbers; eggplants. These plants produce seed you can save.
  • Collect seeds from plants that have favorable features or traits. If you like your corn’s flavor, color or size, collect the seed. Or maybe your gardenia’s petals were huge and produced a brilliant yellow. Save the seeds so you can grow more! Seed saving may generate custom garden full of plants you curated and collected.
  • Once you pick a plant for seed collection, observe how the seed matures and how the plant sheds the seeds. For instance, cucumbers and eggplants chosen for seed collection need to stay on the plant longer than the crops chosen for eating. The seeding cucumbers and eggplants are only harvested when the seeds mature. Mature seeds can withstand drying and storage. Do some research and ask fellow gardeners about your target plant. Observations of your personal plants form the best guidance.
  • Identify the type of seed your desired plant produces. Do they have dry seed cases like sitaw beans? If your plant has dried seed cases like many bean varieties, garlics and onions, then remove the seed head by hand. Then use a paper bag to catch the individual seeds inside the seed head. Other gardeners may shake the mature seed pods or seed heads so they fall into a bucket.

Or maybe you have a plant with seed pods split open? Or perhaps the seeds naturally pop out of the seed case? Will you be threshing or winnowing to separate some seeds from their seed cases? Or, like mango, will you remove your seed from the older, fleshy fruit? Once you find out your plant’s seeding behavior, then you can use the best way to catch and harvest the seed.

  • Make sure you use the correct method to clean and store your seeds. Fungal diseases, rain, hungry insects and even hungrier birds can threaten your seed collection process, so be vigilant.

Saved seeds can be stored in paper envelopes, water-tight jars, camera film cases, and glass jars. Some gardeners then store the containers of seeds in a refrigerator or a cool, dry, dark cupboard.

Make your batches of seed are labelled. Labels can include the seed collection date, plant names, and the plant’s notable traits or features.

Garden Bonus! Download my seed saving envelope activity. Creating unique seed envelopes or other types of seed containers can inspire you and curious, young gardeners. Happy Seed Collecting!

June’s Easy Leafy Greens

By Michelle Domocol

Back to Inflourish:Cebu

June is a great time to plant fool-proof leafy greens like mustasa, petsay, and spinach. In Cebu, these are leafy greens are essential ingredients in delicious stir-fries, pickled side dishes, adobos, fish entrees, chicken stews, and more.

Luckily, mustasa (mustard greens), petsay (pechay) and spinach have similar growing requirements. In Healing Present, we like to plant rows of these veggies in the same area. Here are some quick reminders to help you start your own leafy green garden plot:

  • Prepare a raised bed or pot of well-draining soil. Amend your soil with vermicast, compost, or rice hulls to increase the nutrient content. Some gardeners make a special mix with all three of these amendments. Spread a layer of leafy green seeds over the soil. Then, cover the seeds with a thin layer of soil.
  • Water the seeds thoroughly. As they grow, increase the frequency of watering to 3 times a week.
  • Regularly check the garden for any hungry insect pests or invasive weeds. Be sure to remove them. For added protection, you can make a permeable, rectangular tent to protect the seeds. The tent can be made of shade netting to repel any pests. It can also shade young seedlings. As the seedlings grow, you can remove the tent to increase light exposure.
  • In Healing Present, we make the rectangular frame for the tent. All sides except the bottom of the frame are covered in green or white shade netting. The frame is simply made of dried reeds, bamboo, or wood.

Happy June gardening! Remember to stay on schedule and get your own Cebu planting calendar here.

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Magenta Dragon fruit in May

By Michelle Domocol

Back to Inflourish: Cebu

Around May, I notice beautiful dragon fruits flowering and fruiting. Dragon fruit is grown in backyards and farms around Cebu as well as other provinces. The fruit variety with magenta, juicy flesh is featured in numerous recipes in Healing Present’s Divine Sweets & Treats cookbook. Ice creams, sorbets, juices and jams other treats are enriched by dragon fruits sweet and refreshing flavor.

Each chapter in our cook book bursts with unique recipes for tasty treats (Photo 1) like :

  • Dragon Creamsicle
  • Berry Dragon Mousse
  • Dark Dragon BonBon
  • Dragon Fruity Pizzeta
Photo 1. Clockwise from Top-Right: Dragon Fruity Pizzeta; Dragon Creamsicle; Dark Dragon BonBon; Berry Dragon Mousse

Before dragon fruit can flavor amazing desserts and snacks, this beautiful night-blooming cactus leads an exciting life as a plant. If you’re interested in growing your own dragon fruit, here are 5 techniques for successful cultivation.

1) Seedling or Cutting. For beginner gardeners, care a young dragon fruit seedling with established roots. If you’d like to grow your own dragon fruit roots, I recommend using a foot-long cactus stem cutting. The cutting should come from a healthy dragon fruit mother plant. Make sure your cutting is dried for about 2-5 days. Once the cutting’s tips are white, you can insert it in a large 2-foot diameter pot or directly in your garden plot.

2) Sun & Sand. Like many other cacti, dragon fruits like sun and sand. That means dragon fruits are sensitive to overshading and overwatering.

Dragon fruit roots prefer sandy, well-draining soil. So only irrigate or water when the top of the soil is completely dry. Add vermicompost to increase the soil’s  nutrient richness. 

Make sure your dragon fruit is in direct sunlight. Without daily sun exposure, you may not produce fruits. 

3) Supports & Props. You can prop up your dragon fruit with a trellis, fence or pole. They can be made of simple pvc pipes, metal frames or even concrete. A support structure will allow the branches to hang down in an umbrella-shaped canopy. This will facilitate more budding, flowering, and fruiting.

4) Prune for Shoots. Prune your dragon fruit often to maintain the umbrella canopy. Pruning is also recommended after you harvest fruits since it triggers new cactus shoots.

