The Orchid Folios

A potted plant on a windowsill
The Purple Heart in our house in Minneapolis


Dear Reader,

Much of this book was written in early 2019, half a year after I moved to Minneapolis to attend the writing program at the University of Minnesota. It was winter, and my housemates and I had Midwestern problems: windchills of -49˚C, mice wintering in our home, frozen pipes we tried to thaw with an electric blanket, the corpse of a squirrel found in our attic.

To cope with the cruelty of winter and the loneliness of being new to a place, my housemates and I began to amass houseplants. As expected, the green made everything look less dead and depressing. What I didn’t foresee, however, was that having to watch my plants for signs of thirst also reminded me that I, too, was a body, and that I had to be responsible for my own wellbeing. And not just for my own sake. When you have a houseplant, you realize that your lethargy affects not just yourself, but also the living beings around you: often, at the end of a particularly rough week, I would find the tips of my snake plant browning from dehydration.

Earlier this year, a housemate made cuttings of her Purple Heart and gave one to each of her friends to propagate. It was then that I knew Minneapolis, which had seemed so alien to me just a year before, was now also a home, and that I had a community to call my own. When COVID hit the US, the plant population in our house grew exponentially. Those who needed to leave Minneapolis to care for their family needed someone to care for their plants, and so the smaller our community got, the denser our house foliage became.

In mid-March, I, too, left my plants in my housemates’ care. Back in Singapore, my first two purchases were a Dischidia oianthia and a pothos from NTUC, which would accompany me as I began the last stage of edits for this book.

This project is the result of years of germination, latent growth, nurturance, and the care of many friends, loved ones, mentors and editors. In a way, this book is but a cutting from this larger period of growth, a cutting that I would now like to offer you. I hope that you find in The Orchid Folios a companion for these uncertain days.


(From October 17, 2020)