When Ellen Kay and her friends get together, they speak a different language: horticulture. Kay met Mimi Moo, Kathy Chong, Sakunthala Devi, Suzanne Koo and Alvina Lim on Plants and Gardens (Malaysia), a Facebook group of people who love gardening and their friendship blossomed immediately. Out of the thousands of members in the group, the six found kindred spirits in one another and, after a few months of communicating online, they met face-to-face mid last year.
Now, they are a tight-knit group that meets regularly and they call themselves the “Fabulous Six”.
“I met Alvina at the Bak Kut Teh shop in Klang near where she lives. She was at the next table and looked very familiar. I’d seen photos of her on her posts on Facebook and I thought I recognised her. So I just said her name out loud and true enough, she turned around, ” shares Kay.
Lim adds to the story: “I was with a friend who told me that there was a lady at the next table who kept looking at me. I think this (friendship) was meant to be. We were hugging each other like long-lost friends. We are all crazy gardeners.”
When they meet, the conversation is almost entirely about plants and it can go on for hours. They are an uproarious bunch and their meetings are always filled with food and laughter.
“All of us have one thing in common: we love plants. Somehow, we found each other on the group and we have been exchanging tips and also plants ever since. We mostly talk about plants and also our other love, food, ” says Kay, with a big laugh.
Kay, Devi, Koo and Lim live in the Klang Valley but Moo and Chong live in Ipoh and could not be at Kay’s house for this interview.
“We just got back from a one-night trip to Ipoh to visit Mimi and Kathy just a few days ago, actually. And we brought back so many plants that there wasn’t any space left in the car boot! We had to hold our luggage on our laps, ” says Devi, laughing as she asks Kay to find a photo of them in the packed car.
The ladies chat with each other daily and meet up once a fortnight or so, mostly in each other’s homes or in a plant nursery somewhere. Except for Koo, who is 35, the others are in their 50s and 60s.
“Ellen brought her in so that she can do the heavy lifting, ” jokes Lim. “We call her the plant inspector because every time we are in someone’s garden, she will wander off to look at the plants and she’ll notice any irregularities or developments in all the plants that we may not notice.”
And just on cue, Koo walks up to the others holding a plant and excitedly points out some changes that she noticed.
“See! Plant inspector is at work, ” says Devi with a laugh.
“The first time I met Ellen, we chatted for three hours as though we were good friends. I actually mustered up the courage to ask her if I could see her garden. We’d communicated on social media before and she seemed like a really friendly person who was always entertaining. She obliged immediately and she even prepared tea and cakes for me and my husband. It turns out both our husbands also hit it off.”
Even though they have not known each other for very long, their friendship has enriched their lives.
“We are like sisters, actually, ” says Chong who hosted the ladies when they visited Ipoh.
“It is so important to have these kind of social connections and we care for each other and are stuck together as best friends are. We enjoy each others’ company and have so much fun together, ” shares Chong.
For Moo, her friends helped her overcome the depression she suffered after losing two of her loved ones last year.
“These ladies mean so much to me. All of us are happy sharing our passion for plants. And, after the recent gathering in Ipoh, I felt very blessed to have them in my life. They have helped tremendously in healing my depression and I look forward to having more Fabulous Six outings and gatherings, ” says Mimi.
Though some of their spouses enjoy gardening, they are nowhere close to how passionate as their wives about their plants.
“My husband calls me the crazy plant lady because if it rains in the middle of the night, I’d jump out of bed and run out to the garden to bring my plants in.
And when we go travelling, I used to call my children to check on the plants. Nowadays, I am not that fussed although I do worry about them when I go away, ” says Lim.
Although they have not known each other for very long, the ladies all share that their friendship has enriched their lives immeasurably.
“One thing about this group is that everyone is so willing to share their knowledge and even their plants, ” says Devi.
“In gardening, we can’t be selfish or stingy. We want to share what we have and learn from each other. I think that’s the foundation of our friendship. We are always willing to help each other and, every time we meet, we have plants for each other, ” Lim says, gleefully.
“Gardening is very therapeutic. When you are with plants everything feels peaceful and serene. It makes us feel happy, ” says Kay.