By Mika Savela.
The climate in Hong Kong is very forgiving to the oblivious gardener. To see your houseplants prosper requires very little effort in the all year round, self-watering humidity with more than plentiful precipitation. Perhaps this relative ease of maintaining greenery translates to seeing potted plants everywhere you go in Hong Kong. They are the staple elements of roof terraces, balconies, entrances, backyards and alleys. The only time flower pots are not allowed is during a tropical cyclone.
On one hand, the potted plants are snippets of nature, miniaturized in the high urban density of Hong Kong. Their popularity could be explained by seeing them as highly personal parks and gardens, little blips of joyful green, in a city with simply no space for front lawns and picket fences. On the other hand, plants are used to mark various levels of privacy in the public space. By occupying small areas with flower pots, it becomes clear that an area belongs to someone, and that it is being tended. And once again, in a city where personal space is limited, even the smallest effort to differentiate private from public can make all the difference.
However, the most fascinating quality of the potted plants of ordinary Hong Kong homes and small businesses, is their seemingly random, but refined aesthetics: two lopsided plants on a worn out wooden bench, a careless mixture of pots of all different sizes and materials, bushy, twiggy, hanging and everything in between. As if by accident, these displays of greenery often seem like perfectly positioned, effortless and fresh still life, styled by the leading lifestyle blogs and magazines.
But perhaps they are not accidents. After seeing so many coherent, similarly simple and pretty groupings of plants, I have started to believe that Hong Kong residents truly are floristically in tune with the surrounding sub-tropical urban flora. Here, everything gets moldy, everything gets wet. Plants are a way of turning decay into green beauty of the everyday.