"Horticulture teaches us to be responsible with our natural heritage, a precious heritage that most people are unaware of. It teaches us to be proud of what we have, to stand up and fight for it no matter what the cost, simply because it is worth it".
Tell us the basics about you.
Gideon: Hello, my name is Gideon Lim from Klang, I‘m 23 years old and I am currently studying Business and Marketing at SEGI College Subang Jaya. I am also an amateur horticulturist/conservationist at heart, which is why currently I specialize in the area of growing carnivorous plants.
Horticulture? Wow many people have never come across this term before, what is it all about?
G: Well horticulture is basically the art and science of growing plants. Many people actually do this for a living, such as large scale food crop producers, farmers, and ornamental plant growers. On the other hand, there are people like me who treat horticulture as a hobby, though I do plan to make it into my career in the not too distant future. What interests me the most about horticulture is the conservational aspect of it. With a bit of botanical and horticultural knowledge, even amateur growers like me are able to cultivate rare and exotic plants that are often endangered in wild. It is amazing how we are now able to protect many species of plants which are threatened in the wild right here in our own backyards!
It seems you are very passionate about horticulture. What got you into it?
G: I owe my passion towards horticulture and plants in general to my parents and my upbringing, especially my father. From a very young age I was taught to appreciate and love the beauty of nature, mostly because our (old) house was filled with plants. Even though we lived in the city our (old) house was so fully planted it looked like a jungle in our yard. This is probably due to the fact that my father always dreamed live in a jungle environment, so while we couldn’t move our house into the jungle, he literally moved the jungle into our house! Overtime, I inherited his “green thumb”. As the jungle in our house grew, so did my passion.
The media also played a huge role in instilling the nature lover in me. It was through nature documentaries and the Internet that I was introduced to the wonderful world of carnivorous plants – a particular family of plants which I am particularly fond of to this day. I think it is obvious why they would fascinate just about anyone – because of their unique ability to catch animals as prey! To the budding naturalist in me, they truly stand as a testament to the remarkable adaptations nature has evolved in order for them to not only survive, but thrive! Indeed some of these plants have developed ingenious ways of trapping their animal prey. Take for instance the Venus Fly Trap (Dionaea muscipula) – a plant that snaps shut its jaw-like traps in a split second; or, the Drosera glanduligera commonly referred to as the “Glid” – which uses spring loaded tentacles to literally catapult its prey into an inescapable sticky trap. The list goes on!
Once I got my very first pot of carnivorous plant, which I think was a local “monkey cup plant” or “pitcher plant”, I knew I was hooked for life. More recently, I’ve gotten involved in various other carnivorous plant related groups on Facebook, which has led me to start my own projects of “Conservation Through Cultivation”.
What does “Conservation Through Cultivation” mean?
G: Conservation through cultivation is a well known idea among horticulturists and conservationists that we are able to conserve and protect rare and endangered species through artificial means. This is especially useful when the original habitat of the particular plant has already been destroyed due to human development, or is rendered unsafe due to poaching. Indeed some practitioners of this concept are so successful with their conservation efforts that they are able to turn it into a business. Take the famous horticulturist Robert Cantley for example; he is the owner of a large company which specializes in the mass production of rare Nepenthes, the plant we locals refer to as “monkey cups”. Without him, and others like him, it is quite possible that many of the species we know today would be lost forever. It is something that small time “backyard growers” like me strives to emulate. Indeed I already have a couple of projects running as we speak!
So Gideon, have you faced any challenges so far in your endeavours towards conservation? If so, how have you overcome them?
G: Yes, and sad to say, it was never the plants, but rather the people. People can sometimes be very discouraging to your cause when it happens to run against the grain of the social norm. Without getting into the details, some people have been very rude or hostile to me when I propose my ideas and visions for the future, especially if they are locked onto the notion that some things in horticulture and conservation are too big or impossible to achieve, well, let’s just say I disagree with them. I mean, they don’t call me a saint for nothing! Other than that, social pressure and online harassment used to be frustrating in the beginning, but eventually I realized that the more they doubted and hated me, the more I strived for success. Come to think of it, I would not have accomplished many feats without their “aggressive motivational tactics” [laughs]. On more recent events, I’ve had people actually stealing my plants after I had released them back into the wild. I have mixed feelings about this. On one hand, my long term goal to reintroduce populations back into the wild may be damped a little; but on the other, I have actually satisfied somebody’s need to own such a plant, thereby relieving them of the urge to poach similar plants from the wild. I don’t know, let’s just hope my plants found a better home.
Let’s say someone wanted to get involved. What would your advice be to get started?
G: Simple! Start growing your choice of plants and take the time to understand what they are all about. Stay consistent and have a passion for conservation. Be open to new ideas, learn everything you need to know about horticulture and spread the message whilst creating an awareness.
How would you like to contribute back to society through horticulture?
G: Well, sharing the plants which are the results of my hard work would be the first step! As I mentioned above people like me are striving to emulate whatever “pros” are already doing, which is growing these amazing plants and giving them back to society as part of our natural heritage, not only for us Malaysians, but for the human race as a whole. From a scientific standpoint, horticulturists are also making huge advancements in discovering new cures for diseases from plants, new methods of growing more food to feed the world, and other discoveries about our ecology. I cannot furnish you with the details yet because I am so new to the industry, but things like this are surely worth protecting.
I’d also like to see myself as an educator, because sharing ideas and possibilities with the world are much more important than just sharing a few plants here and there. (I guess this is where marketing comes in handy!) Horticulture teaches us to be responsible with our natural heritage, a precious heritage that most people are unaware of. It teaches us to be proud of what we have, to stand up and fight for it no matter what the cost, simply because it is worth it. There are some amazing things in this world that are truly irreplaceable (they go extinct!), and I intend to share my love for protecting them with the world. Indeed, Malaysia is blessed with more than 30 species of monkey cups and other carnivorous plants, some of which can only be found here and nowhere else in the world! What about all the other species of flora and fauna out there that has yet to be described by science? So be proud my friends!
What do you think of the tagline #LLA (Live, Love and Appreciate)? What does it mean to you?
G: Everything. In order to truly live, we must love, and in order to love we must appreciate what we have around us, or more importantly, who we have around us. A lot of things in my life would not have been possible if it was not for the support from my family and friends – my hobby in horticulture and conservation being one of them. For example, I get tons of physical and monetary support from my parents who were with me all the way, did I forget to mention that both my mom and my dad contributed the very first plants to my collection? I’d like to add that my father also accompanies me on most of my mountain hikes and project hikes. The emotional support from my girlfriend and friends from social media groups has also played a tremendous role in pushing me forward through dark and discouraging times. To those reading, you know who you are, and I truly value your friendships! I guess I owe my growth and success to everyone around me, and therefore, so do my plants.
Lastly, thank you Khairul for giving me this wonderful opportunity to share my story with you and the rest of the world. It is only a beginning chapter, so if you enjoyed it, stay tuned for more! I wish you all the best in your current business and future endeavours!
Write up by Ahmad Khairul Azim
Introduction text and photos by Alyssa Krista