5) Pest control. Dragon fruits can attract a variety of insect pests. Monitor your dragon fruit regularly. Once you see any pests like ants, aphids, mites, or beetles, spray them with a stong jet of water. The force of the water spray should remove them effectively. Make sure pruning tools are always clean. Dirty tools with pests sitting on the blades can unintentionally spread pests to your plants.

Growing Children’s Creativity

By Michelle Domocol

Back to Inflourish: Cebu

For families with children or teachers with young students, a garden can be an opportunity to create and celebrate fictional stories, characters and fantastical worlds. A garden can be reminiscent of a child’s favorite book characters, cartoon scenes, or computer game landscapes.

Children (with the aid of adults) can sketch gardens with plants, sculptures, and visual art inspired by their favorite fiction. Teachers can also use a themed garden design to engage students with new literature.

While planning, children’s garden ideas can reflect the character’s personality or a landscape depicted in their favorite book, movie, cartoon or video game. Here are some sample prompts to launch the child-designer’s brainstorm:

  • What adventures did your favorite character go through?
  • Does your favorite character have favorite colors or favorite foods?
  • In the video game, what are some amazing worlds you experience as a player?
  • Does your favorite cartoon character say funny things or do funny activities?
  • Do any of your favorite movie characters live on other planets or fantasy worlds that amaze you? Describe or draw them.

Based on the responses, you and the children can choose plants, sketch designs, plan murals, build mini sculptures, or paint quotes from literature or media. The plants can be ingredients to the characters’ favorite foods. The mural can replicate a scene from the character’s adventure. The flowers can be the favorite color of the computer game character. A character’s funny quotes can be painted in large letters across a garden fence or on the plank of a raised bed. If the child’s favorite story has notable architecture like a castle bridge, a treacherous maze, or magical doorway, you can integrate a small version of this feature in the garden. The possibilities are boundless.

As you brainstorm, be open to children’s creativity and expression. The more exciting the garden planning, the more they may feel connected to the resulting garden.

Growing up, I would have loved to grow a fruit garden adorned with art from Filipino folk tales. The legendary origins of makopa, piña, and manga would be great reference material. Or maybe I would have designed a mini terrarium inspired by Miss Honey’s cottage in Roald Dahl’s book, Matilda. Or maybe my classmates and I would have planted raised beds with pickling cucumbers in honor of Shel Silverstein’s poem Ickle Me, Pickle Me, Tickle Me Too. We would have filled it with other edible plants you could pickle and flowering groundcovers that tickled.

Literary gardens are long-beloved destinations. Many botanical gardens around the world construct themed gardens inspired by historic literature like a Shakespearean play, a Dr. Seuss bestseller, or a classic like Alice in Wonderland.

I suggest you and your children (or students) plan a garden that directly connects to their contemporary literary or media interests. The contemporary stories may be a better channel to facilitate children’s creativity and engagement.

After the designs and brainstorming, the resultant garden can start out as a modest landscape. At the start, you can hang a gallery of framed artwork from your child’s planning process in the garden.

With more time, resources, and creativity, you may even build features from your children’s sketches. You may find the children increase their time playing and creating in the garden.

If children sustain their connection to the garden, you can further celebrate their passion for literature and storytelling. Maybe add tables for an outdoor art studio. Include a mini platform for stage plays. Perhaps more comfy seating can create calm reading nooks. As the children grow, the garden can continue to evolve and foster creativity for many years to come.

Related Articles about Children’s Gardens

Popping with Color (Part 2)

This week I’d like to offer a free mini booklet that may inspire you to build your own color/colour palettes. In the booklet, I offer free color combinations and textural collages to inspire your designs. Enjoy!

If you’d like to learn how to integrate color into your outdoor designs, check out, “Popping with Color”.

Binignit Garden

By Michelle Domocol

Back to Inflourish: Cebu

For many in Cebu, April is a time for family meals, Binignit, and Easter festivities. It’s also a great month to start planning a Binignit Garden.

Binignit (Photo 1) is a hearty, delectable dessert that features sweet root crops and fruits. Gabi (taro), camote, ube, cassava, kardaba bananas, landang, and nangka (jackfruit) are some of the natural sweeteners of Binignit. My extended family in Cebu proudly served delicious, homemade binignit during Holy Week meals. Honestly, outside of Easter, binignit is an eagerly welcomed dessert at any office party, birthday, or special celebration.

Planning & Growing a Binignit Garden

If your garden or farm has moist soil or a water body (like a pond), this can be a great site to plant some of the water-loving ingredients in Binignit. If you start planning in April, you’ll have time to gather healthy planting material like gabi roots and cassava cuttings. You can also prepare any soil amendments like vermicompost or mulch. With ample time for preparation, planting can start in May. You can design a waterside garden with gabi, ube, cassava, and camote. These sweet root crops adapt to partial and full sun exposure.

In portions of your garden with more well-draining soil, you can grow other Binignit-themed plants like nangka, kardaba, buli palm (aka landang tree). As these trees mature and grow taller, they can provide partial shade to the low-growing root crops. If you need ideas for more shade-providing agroforestry trees, check out “A for Agroforestry”.

Here are some more tips for your Binignit garden:

Photo 1. (Clockwise from top left) Binignit, gabi, kardaba, ube, landang, cassava

Gabi (aka taro) thrives in partial sun with constant soil moisture. In Cebu, you can plant gabi from May to July. Gabi prefers a waterside garden, pond border or site with wet soil. Make sure the soil is fertile. If your soil needs nutrients, amend it with vermicompost. You can plant the entire root or small sections of the gabi root. I like to plant gabi 5 inches deep. Then I cover the root with about about 2 inches of soil. If you have multiple root sections, you can arrange them 2 feet apart so they have room to flourish. Make sure to regularly remove weeds that compete for space and nutrients. They can ruin the development of young gabi.

