73-year-old Hor Cheng Siong, more affectionately known as Uncle Siong, used to be an introverted homebody.
Ever since his retirement, the ex-chicken rice seller admitted that he had nothing to do.
"After five years of retirement, life can be very boring. You definitely need to have friends. It's hard without them."
It was only in his silver years did Uncle Siong discover an unexpected hobby.
Caretaker of the community garden
In a recent video by the Singapore Kindness Movement posted to Facebook on June 21, 2019, Uncle Siong described how he developed his love for gardening.
The video has since gained much traction online, racking up 1,500 likes and 660 shares.
Uncle Siong is the caretaker of a community garden in Punggol, a place he has lived at for 17 years. He was encouraged by his wife in 2016 to take up the responsibility, in a bid to stave off the boredom from retirement.
Every morning, the retiree heads down to the garden at Punggol Periwinkle Residents' Committee (RC) to start his list of chores—watering the plants, checking on the flowers, removing weeds and sweeping the area.
At 5pm, Uncle Siong returns to water the plants one more time.
Starting off with no gardening experience
As he gives a tour of the garden, Uncle Siong introduces the various plants he cares for, including bougainvillea, avocado trees, guava trees and lemon trees, which he tenderly calls "my babies".
From the greenery that's clearly flourishing in the compound, you would think green fingers are something Uncle Siong has had his entire life.
Instead, he revealed to Singapore Kindness Movement that prior to the community garden, he had had no prior gardening experience.
The retiree had to start from scratch, learning the tricks of the trade by borrowing gardening books from the library and watching Youtube videos.
A place for residents to bond
Under Uncle Siong's tender loving care, the garden has transformed into a co-sharing space for residents of all ages to mingle, chat and get to know each other better.
He added that neighbours would share with him food and snacks made from the plants grown in that very garden.
"My neighbours love the pandan leaves, and they use the butterfly pea flower to make kueh and other desserts, and some of them will even bring it here to share with me.
It always warms my heart when they do that."
The community garden has also become a place where children are welcome to frolick around and indulge in nature.
"The kids often come to help out here, where they will help to pluck out the weeds or water the flowers. Whenever they come here, they don't want to go home."
And the garden has not just benefited other residents of the Punggol estate, but Uncle Siong himself.
Previously lonely and sedentary, caring for the community garden has encouraged Uncle Siong to leave the house, and even allowed him to make new friends.
"After I became the caretaker of this garden, I feel happy everyday, and I've also made many friends. And the garden gives me a lot of positive energy, which is also good for my health."
Props to you, Uncle Siong, we hope your garden continues to thrive.
You can watch the full video of Uncle Siong here:
Community in Bloom
There are currently over 1,400 community gardens in Singapore maintained by over 36,000 avid gardeners.
The spread of these shared gardening spaces is part of the National Parks Board's (NParks) Community in Bloom initiative, which was launched in 2005.
For those of you who wish test your green fingers out and set up your own community garden, gather a group of like-minded residents to form a gardening interest group, and approach your local RC.
Top photo from Singapore Kindness Movement / FB