Growing Where You’re Planted
For Toby Chan, plants are more than just pleasant decorations on the compact urban landscape of Hong Kong – they are the key to his personal wellbeing.
Chan, who graduated from RCHK in 2016, was the host of the gardening team for his CAS Project. He was directly inspired by his friend and mentor, Chung Chung, resident gardener here at the College since July 2011. The two men recently sat down together at RCHK to discuss their mutual passion for the natural world, and how they plan to share that passion with a new generation of students.
“I remember Toby as being very eager to learn, enthusiastic, always full of questions,” says Chung. “Our common interest has built a solid friendship between us.”
Chan, who is currently studying at Heng Seng Management College in Sha Tin, says one of his favorite memories of RCHK is the learning process.
“When I first started school, I didn’t value the whole learning process all that much,” says Chan. “But learning is really satisfying! There are so many ways the teachers and staff here are positive and active (in students’ lives) at all times.”
For example, Chan recalls sending a science report to one of his teachers, who helped him check it for grammar and spelling before it was formally submitted.
“You really understand the world a bit more by learning different disciplines,” says Chan. “At RCHK, the most important thing I learned was how to communicate and cooperate with others efficiently and effectively; which are skills very useful for building a career.”
Chan says learning gardening directly from Chung was particularly valuable.
“He went into the detailed techniques and skills of gardening, like how you hold the tools, how you manage the soil and the amount of water each plant gets – information you really need to know,” says Chan.
Over the years, Chung has organized all the plants and vegetation around campus to his specifications, making routine tasks - such as fertilising - easier to manage. Chan recalls that Chung would encourage him and his classmates to take conceptual ideas about how a plant or a landscape should look and be cut and presented and turn them into a reality, thereby customising the learning experience for each student.
“I really love working with the students,” says Chung. “I enjoy their young energy; I get a lot out of it.”
And apparently Chan does too. He and Chung are working together to host “Glorious Gardening” - GG for short - a workshop held for RCHK Secondary students this upcoming spring that will focus on plant observation, management, and experimentation.
earn even more about plants, and how we may be able to introduce new species of plants to the school,” says Chan. “Doing this will also help students balance out their lives more by exposing them to green places and learn something different and refreshing.”
Chan shared his concern that students today are getting too much screen time between smartphones, tablets and laptops, and learning about the natural world could not only contribute to the environment around them, but also to their own personal wellbeing.
“When I finish school and walk home, I see a lot of plants around me and I appreciate the variety of flowers they can produce,” says Chan. “Their coloring is beautiful and natural – not manmade. You can use an iPad or computer to manipulate an image of that flower, but you can’t replace the actual true color - why don’t we value the actual thing rather than focusing on the image itself?”
One plant that Chan would specifically like to try to grow locally is the Myosotis; more commonly known as Forget-Me-Nots, which are found commonly in colder climates.
“Some might say that gardening may be a pretty boring job because it is just the same thing over and over,” says Chan. “But there’s actually a lot to think about; like designing how the grass might look, the shape you might want to try to have and whether (the plants) are healthy or not – there’s a lot to be aware of.”
Stay tuned for more information about Chan’s workshop on the RCHK website and social media pages!