Ube is another bountiful addition to your waterside Binignit garden. Like gabi, it loves the constant moisture and fertile, composted soil. I like to add mulch over the soil to increase organic matter and suppress weeds. You can mulch with dried leaves from surrounding trees, old palm leaves, or rice hulls. You can also adorn your waterside garden with decorative trellises to lift the trailing ube vines.

Cassava can be planted from May to June. Unlike gabi and ube planting methods, I plant cassava from cuttings. Cassavas thrive in a wide range of soils including moist soil. So they can accompany your ube and gabi. Ensure cassava is surrounded with at least 3 feet of space. They also enjoy full sun exposure cutting. If you’d like tips on growing camote, check out “Camote, February’s Featured Crop”.

Hope you enjoy your Binignit this weekend and Happy Planting!

April’s Dessert Garden

By Michelle Domocol

Back to Inflourish: Cebu

April is the perfect time to add dessert plants to your garden. These dessert plants are excellent flavors for ice creams, delicious smoothies, healing teas, favorite soups or other comforting dishes (Photo 2 and 3).

For April, I suggest a dessert garden planted with acerola, makrutlime, gumamela (hibiscus), luy-a (ginger), and turmeric. (Photo 1)

Photo 1. (Clockwise from Top Right) Acerola cherries; gumamela; harvest mix; makrut lime; turmeric & ginger

If you’d like to add some April savory ingredients, plant sayote, atsal (bell pepper), chili pepper, or repolyo (cabbage).

If you need more garden inspiration for April check out these past articles and my Cebu planting calendar:

Want some exciting dessert recipe ideas? Go to our Cookbook Store. We feature recipes for: Marang Acerola Ice Cream, Gingered Avocado Ice Cream Gingered, Pili Pineapple Ice Cream, Acerola Aloe Custard and sweet smoothies (Photo 2 and 3).

Photo 2. Assorted Acerola-flavored desserts from Healing Present cookbooks.
Photo 3. Original smoothies using April’s dessert garden plants; recipes in Healing Present’s cookbooks.
April Planting Advice

Here are some cultivation tips for turmeric, ginger, makrut lime, and acerola.

Acerola and Limes. Acerola and kaffir limes are beautiful fruit shrubs that bloom almost year paths. They are both perfect in containers or planted directly well-draining, composted soil. They thrive in full sun exposure.

To produce more fruit, we like to prune the limes and acerolas so they remain short. Ideally, they stay 3 or 4 feet tall with lateral branches. Abundant fruit harvest on on the lower branches are easier to pick.

When I prune, I remove some upward growth tips near the top of the main stem. This ensures lower branches grow outward and horizontally. Pruning also trains the buds, flowers and fruit to grow on the lower portions of the shrub.

Ginger and Turmeric. These versatile gems thrive in partial sun exposure. The garden site should be well-draining, composted, and protected from strong winds. In the farm, they are shaded by fruit shrubs or fruit trees.

I like to get my ginger and turmeric root sections from other gardeners, official seed suppliers, or plant nurseries. Sometimes, if you use kitchen leftovers or roots from a grocery store, they may be sprayed with growth inhibitors. This affects its root growth when transfered to your garden.

If you still want to experiment with the common grocery store ginger or turmeric, soak them in water overnight. This may remove the commercial spray residue.

Ensure your ginger and turmeric roots are plump and healthy. Don’t plant any shriveled root sections. The root section should have well-developed buds (aka “eyes”). If you cut the ginger root section into smaller pieces, make sure the sliced area is calloused. To callous, dry the section for at least 24 hours. When I plant the root sections, the growth buds (or “eyes”) are pointed upwards. I cover them with 1-3 inches of soil.

Water well after planting. Regularly monitor your soil. The soil should be absorbing the water. Ginger and Turmeric roots rot easily in waterlogged, soggy soil with stagnant pools of moisture.

Resilience and Recovery after Typhoon Odette

By Michelle Domocol

Back to Inflourish: Cebu

At Healing Present, we continue to rebuild and recover from the destruction and aftermath of Typhoon Odette (Photo 1). Luckily with amazing supervision from the founder and the farm operations crew, we are making progress. We have deep gratitude for the Healing Present staff who continue to repair, rebuild, and replant the portions of the farm/forest that were damaged. Sylvia, Mario, Ariel, Jaime, Jerry, Marvin and Yeng Yeng all  rebuild and adapt Healing Present to this era of more severe storms and lethal wind velocities.

Photo 1. Building re-construction and repair after the typhoon. Photos from Sylvia Suson.

Typhoon Odette left us with detached roofing, broken windows, fallen vegetation and disrepair that results from 189-mph winds. The damage was extensive and heartbreaking. The damage also prompted us to refine our strategies to mitigate typhoons.

It would be misguided to rebuild and revegetate the farm without considering the new characteristics of this past typhoon.

Here are some of the overarching management questions that help guide our typhoon recovery:

  • How do we rebuild while considering the new severity of typhoons?
  • Is there anything we can improve our current mitigation systems?
  • How do we cultivate trees near our facilities will not fall and cause damage?
  • Are our trees still resistant to these new, stronger typhoons?
  • Is it possible to manage a forest patch that can withstand the next storm, flood?

In this article, I share an excerpt of our post-typhoon evaluation. This excerpt focuses on tree management and windbreak systems. Improving our tree care and windbreak is one of the many important land management strategies to strengthen our typhoon preparedness.

Photo 2. Periodic tree and windbreak evaluations at Healing Present
Tree care & Windbreak Evaluation

At Healing Present, we plant feature trees, forest patches and agroforestry windbreaks to protect crops and reduce wind damage to our facilities (Photo 2 and 3). As mentioned in a previous article, windbreaks are an agroforestry technique that:

  • create favorable microclimates,
  • decrease wind erosion,
  • increase biodiversity,
  • stabilize soil,
  • buffer noise, and
  • screen undesirable views.

