The gardening business is an endeavour for all seasons, including Chinese New Year, and nothing makes Home Garden’s Jenny Ho Lei Peng happier than to help gardens flourish everywhere. ZIEMAN reports.
FOR Jenny Ho Lei Peng, gardening isn’t just a business — it’s practically a calling, and she wants to spread the joy.
If Ho — who operates Home Garden in SS2, Petaling Jaya, and Home Retreat on Old Klang Road — had her way, every residential neighbourhood would have a shop you could run to for all your gardening needs.
“You could sit in the comfort of an air-conditioned room, order your plants and have it delivered to you,” she says.
Right now, though, she’s concentrating on the two existing shops.
“My aim is for Home Garden to operate like a convenient store,” she says.
Ho started her home garden business with her business partner, Deric Ng, in Bukit Bintang in 2001 with a start-up capital of RM500,000.
Going into the gardening business came naturally to Ho. When she first started, she mainly sold pottery, terracotta stuff and garden furniture from Bali and Indonesia. From there, she ventured into selling plants and herbal plants.
Two years later, she moved to a one-acre site on Old Klang Road and set up shop, calling her plant nursery Home Retreat. She expanded to SS2 just last year.
Annual turnover for the two outlets is about RM3mil. While many have complained about a slowdown in business this year, Ho’s home garden business has experienced only a slight dip.
“Every year we will sell 500 lime trees between the two outlets,” her business partner Ng says.
“Business is good especially two weeks before Chinese New Year (CNY). Each lime tree sells for between RM10.90 and RM1,000. They are mainly from Johor and Cameron Highlands. But some are imported from Taiwan, China and Holland.
“Sales will go on even after CNY as the festive season ends on the 15th day. They are also popular among the non-Chinese because of the fruits they bear,” explains Ng.
They also sell pots of lucky bamboo and artificial plum blossoms during CNY.
The one-year-old Home Garden outlet in a corner-lot, double-storey shophouse in SS2, with its modern concept is not only a nursery but Ho’s private garden. The scents of blooming orchids, lime trees and herbs perfume the air.
Ho runs her horticulture business with pride. The office is filled with potted plants, colourful flowers, herbs, fertilisers, organic pesticide, catalogues and photographs of past garden projects.
Apart from selling the usual stuff required to green your yard like seeds, fertilisers, pots and tools, Home Garden also offers general services like lawn care, landscaping and tips for kitchen gardens. Ho says she particularly enjoys designing gardens for customers, customising according to preference, budget and environmental constraints.
“Every proud owner would like to make the most of their environment. Home Garden is here to create these unique designs to fulfil these needs. This can be a competitive market to be in. A garden designer or landscape designer plays an important role in helping people with gardens, be it big or small,” she says.
For Ho, a garden is a great way to enhance a house, and it should look neat and blend in well.
“I realised there was a market for the home garden business, even among those with limited space. So far, the response has been good. We have done up a lot of small container gardens, installed roof decks for homes with limited space, created herb gardens for individuals and restaurants,” she reveals.
Ho also has clients who seek her service in setting up a vegetable garden.
“It’s not easy to sustain and maintain this kind of garden unless you have the time and knowledge,” Ho cautions.
“The demand for vegetable gardens is still small. More often, customers just want to buy seeds and plants and do it themselves for the fun of it or to save cost. Normally, they prefer to buy the finished produce to eat.
“This trend of installing and maintaining a veggie garden has not caught on. But then again, the cost to maintain this kind of garden is also quite high,” says Ho.
Home Garden also does interior landscaping for residential clients and those living in condos.
“Most of my customers want beautiful plants as part of their decor. But they failed to understand that not all plants at the nursery grow well if you plant them in your homes. Plants are unique. When you move them to another place, they may not like it.
“Apart from tossing some seeds in and watering the plants regularly, you also have to consider the soil and atmosphere. You should also give it tender loving care,” says Ho, who confesses to talking to her plants every day.
Ho takes special pride in planning a garden according to her customers’ tastes and preferences.
“The design of the gardens has to fit the landscapes required. Soil and plants are the easiest part of the arrangements but you need to be able to effectively plan and place the stones, landscape timbers, drippers and sprayers in the right places. The patch where you put the plants is the most important aspect as it should fit the landscape,” she counsels.
These days, Ho has started introducing terrariums (garden in an aquarium) among school-children. She conducts classes at her nursery for school kids and those interested.
“Terrarium is quite popular in the west. I teach people how to do easy D-I-Y terrarium. Anyone can do it if they have minimal garden space. You can create your own mini-world full of lush and beautiful plants by making your own terrarium.
“Having these terrariums can also help to improve your indoor air quality. Terrariums are easy-to-make, low-maintenance gardens, and can last with minimal water,” she says.
Terrariums start from RM38 right up to RM100, depending on the size and type of plants.
One of the biggest challenges, Ho says, is educating people on gardening. It’s not that difficult to keep a garden, she says.
“Many people are daunted by the idea of keeping plants alive or keeping a garden. This market is slowly catching up. That’s why I’ve decided to have Home Garden in certain areas. I feel that by offering a wide range of services, from potted herbal plants to gardens, I could educate people at the same time.
“I just love everything about gardening. Gardening is a hobby. I love the satisfaction of watching plants grow and bloom along the way,” enthuses Ho.
Home Garden also sells exotic garden furniture, like the teak root dining table from Bali at the premises.
“We have a few range of garden furniture sets, which comes in different styles. But teak root garden furniture from Java and Bali, Indonesia, which are the best-sellers because they are long-lasting with their hardwood charm,” she says.
For Ho, planning, planting and watching Home Garden grow is very fulfilling.
“This is my life-time hobby. The more you do it, the more proficient you get. And the possibilities of creating your dream garden is endless,” she marvels.
But nothing gives Ho more pleasure than creating a garden masterpiece for her clients.