by Nguyễn Việt Dũng
HCM CITY — When Nguyễn Văn Huynh returned to HCM City five years ago after living for 20 years in Eastern Europe, he and his wife decided to build a house in the city.
Initially, the couple, who have four children, had no plans to start a garden since they had busy jobs and thought the city's weather would be unsuitable. But when they realised how spacious and sunny their rooftop was, they set up a lotus pond and began to grow different kinds of plants.
“Growing plants on the roof was difficult. Saigon can be very hot and sunny, and bringing soil, fertiliser and saplings up to the roof was hard. We also had to worry about waterproofing and safety," Huynh, 48, said.
Nguyễn Văn Huynh in HCM City has built a 300 sq m rooftop garden that helps his children learn about vegetables and flowers, and provides a space for family bonding. – VNA/VNS Photo
At first, a lot of the plants ended up dying. So they spent time studying about plants and how best to take care of them.
His family then spent a year creating their dream garden, and now their two-year-old rooftop space is a sight to behold, with many vegetables and colourful flowers displayed on makeshift trellises and garden trays, all sectioned off methodically.
In fact, most of the garden is used to grow vegetables like chilli, lemongrass, courgette and even grapefruit for family meals.
In the middle of the lush, beautiful space sits the aromatic lotus pond, which could cause any visitor to forget they are on top of a building in bustling HCM City.
While building the 300sq.m garden was difficult, caring for the plants has been simple because there are far fewer pests on the high roof, according to Huynh.
Huynh, who works in the construction industry, has access to many kinds of leftover materials which he used to make trellises, trays and other lightweight and environmentally friendly tools.
Every day, his family spends less than two hours tending and harvesting the crops in the garden, which cost about VNĐ60million (US$2,587) to set up.
“Our garden has brought more benefits to us than we thought it would. It provides a sense of privacy and uniqueness. It is a good environment for children to love nature and have an appreciation for Việt Nam and its plants, and for family bonding," Huynh said.
He noted that if there were more houses had rooftop gardens, they would contribute to a cleaner, less polluted HCM City.
Signs of places in Huynh’s childhood village are posted around his rooftop garden to help him remember his hometown. – VNA/VNS Photo
Remembering his home
Huynh's garden also has an amusing and unusual characteristic: throughout the space, he has posted 40 blue street signs that display the names of streets, communes and ponds in his childhood village in northern Việt Nam. The signs serve as an affectionate way for Huynh to remember his home village.
“I spent many years working abroad and I really miss my home village, but it will not be the same when I return. Many of these locations are now gone.
"Putting up signs with these names helps me remember the places of my childhood and helps my children have a better understanding of the countryside and a better appreciation for Việt Nam,” Huynh said. VNS