Windbreaks are also a living combination of trees, shrubs and groundcover that may need refinement or improvement to suit our changing environmental challenges.

Here are 5 questions to help evaluate the effectiveness of our windbreaks and other trees:

1) Are the trees and shrubs in our windbreaks planted too densely? Sometimes when windbreak plants are too close together, they block incoming winds. This block can cause too much wind turbulence in the areas you’d like to protect. A protected area can include a building or vegetable beds. Effective windbreaks are more permeable and reduce windspeed; rather than stopping it entirely.

2) Are we giving the trees near our buildings enough rooting space? In general, large and small trees with enough room to grow a wide and deep fan of roots can be less vulnerable to high winds.

3) Are the trees near our buildings healthy and possess good structure? Perhaps Healing Present can decrease the amount of uprooted vegetation by paying more attention to the large trees that are planted close to structures. Ideally, these should have healthy trunks and central leaders. This can be managed with a consistent pruning program. This includes trees that survived the typhoon. Broken branches must be pruned so they don’t fall or cause further damage in a future storm.

4) Are there any isolated or potentially hazardous still standing near the existing buildings? If so, we need to monitor them. Isolated trees could be planted with more vegetation so they buffered from future wind events. Do any trees that survived the typhoon show signs of decay? Old trees showing signs of decay, disease or damaged roots may need to be monitored or removed if hazardous.

Photo 3. Evaluation and care for forest patches and featured trees near buildings.

5) Are we still planting the best wind-resistant species? Some of our trees had medium levels of wind-resistance because it suited storm pressure.  Perhaps we need to integrate some more high wind-resistance species to match the new, supertyphoon characteristics in our area.

When selecting windbreak species, a variety of species, ages, and layers of vegetation is preferred. Local observation is key to effective selection. We can check our property as well as neighbors’ properties to observe which species withstood the storm. Online lists of wind-resistant trees are great, but not always helpful. These recommendations don’t always match your specific climate and soil conditions. At Healing Present, if we notice a species that consistently withstood the typhoon, they may be a great candidate for windbreak re-plantings.

Photo 4. Forest fragments, denuded hillsides, and mixed agricultural areas of the Cebu uplands. Photo taken prior to Typhoon Odette.

Undoubtedly, systemic disaster preparedness is much more complex than evaluating windbreaks and planting wind-resistant vegetation. But it is a significant component to our recovery and repair. On a broader scale, disaster mitigation would be more effective with broader, structural forces like a cohesive national preparedness strategy.

Recovery would be exponentially easier if the Cebu uplands (Photo 4) and urban lowlands were strategically forested or designed to reduce the wind velocity of torrential rains and typhoons. If the upland forests contained continuous stretches of healthy, strongly rooted vegetation, residents could be more protected from typhoon winds. If we, as a global community were more adept at battling climate change, the severity of our storms would be less lethal. The “if only’s” are numerous and layered. And I lament the inactive collective.

Nevertheless, Healing Present is grateful for our operations team and the landscape management strategies that could help us recover from future typhoons.

Bees & Belonging

By Michelle Domocol

Back to Inflourish: Cebu

Growing up, I always thought it was delightful when a person’s last name echoed their interest in nature. It seemed reminiscent of an quaint scene in folktales. Like “Mr. Green worked in his garden next to Señora Flores’ floral shop after they received produce from the farmer, John Boom”. These namesakes connoted an inherited path towards a desirable, verdant destiny.

Don’t get me wrong. I am proud of the life paths I independently laid.

Fortunately, all of us, with or without a floristic name, belong to an ecological heritage we can protect. This can be everyone’s legacy. 

But I understand the power and cultural influence of a namesake or a family narrative. For some, it can summon perseverance when hurdles seem insurmountable. Sometimes a simple last name or the mythical origin of an ancestor can offer a stronger sense of direction. It can feed an imagined belief that you are guided towards the right choices. I’ve found this angst and search for guidance re-emerging in my friends; especially as their senses of self were shaken by the pandemic.

Nearly 40, with solid self-knowledge, I recently discovered my family does bear a nature-based last name: Abella. This article celebrates the Iberian etymology of my grandma’s family name. “Abella” was historically related to a nickname for a busy bee (a buzzing, active person) or a beekeeper. It’s a charming extension of my well-established love of ecology.

So, onto our Bee-utiful environmental heritage and my design chat: Pollinators in Pollinator Gardens. 
5 of the 9 species of honeybees in the world are native to Philippines. At least 7 species of stingless bee species are found in the Philippines.

Globally and especially in the Philippines, pollinator gardens are vital to the health of our ecosystems, economies, and our food security. Pollinators, such as bees, butterflies, moths, beetles, and certain flies are the ecological foundation to farms, mangroves, and every type of forest in the Philippines. They enable plants to reproduce or bear seeds, nuts, berries, and fruits. Their massive impact on the health of our world is mind-boggling. Unfortunately, pollinators, like most of our vulnerable wildlife, face population destruction from agricultural chemicals, pollution, climate change, and habitat loss.

Below are design ideas to start a pollinator garden in your school, community garden, or home. Please note my design illustrations for this article emphasize the vegetation by muting the colors of the hardscaping (constructed areas and furniture).

Photo 1. Features in the Butterfly Yoga Garden.

1) Butterfly Yoga Garden. Build a shade house or sunroom that immerses you in a pollinator’s habitat (Photo 1 & 2).  The shade house is like a greenhouse with plants but usually built with green shade netting. If you’re in an area that does boil in the summer, consider building a sunroom. This building can have large windows or a clear PVC plastic sheeting roof like a traditional greenhouse. Alternatively, you can use white shade netting. Your flooring can be composted, mulched or covered with gravel. A portion of the flooring can be tiled so that you have add seating or yoga mats. This can be a peaceful place to meet friends, exercise, or meditate. The pollinator plants can be installed into the mulched or graveled flooring, raised beds, or other containers. Keep the greenhouse windows open so pollinators can visit and use your garden.

