PCSH’S Plant Whisperer

Doctor with healing hands not only for sick patients but for flowering plants as well

As a Chief Medical Officer stationed at the 24-hour Accident & Emergency (A&E) Department of the Perak Community Specialist Hospital (PCSH), Dr Edward Lim Chee Hong has proven himself to be skilled not only in treating sick patients, but also equally adept in breathing new life into flowering plants.

Despite putting in an average of seven to ten hours a day at the A&E Department, Dr Edward had always made time to attend to the plants within the hospital compound, most of which had been meticulously planted and nurtured by him personally; coming back on his off days and/or staying back after work to help water and/or prune the trees and flowering shrubs.

His interest in flowering plants and foliage began at an early age of 10 years old. From then on, he started physically planting them, studying the intricate characteristics involved and learning how best to save them from an ‘untimely death’. He couldn’t bear to see vacant land laid barren and felt the urge to grow plants and flowers to brighten up the landscape.

It was this same underlying burning interest that led him to initiate moves to change the then bare landscape of PCSH when he joined its staff 14 years ago. Being a not-for-profit hospital that aspired to provide quality healthcare especially for poor and needy patients, the hospital could ill afford to beautify its grounds.

Dr Edward explained that tending to his ‘little nursery’ within the hospital offered him an outlet to de-stress himself after a hard day’s work. He said the joy of watching the flowers, trees and shrubs that he had planted, thrive and grow under his careful monitoring and care, gave him infinite and indescribable joy.

“It is so beautiful to look at (the flowering plants) and they are also therapeutic for those who are feeling low,” he added.

Dr Edward said it was not easy looking for suitable plants to be planted in the hospital. Initially, he brought cuttings and seedlings from his house. Then he salvaged discarded plants and gave them a new lease of life in his ‘little nursery’.

As the years progressed, Dr Edward sharpened his skills in bud grafting, especially on bougainvillea plants, resulting in one bougainvillea plant that bore two or more colours. As a testimonial of his planting skills, two big pots of blooming bougainvillea plants: one with white and purplish pink flowers and another in a combination of white, purplish pink and red flowers – stand proudly on display at the entrance to the hospital.

The doctor said bougainvillea plants were ideal as they need plenty of sunlight but not too much watering and once they were pruned regularly, they blossomed even more abundantly.

He pointed out that he could draw a parallel linking his bud-grafting skills to the realities of life; one has to practise continuously in order to improve and excel. Similarly, one has to understand and learn the different characteristics and requirements of each and every plant to know under what conditions they will thrive well and if they were to ‘fall sick’, how best one can save it.

Apart from bougainvillea plants, Dr Edward has also planted big leafy yam leaves, soothing Weeping Willow, and majestic Red Palms at the hospital’s miniature Zen Garden. All in all, he said he has now planted about 50 different varieties of plants, flowers and trees in the hospital compound.

To celebrate his 48th birthday this year, Dr Edward said he spent a ”sizeable amount” to buy a “Cycads” plant (in Cantonese known as “sew tit she”) which has a long fossil history. Although the plant is known to withstand drought conditions, it is notably a very difficult species to maintain as even delicate butterflies can cause serious damage.

Taking on the challenge of maintaining this Cycads Tree, Dr Edward explained that he had bought the plant as it had a sturdy trunk with 10 “heads” sprouting pinnate leaves. He felt this was somehow synonymous with the growth of PCSH – how it started from its humble beginnings as a Perak Chinese Maternity Hospital before diversifying and growing into a multi-disciplinary hospital- the Perak Community Specialist Hospital.

He hopes that in the future he would be able to plant the vibrant Plumeria (Frangipanis) flowers in the 30 dividers in the hospital’s 262 free car-parking lots, thereby creating a colourful sea of flowers once they bloom simultaneously.

“A lot of people prefer to go to a nursery and simply buy the plants they like – but then, they do not get to experience the joy of watching them grow under your tender loving care,” said Dr Edward.

“Studies have shown that people who take a keen interest in gardening, have healthier mental states of mind and lead happier lives. I personally feel great satisfaction when people admire and praise the beauty of the flowers, and even to take photographs with them,” he added.

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