A plant hospital in Istanbul’s Fatih Municipality revives overwatered or dried out plants, cures them of diseases, and teaches you how to better care for them, all for free.
Sevgi Bagirtan is an agricultural engineer. She says Yedikule Plant Hospital used to be a tent travelling through various neighbourhoods of Istanbul’s Fatih municipality, serving citizens who had ailing plants.
“Right now, we are serving inside the Yedikule Bahce [garden] in the greenhouse section,” Bagirtan tells TRT World. “We are at a set location now – whether we will be mobile again remains to be seen,” she says.
“We take care of plants that Fatih residents don’t know how to take care of, giving them tips, repotting the plants, getting rid of pests, and the like,” Bagirtan explains. “For example they received a plant as a gift and don’t know how to deal with it. We let them know what the plant is, what it needs, cure it of its ailments, and discharge it to the owners when it is in good health,” she smiles.
“Sometimes the plant owners don’t even know they have to take their plants out of their viols [where they were first seeded],” Bagirtan notes. “We explain to them how to change pots, how to change soil [that they have to bring with them], and how to optimise the plant’s health.”
The municipality not only services sick plants but also infuses young kids with a love for nature. There are numerous plots of land in the Yedikule Bahce, each appointed to an elementary school in Fatih. Schoolchildren come and observe gardeners plant seasonal vegetables, and when the vegetables grow, pick them, taking some home after sharing equally.
“We do not sell our produce, nor do we give it away to adults,” Bagirtan clarifies. “We only give it to the children who learn how to take care of nature and how to share.” While the planting in the plots are done by gardeners, the children are given pots to plant herbs in and take home, for example rocket and turnips.
Gulsum Cebi is a landscape architect who works alongside Sevgi Bagirtan. She says she’s responsible for caring for sick plants that arrive at the plant hospital tent in various locations around Fatih municipality.
“I change the soil, I repot, I clean the plant from pests, and teach citizens how to take care of an ailing plant at home,” she tells TRT World. “We take care of delicate, difficult plants such as orchids, for example, and teach individuals how to care for them. If we are not too swamped, we do this on the same day. If we’re busy, the process can take a couple of days.”
Cebi says the plant hospital is relatively a new development in Fatih. “We’ve been operational since last November,” she says, and out in the field until January. “We then moved into the greenhouse and have been here since then. The service proved quite popular,” she beams.
When asked how many other plant hospitals there are in Istanbul, Cebi says there are private companies that offer their services in exchange for a fee, but that as far as municipalities go, Fatih municipality is the first and only one that has a plant hospital. “We offer plant care without any charges at all,” she emphasises.
Bagirtan says citizens who use their services have to bring their soil for repotting or a bigger pot. These are not provided by the plant hospital. But natural cures and tips are offered. “We get orchids a lot, also kalanchoes, flowers like these that everyone has in their homes.”
The plant hospital is a part of a larger garden which offers Fatih residents a chance to enjoy the gardens. There are three slots per day that can be reserved online, and families are offered a table to picnic on as well as a samovar filled with tea free of charge. The children are given herbs to take care of, and are taken to a small zoo featuring a lamb, two sheep, one ram, numerous chickens, a few peacocks and some geese.
“Our reservations are booked until June 19 at the moment,” Cebi says. “On the 17th or the 18th we will open up reservations for dates starting from the 20th,” she adds. “We make announcements for this from the Fatih Municipality website as well as our Instagram page.”
Cebi also tells TRT World that they invite local women to collect fruit from the garden, turning it into jams and jellies to be distributed for free in Fatih municipality. She clearly loves this labour of love, and invites everyone to experience the gardens and bring their sick plants to the hospital.