Photo 2. A closer look at the shade house or sunroom.

Some of the plants can be cannas, coreopsis, mint, or basil. Outside the shade house or sunroom, plant a pollinator-attracting fruit tree like mango, guyabano, jackfruit, or atis.

2) Pollinator Garden Party. Pollinator gardens are enriching opportunities to teach students about insect life cycles and plant-pollinator relationships. They are especially attractive to teachers, parents, and caregivers averse to “butterfly kits” or any learning tools that capture wild animals. Instead, you can build a mini-environment like an outdoor garden classroom to exhibit natural cycles.  Observation decks and educational signs are additional tools that can help you facilitate outdoor engagement with nature (Photo 3).

Photo 3. Learning tools in the Pollinator Garden Party.

Some pollinator plants you can cultivate with your class are katmon, pili, native orchids, gardenias, magnolia trees (like champaka), cinnamon tree (Cinnamomum camphora) or flowering varieties of passionfruit.

There are numerous activities you can host in a pollinator garden. Here are some sample activities:

  • Ask garden visitors and students to wear, pink or yellow at the garden. These colors attract pollinators. This can lead to a class conversation about floral color and insect vision.
  • Create an outdoor gallery sculptures or photos taken in the garden with your class to study the phases of butterfly life cycle.
  • Conduct “treasure hunts” or a “bio blitz” to help children identify and discover different pollinator plants and evidence of a pollinator’s activity (like insect bites on a leaf)

3) Citrus Home Garden. At home, you can create a garden that attracts beautiful native butterflies and stingless bees. Start building a collection of potted dwarf citrus trees or venture into a back yard citrus orchard (Photo 4). Pollinators love the blossoms of lemon, lime, kumquat, pomelo, mandarin, and limonsito (calamansi) trees. You’ll have a delicious harvest. And you’ll create a needed haven for our diverse pollinator friends.

Photo 4. Citrus Home Garden concept.
Related Articles about Pollinators & School Gardens:

Can’t Contain my Joy

By Michelle Domocol

Inflourish: Cebu Blog

I can never contain my joy for a radiant and flourishing container garden. Container gardens are one of the foundational landscaping techniques used in Healing Present. Container gardening is the technique behind our beautiful azotea greenery, sunken gardens (Photo 1), vertical walls and gate plantings (Photo 3 & 4).

Photo 1. Container gardens in our sunken garden (top) and azotea areas (bottom).

In previous articles, we’ve focused on container gardens like raised beds. We’d like to share inspiration and more possibilities you can apply with container gardening techniques.

Below is a potted sanseveria plant Ariel (one of the gifted farm staff) prepared. In this particular project, he adorned the pot with dried fern fronds from the farm. Staghorn ferns are common epiphytes that self-propagate around the farm and forest. Dried jackfruit, taro, and breadfruit leaves are also wonderful options we have at Healing Present. When their leaves drop and naturally dry, they become gorgeous material to decorate furnishings and garden pots.

Photo 2. Ariel planting a sanseveria in a plastic pot decorated with dried fern fronds.

Here are seven lessons Ariel and the rest of Healing Present crew learned from our container planting adventures:

1) Suitable Soil Level. Make sure your container is large enough to provide room for soils and roots. Make sure the soil is at least 1 inch from the top of the container. Don’t fill a container all the way to the top of the container.

2) Well-Drained Soil. Does you container have drainage holes at the bottom? When you water your containerized plants, you want excess water to drain out of the soil. If not, the plant roots can rot from too much stagnant moisture.

3) Strong Containers. At Healing Present, the containers chosen for the garden are planned. They are suited to the environmental conditions and style we want. We use a range of containers, but we ensure they are strong. For us, durable containers can withstand our site’s level of rain, wind, humidity, pests and other factors that can degrade or break down a container. What are the specific site conditions in your backyard or balcony that may affect the durability of an outdoor container?

If you have a sheltered patio garden with little wind, maybe your containers can be ceramic pots & gorgeous glass terrariums. At Healing Present, we’ve used coconut shells in our gate gardens (Photo 3). And we’ve reused thick plastic water bottles for our wall gardens (Photo 4). In other parts of the farm, we’ve used terra cotta, stone, and plastic composite.

Photo 3. Vertical pots adorn our farm gates. Containers are coconut husks and decorated plastic pots in various sizes and shapes.
Photo 4. In our vertical gardens, we used thick plastic Evian bottles and green netting to hold soil and roots.

4) Stylish designs. To achieve a certain style, sometimes we use plastic pots and then insert them in a larger decorative reed or fiberglass container. Sometimes, we embellish an ordinary pot with dried leaves or other natural materials from the farm (Photo 5). Since we have weather that ranges from high humidity, torrential rain, and blasting dry heat, we don’t choose heat-conducting aluminum or brass containers. Over the years, we also learned hungry termites occupy our site. So we don’t use containers made of untreated wood.

Photo 5. A common black plastic pot is decorated with a reed shell to match the decor.

5) De-stress Roots & Repot. Repotting means transferring your containerized plant into a larger container with new fertilized soil. Not all of our container gardens are repotted. We only do this when we notice roots are expanding outside the container. Or sometimes the roots are wrapping around the inside of the pot. Sometimes we repot when the plant’s soil is drying out faster than usual. We also try to repot when the container is no longer half the height of the container.

For instance, one time we neglected a ginger plant that grew 3 times taller than the height of the pot! It was hidden with a group of other container plants, so we didn’t notice it at first. The roots were stressed and needed more room to expand. Instead, the roots were cracking the sides of the terra cotta pot. So it really needed a larger pot and new soil to thrive. Make sure your new pot is at least 2 inches larger in diameter than the current pot. It should also be at least half the height of the current plant.

