Austin Hacker and GREEN THUMB INTELLIGENCESunday, January 31, 2021
“It feeds my soul to watch plants grow from seeds or cuttings. To see them bloom brings me a sense of immense accomplishment and joy.” — Austin Hacker
Green thumb intelligence is a form of generational wealth which tends to be both overlooked and understated. As the world may now turn to new green deals, we can expect green thumb intelligence to mature in favour of a carbon-free world.
Green Thumb Intelligence
The rudiments of Austin Hacker's green thumb intelligence were firmly established by his grandparents and his mother. Austin, who hails from Seaford Town, Westmoreland, gave us a peek into his childhood. He describes his indoor and outdoor exposure to florae: “My grandparents and mom always had plants around the home and outdoors… My mom had large barrel-shaped cacti that would bloom and then fruit, after which I would pick and eat them as they tasted very unusual. Both my grandparents love orchids, especially my grandfather, who had them on his verandah… I was very fascinated with the unusual colours of the blooms.”
Succulent Fanatics & The Daily Bloom
Continuing the family tradition, by age 13 Austin started his own garden with a few thriving succulents, and he fervently began collecting different species and genera from nurseries in Montego Bay. However, the young gardener eventually got bored because he couldn't find a wide array of plant species within the confines of the second city.
Austin hopped online to find a community of like-minded Jamaicans who had the same passion for growing succulents and cacti. “To my surprise I found a group called 'Succulent Fanatics' which had persons from all over the island who had the same passion. They gave me details about plant and agricultural shows that happen all over the island and sellers who I could purchase plants from, which was very helpful,” he said.
By his final year of high school, Austin took a trip to Agro Grace Ltd for the bare root orchid sale where he “found the hybrid desert rose plants and was enamoured with the variety of colours and the unusual trunks on the plants.” As plant lovers do, he bought nine of them on the very same day.
When the second sale rolled around the next year, Austin was well versed in succulents, having over-watered and revived them many times over. On this occasion, he set his eyes upon the orchid, which he deems his “second love”. He admits, “I had a rough start as the first three I bought at the sale died within months and so I vowed never to buy them again.”
Austin's orchid joy was revived by a Facebook community called “The Daily Bloom” which exposed him to new and exciting plants. The group exposed him to “plants that [he] never knew existed in Jamaica, especially orchids”. The group's influence on the young gardener has been tremendous since he expanded his plant repertoire after “seeing all the posts on Facebook of persons' orchids”.
Austin recounts, “I became more interested in them as much as my mum had been…I felt as if I could grow them with more research and guidance from the group…I began collecting from different persons…where I met Claude Hamilton, a well-renowned grower and seller who I bought some plants from in bloom…I was so nervous as I was very young and not every seller wants to deal with a beginners…” Luckily, and to his surprise, the affable Hamilton was ready to educate the orchid beginner on the basics and the intricacies of the species.
The Daily Bloom also provided Austin with an orchid and succulent mentor. He speaks about a wonderful woman from the west who “practically owned very plant imaginable, at one point or the other. She was so kind to give me succulent cuttings and hoyas that I'd never seen or known about… I was happy and grateful for the free plants….most flourished in my care and I even gave her back plants that she lost”.
Do your research
Austin's advice for beginners is in keeping with that of more experienced collectors:
1. Research everything that you wish to grow.
2. Look at what your neighbours or persons within your region grow well and try to do similarly.
3. Not everyone who sells plants is a grower, so don't take everyone's word for watering and light requirements. Rely on your own research.
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