Thursday, 8 May 2014

Volunteering with the Free Tree Society

"Trees are sanctuaries. Whoever knows how to speak to them, whoever knows how to listen to them, can learn the truth. They do not preach learning and precepts, they preach, undeterred by particulars, the ancient law of life."
~ Hermann Hesse

I have always loved the idea of giving out plants as a greening and environmental education effort. I haven't known a person not to smile upon finding himself or herself the recipient of a potted plant. Deep down inside, we all want to be reminded of our connection with the natural world. We all love to bring a little bit of nature into our homes. We all hope to be successful at nurturing our plants and feel triumphant when we manage to propagate them. I am a big fan of tree-planting societies, urban community food garden projects, guerilla gardening and seed-bombing. We need more of this oddball, non-violent, thumb-our-noses-at-corporate-agriculture, tree-hugging kind of rebellion.

Over here in Malaysia, we would occasionally receive potted plants at events organised by MNS or FRIM, but there are no organisations with the specific objective of giving out plants. Until 2012, that is.

In March 2012, MNS member Baida Hercus founded the Free Tree Society of Kuala Lumpur ("FTS KL"). The Society is based on very simple principles - they take seeds, sprout them, look after the seedlings, and then give away healthy little plants to the public for free on environmental observance days such as World Water Day, Earth Day and World Environment Day! 

Through this act of giving away plants for free, the Society hopes to encourage a whole host of other green goals and objectives, such as to: 
- Increase and improve the suburban and city greenscape; 
- Educate people on the correct way to plant and care for trees;
- Increase peoples' awareness of environmental holidays; 
- Encourage a love of local plants; and 
- Establish a dedicated plant society where like-minded city greenies can come together for the love of plants and grow and nurture seedlings in a sustainable and environmentally conscious manner. 

My best friend Nic and I dropped by the FTS KL Nursery on Earth Day 2014 to volunteer our services for a few hours after seeing some posters shared on Facebook. We came away impressed with the Society and its objectives, leadership, supporters and, of course, its beautiful nursery, which is managed in a way that minimises waste and saves resources.

The beautifully landscaped nursery with a Hobbit House in the middle of it all.

Exquisite terrariums for sale to raise funds for the Society. FTS offers terrarium and gardening courses, too!

Nic and I clearing weeds from the pond and weeding the garden. All the garden waste goes into a compost pile.

Trees to be given out to visitors, along with instructions for their care. 

A brilliant rainwater harvesting system.

Baida very kindly offered Green Living the space for a little booth outside their nursery for their Earth Day Free Tree Giveaway so we could carry out some environmental education activities, so Aravind and I turned up to join in the festivities.

Manning our little booth under the trees.

The Society accepts donations of seeds, plants, volunteer help and cash.

Visitors admiring the nursery and pond during the Free Tree Society's recent Earth Day Tree Giveaway. The water in the pond is reused for watering the plants with, so nothing goes to waste!

Young visitors at our booth.

There's even a tiny jungle trail that is part of Federal Hill at the cul-de-sac where the nursery is located. It must be the shortest jungle trail I have ever seen. It took all of one minute to complete.

The trail had quite a bit of litter, though, so I did my usual thing and picked up all the litter.

There are many ways members of the public can help and support FTS KL. Our involvement should go beyond just taking and benefiting from the free plants that FTS KL gives away. Here are ways in which all of us can help: 

The best donation you can make is that of your time and effort. Drop by their nursery on any Tuesday from 4.30 - 6.30 p.m. or any Saturday from 9.00 - 12.00 a.m. to help them plant and re-pot plants, weed the garden and keep the nursery premises clean and pest-free. If you are good at painting signs, FTS KL also needs someone who is able to paint wooden garden signs for them.

You can donate seeds and plants to them when you drop by, but if there is no-one around, there is a Seed Depository outside the nursery gates so donors could drop off seeds and small plants.

FTS KL needs pots to grow their young plants in, so please spring-clean your garden and donate your unused and unwanted pots to them.

4. If you have a large garden (and a green thumb) and you would like to help raise seedlings, please get in touch. FTS KL will organise seeds and materials to help you start. Host gardeners need to be committed to looking after the seedlings to ensure a good germination & survival rate.

Popsicle sticks make great biodegradable plant markers. Children can help collect and wash popsicle sticks to be donated to FTS KL for use as plant markers. 

Free Tree Society’s nursery is located on Jalan Limau Purut in Bangsar (opposite the Bangsar Aman apartments). There is no street number so keep a lookout for the green Balinese flags that adorn the nursery. 

To learn more about FTS KL, please visit their website at and connect with them on Facebook at

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