6) Organically fertilize. With our container plants, we use a soil mix that is mostly made of vermicast. This is a great fertilizer and helps nourish the new roots before and after repotting.

7) Weed Control. Monitor your container plants on a daily or weekly basis. For many, this is a meditative and relaxing exercise. Observe your plants’ growth. If you notice any weeds in your potted plant, pull them out. Don’t let them mature and grow large roots. Get them when they’re young. Weeds can steal water, sun, and nutrients from the plant you want to cultivate. If you have a larger container with a lot of exposed soil, you can add a groundcover plant to suppress any weed growth (Photo 6).

Photo 6. Low growing groudcovers & trailing vines are planted to suppress weeds and create visual interest.

In an upcoming article, I’ll share techniques for creating new container gardens through a technique plant division. See you then.

If you need ideas for plant combinations for your container garden, check out these articles from last month:

Kamunggay, March’s Featured Crop

By Michelle Domocol

Inflourish: Cebu Blog

Kamunggay (aka malunggay or moringa) is an absolutely delicious crop filled with amazing qualities. The tree’s leaves can be harvested and transformed into classic soups, stews, sauces and pestos. You can blend them and make sweet shakes, smoothies and sorbets. If you have the equipment, you can extract the medicinal oil from kamunggay’s seed pod. The leaves can also be pulverized into a fertilizer for vegetable crops.

To top it all off, the kamunggay is intrinsically valuable without harvesting. It provides food and shelter to important birds and wildlife. The tree also improves the surrounding with nitrogen and macro-nutrients. Kamunggay is globally known so I recommend you research how different cultures around the world grow, harvest, and benefit from this wondrous, miracle tree.

Below are general gardening procedures and my planting maps for a small agroforestry plot in Healing Present. The main trees were limonsito and kamunggay. As seen in the cross-section diagram in Photo 1, they were planted along a hill and served as erosion control.

Photo 1. Planting Map (top) with cross-section (bottom) of agroforestry tree combination

After planting the rows of kamunggay seedlings, the crew waited a few weeks for them to mature. Afterwards, they planted the calamansi seedlings. Mani-mani was planted in between the rows of trees. All of these species thrived in full sun exposure and nitrogen-rich soil.

To learn more about agroforests, click here.

Here are more quick-reference Kamunggay Highlights:

WHAT DOES KAMUNGGAY NEED TO GROW WELL? Kamunggay loves sunny areas. Although the tree is drought tolerant, they can be watered to make sure the roots spread and become healthy.

HOW DO I PLANT IT? Plant healthy seedlings that are at least 5 weeks old rather than seeds. When transferring the seedling into the soil, try not to disturb the root system. Make sure you hole is filled with vermicompost and loose soil. If you’re planting multiple trees in a row, the space between each tree should be 2 meters.

HOW DO I HARVEST KAMUNGGAY? It depends on which part of this amazing tree you want. Most Cebuanos harvest the leaves. Do not wash kamunggay branches or leaves before stripping off the leaves. Pull the leaves off the branches first, in a stripping motion, and then simply rinse them.

Photo 2. Iced Kamunggay Almond dessert (top) and Mango Kamunggay Pesto (bottom)

HOW DO I EAT KAMUNGGAY? Kamunggay is a delicious way to get your daily doses of Vitamin A, C, E, Iron, and Potassium.

My lola used to make soup with kamunggay, sayote, kalabasa, and the best broth. Photo 2 shows Kamunggay ice cream and Mango Kamunggay pesto.

If you’d like the recipes, check out Healing Present’s recipe online book store. Contact healingpresent@gmail.com if you are outside the Philippines and want copies of these recipe books.

Farewell February, Marvel at March!

By Michelle Domocol

Back to Inflourish: Cebu Blog

So we ended our first month of Inflourish: Cebu articles and posts! I’ve had so much fun sharing stories about Healing Present’s land management and design. Throughout March, I’ll continue to post fun gardening projects, outdoor design inspiration and land management food-for-thought. I’ll feature:

  • Healing Present’s farm crew & their amazing garden skills
  • Greenhouse management activities
  • Philippine Native re-forestation
  • Indoor Gardening

and more!

In the meantime, click below and download your own free Cebu Planting Calendar. I made it just for you! Enjoy!

A for Agroforestry

By Michelle Domocol

Back to Inflourish: Cebu Blog

With Healing Present and other landscape design clients in Cebu, I use agroforestry practices. Agroforestry is a set of sustainable land management strategies practiced globally. These land management practices take many forms and integrate existing and accepted types of farming. In Healing Present, I chose agroforestry as a design approach for their crop systems and forest rehabilitation projects. This design approach met their preferences for organic cultivation and environmental stewardship. If successful, agroforestry can achieve goals that are important to me, my clients and maybe you too. These goals include:

  • increase organic crop productivity
  • restore and conserve local native plant and wildlife biodiversity
  • maintain a healthy and clean water supply

Agroforesters in the Philippines commonly include practices like shaded perennial intercropping, living fences, erosion-control vegetation strips, and windbreaks. To learn more about agroforests in other countries, click here.

Don’t worry if these terms are new to you. Below is an example of how these strategies are combined in a landscape.

As you can see Photo 1, three main components are included in this agroforestry system. The shorter perennial food and medicinal crops occupy the central food gardens. Then the outer layers are taller fruit trees and native habitat species. If site conditions were favorable, you could even grow some of those shorter perennial species under the tree canopy. The vegetation strip with native trees serves as natural erosion control. Th trees’ roots stabilize the soil and reduce major landslides. In practice, these species are not frequently managed. Instead, they are monitored monthly and designated as a biodiversity corridor.

Less visits from the farm crew and others humans allow shy wildlife to feel safer in a new biodiversity corridor. The native species also:

  • increase the land’s soil fertility,
  • provide nutrient-rich mulch layers
  • regulate nitrogen cycles, and
  • support local food pollinators.

