EVERYTHING GREEN Graham Coates during his presentation at ‘The Times’ forum.
EVERYTHING GREEN Graham Coates during his presentation at ‘The Times’ forum.

MORE and more people have been drawn to indoor gardening and have become plant parents as it gave them a respite from the pandemic.

Graham Coates, first vice president and head of Megaworld Lifestyle Malls, has been gardening for 30 years. At The Manila Times Lifestyle forum "Plantastique: Sustainable Gardening for Home and Business," he described himself as a keen amateur gardener.

"I'm a very passionate gardener, so when I garden, I feel that I can really let out my creative juices and during this pandemic, we all know how difficult it has been and garden for me has been a true refuge - both mentally and physically," Coates said.

His love for gardening inspired Megaworld Lifestyle Malls to put together a new concept, which they believe will tap on the demand of gardening.

Recently launched in July is Greenhouse at Village Square Alabang - the first plant sanctuary mall in the Philippines. Specially dedicated to plant lovers and gardening enthusiasts, it houses a wide selection of plants, gardening tools, supplies and accessories.

"During the pandemic, we were challenged by many of our situations. It was a very trying time for the business world - particularly the malls. So we have to find a way that we could pivot a lot of our malls and is the reason why we decided that we will be the first mover in this category to create a completely dedicated plant sanctuary, which we call the Greenhouse," Coates said.

"The concept was born as the Philippine 'plantdemic' bloomed and demand for plants and greens grew. We at Megaworld, we realized that our overriding factor when we think about our malls is we want to make happiness a lifestyle. That is why we also wanted to find ways that we could transport that love for gardening into our malls," he added

With over 13,000 square meters of floor area, one can find more than 300 plant varieties from monstera to succulents.

"We really thought about it. We have the widest selection of plant varieties catered by a number of top suppliers. We also saw this as an opportunity to help the small entrepreneurs because they were all equally affected during the pandemic. So when we set this up, we were so pleasantly surprised that there were so many plant suppliers that wanted to participate," Coates shared.

At the moment, over 20 to 25 plant and gardening merchants are in the Greenhouse.

"So far, the results have been spectacular, everyone is happy. We really look forward to the end of these restrictions so we can go back to selling more plants," Coates said.

For keeping plant sellers and customers safe, Greenhouse was awarded a Safety Seal Certification by Las Piñas City.

"The safety precautions and the safety protocols are all in place. The idea here is you get the mall experience but it's full of plants instead of your traditional shops," Coates enthused.

Shoppers can join workshops and seminars on basic planting, bonsai caring, succulent gathering and get free consultations from gardening and landscape experts.

"These are weekly events. It's not only a venue for people to sell, it's also a venue where people can go and learn. We believe that education and doing workshops is really going to be something. For staging regional trade fairs, farmer's markets, we are in partnership with the Department of Agriculture and Department of Trade and Industry," Coates said.