The rapid post-sixties rise of the urban tower block saw Asia's low-level landed properties demolished for mass housing projects; and made backyards the domain of the minority who can afford detached homes.
It also created a unique urban gardening culture which is starting to flower as new voices popularize the idea.
Setting himself the goal of "bring gardening to the masses" Singaporean Wilson Wong, 28, started the Green Culture website in September 2004.
With no gardening shows on television and plant nursery staff often puzzled about how to advise apartment gardeners, the forum has attracted hundreds of active high-rise gardeners, keen to swap ideas and plant cuttings.
"I thought I was the only one -- the only odd nut, the only crazy person interested in growing vegetables" said Wong, whose balcony-less flat houses 80 African violets, South American bromeliads and pitcher plants.
"Now people get to know each other. They exchange plants, they meet, they make nursery trips together. It makes gardening so much less painful".
"From the scientific point of view, every plant produces a cooling effect," said Professor Nyuk Hien Wong, of the Department of Building at the National University of Singapore, who designs the green walls.
"The rule of thumb is one degree less is a five percent (energy) saving".
Against this backdrop, Asia's apartment gardeners are taking a small, but important, step in the right direction, he said.
"If you look at it as one individual unit doing that, it may not be that significant. But if everybody is doing it, there may be a very big impact".
The Case of the Purloined Papaya
When I visited Singapore last year, I saw some fruit and vegetable gardens next to apartment blocks such as the one pictured to the right. The sky was exceptionally gray that day because of intentionally set forest fires in Indonesia. The smoke drifts across Southeast Asia, creating gray skies, a smoky aroma, and unhappy lungs.
One of the residents had planted a papaya tree and covered the growing papayas with cloth to protect them (from birds? from insects?). The cloth alone, however, wasn't enough. The grower needed a sign to deter potential purloiners of the prized papaya. The first photo below shows the covered papayas; the second photo shows a closeup of the sign.
The English portion of the sign reads "I appreciate you like the small papaya. Please do not pluck it. You can buy it at the nearby market. Thank you!"
Random link from the archive: Curry Leaves
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