The staggered rows of fruit trees are both windbreak and living fences. This means some species protect crops, farm facilities and local wildlife from storm damage and high winds. As a living fence, a group of the fruit trees demarcate property boundaries. The fruit species are situated closer to the central food gardens. They are seasonally harvested for personal and commercial use. The central food gardens are cultivated and managed daily. Other examples of agroforestry systems include the following combos:

  • Sample 1. Taro, Sweet potato, Pineapple, Breadfruit, Mango, Papaya
  • Sample 2. Cassava, Pili, Chayote, Coconut, Guava, Leafy Vegetables
  • Sample 3. Shade tolerant herbs and yams with Sun-loving Native tree species like Talisay, Molave and Narra

The planting design must reflect your site conditions, harvest needs and environmental goals. For instance, Sample 1 is full of species for food harvests, soil improvement, and windbreaks. Sample 2 is great for food harvest, medicinal uses, and living fencing. Sample 3 can provide erosion control, food harvests, habitat restoration, and soil improvement.

I also practice agroforestry because the methods aim to address Philippines’ major environmental crises. Many agroforestry practitioners in the Pacific and Southeast Asia recognize biodiversity conservation needs to be integrated into agricultural landscapes. This action reduces the direct pressure agriculture can play when practiced with destructive land conversion, chemical-based fertilization, and crop cultivation that depletes soil. Through my environmental studies and research in Cebu, I learned we need biodiversity preservation and ecological health. We also need food systems that safeguard biodiversity and the sustainable use of our natural resources. Beyond human needs, the indigenous wildlife of greater Luzon, Mindoro, western Visasays, Mindanao and Sulu have suffered species losses from weakly managed wildlife reserves.

Unsustainable agriculture and biodiversity loss directly impact our economic health. Millions of Filipinos depend on the services and biological products of functioning forests and ecosystems. Without functioning forests, coastal storm buffers, fertile soil, and healthy watersheds, we are susceptible to natural disasters, commercial market instability, widespread malnutrition and a degraded water supply. Cebuanos know all too well, the price we pay for rapid, exploitative urbanization, massive deforestation, and coastal degradation.

It’s no wonder, agroforestry is selected as a land management approach in the Philippines.

If practiced successfully, agroforestry can increase harvest yields, improve soil fertility, restore habitats, and protect watersheds from agricultural chemicals. Indeed, agroforests can’t substitute well-preserved natural ecosystems. And it’s certainly not a panacea. But perhaps it’s a step in a beneficial direction.

Popping with Color

By Michelle Domocol

Back to Inflourish: Cebu Blog

Budding designers and fellow gardeners often ask me, ‘How do you choose the color scheme or motif of the garden?’. Seasoned designers and avid gardeners have the joyful and sometimes daunting task of infusing their gardens with a cascade of color. A color combination in the garden is powerful. It can make a garden more attractive, uplift your mood or brighten a party’s atmosphere.

The initial phases of my design process prioritize urgent site challenges. For instance, if the client wants me to find solutions for flooding, pests, weeds, challenging soil or disruptive neighbors, I prioritize that first. Once I’ve found potential solutions for those challenges, I move onto questions of architectural form and color. And depending on the client’s style, I then formulate a pleasing and elegant color motif for the plants, outdoor furniture, landscape paths and other associated constructional materials.

But how does this translate to you and your interest in garden color combos? Whether you’re a budding designer or hesitant gardener, here are a few strategies to inspire your color design:

1) Family of Hues. For your own garden, you might have a certain color you prefer. Is it gold, sky blue, chocolate brown, or pink blush? Whatever the color, start a mood board so you can explore. Cut and paste that color from magazines, get color swatches from the home improvement store or go online. Then find plants that match that color. And if you’re open to it, choose plants with tones or shades of related to the color you chose. Then investigate if those plants in your mood board grow in your area. Don’t be distressed if none of those plants in your moodboard are in season. Call your local nursery and ask them for plants with leaves or blooms that match your color preference.

In the end of your design process, the color on your moodboard may not populate the entire garden but it may dictate the feature plants, outdoor furniture, outdoor garden fabrics, or other outdoor elements. Photo 1 shows a moodboard of Reds that I made. This moodboard of red, burgundies, pinks, and maroons gave me direction. It helped me draft a garden room sketch for a restaurant (Photo 1). The client liked bold reds because it evoked romance, celebration and vibrant mood for outdoor parties.

Photo 1. (Top) A moodboard highlighting Red and its related hues, shades and tones. (Bottom) Initial draft of restaurant’s garden room with reds in furniture and plant design.

Photo 2 shows other moodboards from past projects. If you’re interested in my e-book of custom color schemes and moodboards, email ask.inflourish@gmail.com

Photo 2. Mood board samples I created highlighting blues, silvers, and sage tones.

2) Smooth transitions. Another way to approach color design is exploring the connection between your indoor space and the outdoors. If your outdoor entertaining room or garden is right outside your living room, then maybe you want coordinate the colors, fabric patterns and textures. I’m not suggesting you use the same pillows, couches and lamps outdoors. I’m suggesting the outdoor path, pillows, outdoor chairs, plant color or outdoor construction materials can be subtlety influenced by the living room motif. The circles or swatches in Photo 3 include textile patterns that are not the same as the living room. They are inspired or derived from the textiles in the living room.

Photo 3. Living room in Healing Present center influenced fabric and textile choices for outdoor garden furniture.

Maybe you have indoor ceramics or blue-and-white porcelain you’d like to echo outdoors (Photo 4). Pairing indoor and outdoor pottery is a seamless and effective way to create a smooth transition. This mood board can offer direction when selecting outdoor furniture. Remember sometimes selecting elements for an outdoor room can be overwhelming so direction a mood board can really help you commit and narrow your choices.

