Tara Montaque embarks on new gardening journey during recovery
When Tara Montaque woke up from her mastectomy in March 2020, she came face to face with the most beautiful Phalaenopsis orchid, blooming white. You can call it love at first sight for the breast cancer survivor, who shared that it added great cheer to her recovery process. Since then, Montaque has become a proud plant mom. And, as she faced her diagnosis and the pandemic, she was inspired to embark on a new journey in gardening, and is grateful for a fresh beginning. “I needed an outlet, a healthy distraction and gardening became that for me,” she told Saturday Living.
Born in St Elizabeth, she remembered being raised in the farming community where everyone had beautiful flowers in their garden, including her mother. She watched in awe her mother’s love for plants and smiles in retrospect as she acknowledges that that admiration has now been passed down to her.
Learning a thing or two from her mother, she applied the knowledge to her own home garden in Kingston. She first tried her hands at growing orchids. The plant mom confessed that it took her a great deal of time to master the art of growing such a delicate flower. For some reason, she couldn’t care for them properly. When it wasn’t overwatering, it was underwatering, and she just couldn’t seem to get it right. But everything changed when the orchid named Snow came into the picture.
“I got intentional because of the sentiments attached. Now, every time I look at Snow, I remember where I’m coming from, and I’m also reminded of my village and how much I’m loved and cared for.” Snow has since spiked, is about to bloom, and will be celebrating two years of love and growth this upcoming March. “I am so happy, and I can’t wait to see her in all her glory. I kept an orchid alive for almost two years! That’s a personal record,” she added with excitement.
These days, she has grown close to 100 plants, including but not limited to episcias, bromeliads, succulents, sago palm, agave, column cactus and many others.
The biggest hurdle she has had to jump so far has to do with care. According to Montaque, caring for plants can be time-consuming, “ they are very jealous and require your undivided attention. They need you to talk to them, gently stroke, water and feed them.” Sometimes, the demand can be too great for the wife and mother of two boys, but she finds the quality quiet time with her plants fulfilling and therapeutic.
“It improves my mood, provides exercise; you’d be surprised to see how much calories I burn from just spending a few hours gardening. But it doesn’t feel like labour; it’s all love,” she said.
Enjoying the pleasures of watching her plants flourish under her care is everything. “One time, I got a plant from a friend that was on the brink of death. And to see where it is now. I am in constant awe. All it needed was a little love,” she pointed out. She also recounted a tale of giving up a plant gifted to her by her mom back in 2017, only to receive a baby from that plant this year, courtesy of her helper who rescued and nurtured the plant back to life. She is now even more grateful to the caregiver and happy to be in a better position to care for the offspring of her former plant.
For her, gardening provided the perfect connection to God, “I always say I see God in nature. It’s our chill spot. He speaks to me through the plants.”
Since learning many lessons about nature, Montaque has provided some gardening tips for new plant parents:
Six tips for new plant parents
1. Start off with low maintenance plants.
2. Take your time in acquiring plants. It’s very addictive, but also very costly. I have to restrain myself from visiting plant shops and attending plant shows. It’s easy to get carried away.
3. Get to understand the lighting in your space. Do your research on which plants will do well based on where you live.
4. Stop overwatering, and don’t underwater either. Create a balance.
5. Most importantly, talk to them, visit them daily.
6. Follow plant blogs and watch videos to gain knowledge about the process.