The word “clinic” brings to mind doctors and sniffling human patients, but in Sande Park in New Taipei City’s (新北市) Sanchong District (三重), there is a clinic whose patients are not human, but potted plants.
Chi Chun-feng (紀春鳳), 74, is the “doctor” at the clinic. He has successfully “resuscitated” more than 1,000 ailing potted plants over the past three years and has even offered the plants that he helped bring back to the full bloom of health up for adoption by the district’s residents.
Chi said that when he was an inspector of electricity systems at the Taiwan Railway Administration (TRA), he bought coral limestone and bricks to build flower beds near Zhengzhou Road. This was because the TRA then had not yet completed the process of putting the railway underground and there were wide-open spaces in the area where nothing grew.
On one hand the flower beds beautified the surroundings and on the other they had a positive influence on workers’ attitudes, Chi said.
Wu Cheng-chuan (吳政權), the warden of Chengde Borough (承德里), in which Sande Park is located, said Chi had joined the borough’s environmental volunteer unit and helped clean up the park since 2006.
“The reason for founding the clinic was that we had a year-end cleanout in the borough and discovered that many residents threw away their potted plants that have wilted or were dying,” he said.
The cleaning crew was unable to take care of the potted plants and Chi felt that it was a terrible waste to dump them, so he took them with him and planted them in the park after sorting them, Wu said.
He added that Chi used compost made from waste discarded in the borough for fertilizer.
“The potted plants regained their health under his care and their numbers grew from an initial 100 pots to more than 500 pots,” Wu said, adding that Chi encouraged residents in the district to adopt and take the potted plants home with them.
Although there have been instances where potted plants have been taken from the clinic without permission, Chi said he did not really mind and only hoped that whoever took the plants would take care of them.
“I work at the clinic for about seven to eight hours a day, regardless of the weather,” Chi said, adding that “taking care of plants is like raising children.”
“You have to care for them and really pay attention to their needs,” he said.
Speaking about his experiences, Chi said the amount of soil placed in a pot differs depending on what type of plant it is and so does the amount of water and fertilizer a plant needs.
Pointing to plants that used to be infected by pests, Chi said he never uses any pesticides to treat plants. He only cut off the parts of plants that have withered and died before washing the plant leaf by leaf with warm water to get rid of pests, he added.
It is like giving it a disinfectant shower, Chi said, adding that after he gave the affected plants their “bath” he would cover the pot with light cloth to protect it from the sun or bad weather.
Give the plant a couple of weeks and it would regain its strength and start sprouting green shoots, Chi said, adding that the greener the plant becomes, the bigger the sense of accomplishment he felt.