Photo 4. Indoor porcelain and pottery can inspire your selection of outdoor plant containers.

3) Painterly Gardens. Do you have a favorite painting, photograph or postcard hanging in your house or apartment? Maybe your next color scheme or garden can celebrate this artwork. Focus on some of colors, textures, patterns or even plants (if any) from the painting, photograph or postcard. This may make a great color combo in you future outdoor room.

Photo 5. An old photo of a memorable vacation can initiate a great color scheme in the garden.

4) Naturally Prismatic. Are you captivated by the markings of specific fauna or flora? In Southeast Asia and particularly the Philippines, we are extremely blessed with brilliant multi-colored fauna and flora. Philippine Birds and orchids are world renowned showstoppers with unforgettable color combinations. Below are two samples of Philippines’ natural wonders that could inspire your next flower garden or outdoor furniture motif. Explore our endemic butterflies, marine life, or other species in the Animal and Plant kingdoms. These design activities can be easily incorporated to school garden lessons. The bright or prismatic colors can evoke a dynamic whimsy and playful environment. Plus vibrant flowers from a nature-based motif can attract beneficial insects, butterflies and other pollinators that help your garden flourish.

Photo 6. The amazing parade of colors on a Philippine kingfisher bird.
Photo 7. Another moodboard I created; inspired by the glowing colors of Philippine orchids.

Medicinal and Therapeutic Gardens

By Michelle Domocol

Back to Inflourish: Cebu Blog

One of my first major landscape design requests was Healing Present’s Yoga Area.

Photo 1. Healing Present’s Yoga Garden

Healing Present has many themed gardens and forest patches designated for past retreat activities. One of my first major landscape design requests was Healing Present’s Yoga Area. The Yoga Area’s landscape was a vibrant and unique outdoor garden around of Healing Present’s two-storey retreat house. After a collaborative and thoughtful design process, I proposed a calming design theme, outdoor furniture, plant selection, pergolas and other features. My proposals stayed true to the medicinal and therapeutic qualities requested by Healing Present’s founder.

Most groundcovers and shrubs I chose were ingredients from Healing Present’s menus or their health products. The proposed trees attracted local songbirds, butterflies and other beneficial wildlife. Many of the plants exuded a modest or calming aroma for visitors to enjoy. Photo 1A-C shows the selection of medicinal and edible plants thrilled visitors during Healing Present’s organic product demos and botanical tours.

Photo 2. Healing Present’s Yoga garden seating was my custom design; grown with lemongrass and citronella to repel mosquitos.

This is all well and good. Hooray for Healing Present. But the reality is Healing Present is closed to the public because of this pandemic. So can we still have a piece of therapeutic paradise close to home?

Potentially, yes! During this pandemic, many of us discovered the safest spot to travel was your backyard or a space near your home. So how do we transform a safe space into a therapeutic sanctuary? Let’s brainstorm. First, your sanctuary should be a reflection of your preferred method relaxation. Make moodboards to investigate how you want to relax. Look at the sample moodboard.

Your moodboard can be a collection of images that help you organize relaxation ideas, color motifs, garden architecture, comfy furniture, natural flooring and other elements you envision. Make multiple moodboards to help you refine your ideas.

How do you relax, de-stress, or rejuvenate? Breathing exercises? Do you relax with yoga? Reading? Arts and crafts? Aroma therapy? Cooking? Sleeping? Then build a garden that accommodates your specific technique and enjoyment. For instance, if you enjoy naps, then maybe incorporate a hammock or cabana with flowing fabrics and mosquito nets. Or add tall hedges that act as soundbarriers. If you like cooking, incorporate simple kitchen garden with your favorite herbs. Or a firepit where you can cook or grill.

Photo 3. A Powerful Vista in Healing Present. Sometimes creating a meditative space starts with site observation.

Here are design ideas to create you own sanctuary or healing outdoor space.

Create A Powerful Vista. Is there are view around your house or apartment you love? Is there vista you could create with a new balcony, a renovated deck or a tree house? Observe your surroundings from different areas of your house. Change your normal eye level by using a ladder around your house. You might discover an amazingly peaceful view.

Loving an abandoned space. Sometimes there are abandoned or neglected spaces that can transform into sanctuaries. I’ve seen this makeover happen with apartment rooftops, community gardens, or a backyard. A meditation garden in a community space or residential backyard does not have to be huge. You can create your a humble, small-scale retreat to suit your preferences. With the right seating, platform and plants you can make a space of recovery and stress relief. Though the example (Photo 4) has in-ground plants, you can easily build a peaceful container garden instead. Use cheap pots, re-use buckets or buy fancy ceramic planters from a flea market. Tall or short. Just choose plants and garden elements that will make you relax. This is a time to cater to your needs. This could mean comfortable seating or tall container gardens so you don’t have to bend and strain your back. Or maybe relaxing means designing a more minimalist garden. You can choose a small amount of large, low-maintenance feature plants. Perhaps a grand agave or dwarf, sprawling fruit tree. Then add pebble or gravel flooring with gorgeous stone statuary. This reduces maintenance, provides calming beauty, and still incorporates therapeutic plants.

Photo 4. Diagram of a small, personalized, and relaxing yoga garden.

February: Food Garden Spotlight

By Michelle Domocol

Back to Inflourish: Cebu Blog

In February, what are we supposed to do in a food garden? You can maintain and take care of the seeds you planted in January. Some gardeners and farmers around Cebu plant sitaw (longyard beans), camote (sweet potato), munggos (mung beans), rabanos (radish) and singkamas (jicama). The best way to find out what’s best for your growing site is ask experienced gardeners or seed store owners in your area. Their knowledge is priceless. For February’s garden project, why not start a raised bed. Click here for an article on raised beds just for you. A simple raised bed with eggplants, sweet potatoes and tomatoes mixed with lumps of flowers like cosmos and cannas may flourish in your future garden.