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Case Study Series: Free Tree Society’s Bangsar Nursery

Free Tree Society Kuala Lumpur is a non-profit environmental organisation that spreads environmental stewardship messages through giving away trees for free. Its flagship nursery is located in cosmopolitan Bangsar amidst the backdrop of a former rubber estate, now the Pulai Trail and the last of the area’s green lungs. This nursery is a place for conducting gardening activities, classes, workshops, meetings and so on. It houses about 5000 plants for giving away, and is a perfect place to learn about plants, animals, sustainable gardening and natural environment.

A bird’s eye view of Free Tree Society Bangsar Nursery

Existing wildlife 

There are a number of wild animals that can be found at the nursery. A wide array of insects is observed: stingless bees, honey bees, butterflies, moths, dragonflies, damselflies, beetles etc. Some larger animals visit the nursery as well. For example, spiders, four-lined tree frog, common toad, monitor lizard, bronzeback snake, green pigeon and squirrels. 

A butterfly is resting on the leaf of a plant in the nursery

A leaf-eating grasshopper on the big leaf of a Calathea plant

Key elements of attracting wild animals

Animals need food, shelter and water to survive. All these resources are available at the nursery. The garden is full of plants and remains some degree of wilderness. The fruits and flowers are reserved for the animals. Leaf piles or rocks of different shapes, overturned flower pots and rotting wood provide shelter for animals to lay eggs or hide themselves. These garden visitors can quench their thirst at the wildlife pond next to the entrance of the nursery. There is no use of chemical at the nursery so that the animals can live freely and safely. 

The wildlife pond is home for many aquatic animals

Flowers of Kemunting (Rhodomyrtus tomentosa) plant

These bricks are placed under plants to provide shelter for small animals

The nursery is a good example of pollinator gardening, as there are many types of pollinators in the garden. From all sorts of insects to birds and mammals e.g. bats, these pollinators enjoy savouring nectar and pollen of flowers in the nursery. Some examples of nectar-providing plants at the nursery are Costus speciosus, Antigonon leptopus, Heliconia sp., Begonia sp., Murraya sp., Alpinia sp. and different varieties of orchid. It is also important to have some host plants in the garden so that the juveniles of moths and butterflies get enough food.

Flowering shoot of a spiral ginger (Costus speciosus)

Figs and palms are very useful plants as they provide food for a variety of animals in the city. Some of the common palm trees such as coconut tree (Cocos nucifera) and lipstick palm (Cyrtostachys renda) bear nectar-rich flowers and edible fruits. Both the flowers and fruits are important food source for birds and other pollinators or fruit-eating animals. Local fig plants such as weeping fig (Ficus benjamina) also provide food for insects and birds.

A clump of lipstick palms (Cyrtostachys renda) in the middle of nursery

Sustaining and establishing biodiversity in small urban gardens

No garden is too small. We can add greenery to our cities by growing plants at our own houses. There are many types of green spaces in the city. However, the most common one is the balcony garden, which is often exposed to direct sunlight and strong wind. We can overcome these limitations by having some big, bushy plants. These plants provide shade for other smaller plants. They also act as natural windbreaks to protect other plants from high winds. We need to understand the conditions of our garden. Then, we can try to create suitable microclimates by growing plants that can survive under such conditions.

Tall, shrubby plants provide shade for other shade-loving plants. 

To keep the plants healthy, practice composting and feed the plants with sufficient nutrients so that they are resistant to pests and diseases. We can regulate the nutrient inputs by adding different materials to the compost. For example, egg shells are rich in calcium while banana peels supply both organic materials and minerals such as sodium and magnesium. Although often being overlooked, soil health is an important factor that determines the success of an urban garden. We can start establishing soil biodiversity by introducing earthworms. They are good at improving soil structure and fertility.

By ShangMing

A plant lover. I like small, medium, gigantic, ordinary, exotic, local, foreign plants. Just because they thrive to stand out.