By Zainab AbdulAziz
Living in a metropolis like Cairo, it’s a challenge to seek out green spaces and tap back into your connection with nature. However, Mohamed Osman has defied the odds and grown a garden inside his living room, transforming this cozy space into a blissful green haven of peace and clean air. His Instagram account @behind_the_seeds boasts over 6 thousand followers where he is part of a growing plant enthusiast community. Cairo West Magazine visited to take in the beauty and learn more about how this project came into being.
CWM: How did the idea for Behind the Seeds kick off?
M.O.: I started almost a year ago after I suffered from a cardiac arrest at the age of 35. The doctors had no idea why this happened, I was active and healthy. It was a very traumatic experience for me, and I had to recuperate at home for a month afterwards. This was the first time in 14 years that I wasn’t active and doing something every day. One day I was out shopping and saw a display of cactus plants and decided to buy a few of them. They looked a bit lonely, so I started buying more plants to fill and beautify the space, and I started reading a lot about how to care for them. Light conditions, humidity, watering schedules … I learned it all. Each plant required more research, and I enjoyed it. It helped me to move past the psychological trauma of what had happened and proved to be very relaxing.
How did your learning process develop for plant care?
I became a member of many blogs and forums for plant care and began interacting with others who are interested in the same hobby. The concept of having a jungle in your home is not a new one; many people in Europe have them because in winter it is too difficult to grow outside. It also enhances the mood of the person living in that space during the long winter months.
Were your friends and family supportive of your new endeavor?
My friends at first didn’t think this was like my character at all, I was more into fitness! My wife wasn’t that supportive at the beginning, the plants needed a lot of care and at times I asked for a lot of help. As time went on she became interested and engaged and is now very encouraging. My family also schedules their visits to come in the morning and enjoy the view.
Do you have any preferences in how to choose your plants?
I’m not really a “flower guy”, they are tricky and seasonal, and they die after some weeks. They also need a lot of direct sun. Every time a plant dies, I can’t sleep and wonder what happened. I keep Googling and learning what I did wrong. In the end, these plants do teach me a lot, even in death. I’ve lost about ten plants since I started, but I still have the first non-cactus plant I ever bought. It has died twice, but I keep reviving it and bringing it back to life. As long as the roots are still alive, you can bring it back.
What is your goal for Behind the Seeds?
I have made a lot of friends all over the world through my social media page; Instagram has a great community of green lovers. My target is that by the end of this year I will hit 10k followers. Behind the Seeds will also be featured in an upcoming plant book with entries from all around the world and it will be the only entry from Egypt! In the future, I would love to launch my own website for plant care and styling, and hopefully commercialize this idea and open a plant shop to help those who wish to grow their own urban jungles.
4 TIPS FOR GROWING AT HOME
- Choose an easy plant that needs minimal care. Here are some options: spider plants, cactus, zz plants, snake plants, pothos, lucky bamboo, or heart leaf philodendron.
- Choose the right lighting conditions. Some need direct light and most don’t. 90% of plants with dark green leaves don’t need a lot of light.
- Don’t overdo it with the watering! Most of the time we kill plants by too much care, not neglect. A good way of checking whether you need to water is to stick your finger in the soil to one and half inch. If it’s dry, water.
- Don’t transfer from a plastic pot to a decorative pot. Most decorative pots don’t have holes at the bottom to let excess water out, which is crucial to have. Buy a larger decorative pot and place the plastic one inside it. That way the water will seep out from the plastic pot with pores and keep your plant from being too soggy.