Interviewing Our HDB Corridor Gardeners: Blessing or Menace?

2 May 2023 | BY

Two gardeners, Jasmine and Dillon, share how they got started building their HDB corridor gardens that have since blossomed into a “jungle”.

hdb corridor gardens

If you live in an HDB, the odds are good you have a neighbour with a green thumb and a penchant for displaying plants along the corridor. These HDB corridor gardeners play an understated yet critical role in maintaining Singapore’s reputation for being a garden city. However, even if you might find these HDB corridor gardens pretty in bloom, your other neighbours might feel otherwise.

We conducted a straw poll to see what the public thought of HDB corridor gardens and the results were a mixed pot. While over 50% of people feel that the added greenery helps liven up the concrete space, almost 40% of respondents were wary about bugs breeding in the planters. So then, are HDB corridor gardens a blessing or a menace to society?

We had a chat with 2 such gardeners: Jasmine (@happily.ever.after.plants) and Dillon (@myemptybedroom) in a bid to understand why they’ve taken on the controversial task of making HDB corridors a landscape to behold.

How they started collecting their plants

Every gardener’s journey starts off differently. For Jasmine, her horticulture endeavours began 7 years ago while she was buying some potted flowers to spruce up her home for Chinese New Year. Unfortunately, those plants were not long for this world, so Jasmine turned her attention to edible plants like rosemary, basil, and pandan.

hdb corridor garden jungleImage credit: @happily.ever.after.plants

In the following years, Jasmine added succulents to her growing collection which was slowly taking over the corridor right outside her home. “We have a generous amount of space that is right outside our unit and not shared with the neighbouring unit,” she explained. “This allowed me to experiment with more outdoorsy plants that can grow better with more light and space.”

Dillon’s path to his garden began around the same time Jasmine’s did but for different reasons. “I needed some ‘life’ in a quiet room, to nurture, to watch it grow and thrive and hopefully one day mature into a tree.” That 1 “life” grew into 2, then 3, and then Dillon stopped counting.

tree at a doorDillon’s first tree that he bought years ago.
Image credit: Xue Li

But his flourishing hoard of plants was starting to intrude into his private space, and that was when he decided to relocate a good number of them outside. Thankfully, the space had little foot traffic as it is only shared between him and one other neighbour.

“I was lucky enough to have a corridor area that is somewhat private and shared between myself and my neighbour who tolerates my hobbies,” Dillon said. “There’s an invisible line and I do not intrude on their ‘spaces’!”

How the neighbours reacted to the corridor gardens

hdb corridor gardens jungleImage credit: @happily.ever.after.plants

The one thing that Jasmine and Dillon’s corridor gardens have in common, besides plants, is that they’re both situated in shared spaces that their neighbours also occupy. And while the gardeners can control what type of plants go with what type of pots, they can’t control their neighbours’ reactions to the mass of greenery at their doorstep.

Thankfully, Jasmine and Dillon have never been on the receiving end of any complaints.

“A lot of people are actually surprised when they see my garden,” Jasmine shared, adding that most people will stop to admire her plants. And while Dillon’s apartment is located in a secluded part of the complex that sees little footfall, his garden still receives the occasional passing of “Wah” when someone walks by.

staghorn fernA hanging staghorn fern that’s part of Dillon’s garden.
Image credit: @myemptybedroom

There was one neighbour of Dillon’s who was concerned about his garden being a potential breeding ground for mosquitoes. But since he doesn’t practice using any drainage dishes so water doesn’t pool and drains off quickly, any and all apprehensions were swiftly squashed.

Jasmine is also the regular recipient of visits from the National Environment Agency (NEA) during their mosquito checks.

Tips on growing a corridor garden

Having spent many years growing their gardens, Jasmine and Dillon know a thing or two about building a “jungle” along their corridors. “Be mindful of the time that may be needed to upkeep the garden,” Jasmine advised, adding that she spends an average of 1-2 hours per week to keep her garden in tip top shape. More time will be necessary if the garden grows “out of hand.”

On the logistics side, she suggests getting plants and fixtures that won’t obstruct the human traffic that the corridors are meant for.

watering ferns and plants in a hdb corridor gardenDillon watering his plants.
Image credit: Josiah Neo

For those that are just starting out, Dillon recommends doing proper research into the plants and how they’re affected by their environment. “Providing optimal conditions for the plants was my main concern,” he said. “I had to account for the prevalent temperature, humidity, and ventilation.” He then used that information to determine how often he should water his plants, what kind of potting media they’ll thrive the best in, and where in the corridor they’ll flourish.

HDB corridor gardeners

hdb corridor jungle gardenA wall of plants outside Dillon’s home.
Image credit: @myemptybedroom

It’s true what they say about Singapore being a garden city. We have the serene Botanical Gardens, the futuristic Gardens By The Bay, and the misty Shiseido Forest Valley in Jewel. But they’re all tourist traps that are perfectly manicured for the world to see. It is gardeners like Jasmine and Dillon that beautify the roads – or in this case, corridors – less taken.

So long as the leaves are green and mosquitoes are kept at bay, neighbours shouldn’t have anything to worry about.

Read other stories about HDB gardens:

Cover image credit: @happily.ever.after.plants, @myemptybedroom

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