Count Your Blessings!

With love and passion, everyone can have a nice garden...Elaine Yim

Count Your Blessings!
Count The Garden By The Flowers, Never By The Leaves That Fall.
Count Your Life With Smiles And Not The Tears That Roll.
..... Author unknown.

Knowing me, Knowing you..... Aha.....!

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Wednesday, May 21, 2014

The school garden of my alma mater, St. Bernadette's Convent, Batu Gajah

During the month of June 2013, I went back to visit my alma mater. This is where I spent my student days from primary to secondary school. The school is now known as SK and SMK St. Bernadette's Convent, Batu Gajah. It started as a Catholic missionary all-girls school and was known as the Convent of Holy Infant Jesus (HIJ), St. Bernadette's Convent. During the initial years, the school was managed and run by HIJ sisters who lived in CHIJ Main Convent in Ipoh, the capital of Perak state. The sisters traveled daily to work and the distance between Batu Gajah and Ipoh is 37 km or about 30 min's drive. It is still an all girls school now. You can read more about the origins of this school from Ipoh World's website here.

Our school's motto is "Simple in virtue, steadfast in duty".

It's funny that it is only now that I noticed the tiny creek that flows in front of my school!

This is the driveway to my school, the blue building on the right. The school was built on a hill slope, on 4 levels which means that we had plenty of lush greenery and space to play and move about. The primary and secondary schools are located inside the same compound.

On the left is a huge graveyard, the source of many adrenalin pumping spooky tales. Actually, the place is tranquil and peaceful most of the time. Many old schools are located next to a graveyard and it is common to have the Chinese, Muslim, Hindu and Christian cemeteries within the same vicinity, separated from one another by a small distance or by fencing or walled boundaries.

I am very impressed by the well kempt gardens and clean, cool surroundings.

“The school garden of my alma mater, St Bernadette's Convent, Batu Gajah”, a copyrighted post, was written for My Nice Garden blog by Autumn Belle @ on May 21st 2014.


Here's the school hall which doubles as a gymnasium, concert hall and indoor games venue. There is a piano inside for the music teacher to teach music. The songs we learnt were mostly folk songs, old songs and some pop songs. We had a school choir.  We also learnt how to play musical instruments like the recorder and bamboo "angklung".

During special occasions, the students perform plays, dramas, dances and fund raising/teacher's day/parents' day concerts; coached by our own teachers. It also served as the venue for speeches, prize giving ceremonies and the screening of movies and documentaries such as those from the World Wild Life Fund. Until today, I can still recall my first lesson on nature, conservation and biodiversity; and it was about saving our leather-backed turtles from extinction. It was in this school hall that I watched Hollywood movies like "To Sir With Love" and Robert Redford-Babara Streisand's, "The Way We Were". The audience were school girls sitting on the floor.

Now, the school authorities have planted quite a number of different cultivars of bougainvilleas and there are also palm trees everywhere.


Pusat Sumber Sekolah (school resource centre) or school library. The plant in front looks like the Euphorbia tithymaloides ssp. smallii 'Variegatus'


This is the Yesterday-Today-Tomorrow plant
Scientific name: Brunfelsia pauciflora
Synonym: Brunfelsia calycina.
Origin: South America

Common names: 
Yesterday-Today-Tomorrow (YTT Plant), Kiss-Me-Quick,
Morning-Noon-Night, Brazil Raintree. 

The genus Brunfelsia is named in honor of 16th century German monk, Otto Brunfels.

What an appropriate plant for a school garden where students will have so much of Yesterday's memories, Today's experiences and Tomorrow's dreams to live for.


Here's a cleome wildflower that grows wild everywhere in Malaysia.

Scientific name: Cleome rutidosperma
Synonym: Cleome ciliata
Common name: Fringed Spiderflower, Purple Cleome
Malay name: Maman Ungu, Maman Lelaki
Family: Caparaceae

A wall mural painted by the school's students and teachers. The writings, "Rakyat Malaysia bersatu untuk keselamatan jalan raya" means the people of Malaysia united for road safety.

A row of red Ixora plants line the walkway. These native plants are hardy shrubs, need minimal upkeep and they can survive with little fertilizer or water, hence they save a lot of costs. They just love our full equatorial sunshine and they can survive on our adequate yearly rainfall. Ixora flowers attract several types of butterflies.


A roll of trees planted along the edge of the school field.

I can still recall the excitement, cheers, giggles and screams of yesteryears
when there were events such as sports day and fund raising fun fairs.

Now I think it is a good place for camping, bonfires and watching the night skies, moon and stars.

Then, there was marching practice for the uniformed teams like Girl Guides and Red Cross, the PE (physical education) classes and sports practice.

A cool place under the shade of the yum-yum trees where many secrets were shared.
A place so quiet and tranquil, far from the maddening city din.

Neat and tidy arrangement of plants in front of the teachers office.

Everywhere there are big trees for shade.

The old trees are still there.
Because the school is located on a hill slope, the views are splendid too.
These are the places where we could hang around during recess or while  waiting for school to start.

The lawn is beautiful, isn't it?
Here's a place for shade and shadow play.
Just look at the lovely silhouettes of the buildings and structures on the ground.
Coconut palms and rubber trees used to dot the old landscape.

A huge old tree overlooking the outdoor badminton courts. We used to have our morning assembly there where we said our daily prayers, sang the national anthem and listened to school announcements. 

The science laboratory is located at the end of the row of classes. We had to catch live frogs, cockroaches, snails, grasshoppers; pluck flowers and leaves and bring bring them to school for our science experiments.

The classrooms where I used to attend classes.

We had the best teachers who inspired us to excel in the most difficult subjects like Additional Maths and Physics, the BM teacher who made us construct hundreds of sentences everyday, recite the "pantun and sajak" and sing the "syair" (traditional Malay poetry). In the process, many of us improved our Malay language proficiency. Then there was the English teacher who taught Geography as well, a nun who taught Literature, Moral and Bible Studies and the school headmistress who taught Chemistry. The teachers were strict but caring and they were our model citizens, guardian angels cum disciplinarians during our growing up years.

We had a small chapel inside the school. The bible teachers who were nuns, used to tell us that no matter what faith, race or religion we belong to, "God loves us all" because we are all children of God. We greeted our teachers with "Good Morning, May God bless you" and they would reply, "May God bless you girls!"

In this school, I learnt how to bake, sew, draw and crochet. 

The "Summer Place" area where we used to sit, play and chat, did revision, homework and group studies. A place where friendships were formed and sisterhood bonds reinforced.

Scientific name: Euphorbia antiquorum
Synonyms: E. cactus, E. cervicornis, E. nivulia
Common name: Ancient Euphorbia, Fleshy Spurge, Malayan Spurge Tree, Sudu
Family: Euphorbiaceae
Origin: India and Southeast Asia

Scientific name: Euphorbia milii
Synonym: E. splendens
Common name: Crown of Thorns
Family: Euphorbiaceae
Origin: Madagascar

The staircase in front of the plumeria (frangipani) tree leads to the venue for our cookery class sessions during extra-curricular activities. Behind this building is a backyard where we did our school gardening projects and "gotong royong" (group/community work) schemes.

Little squirrels still dart about among the trees.

Heliconias near the canteen area.

During recess time, we used to dash down from class to buy our favourite bowl of soup or laksa noodles or nasi lemak. We also played 5 stones and hop scotch. 

Caladiums are simply known as pokok keladi (yam plant).

The school's "Herb Garden".

It's a bird's nest!
Signs of wildlife...

I think every school should have the hibiscus "bunga raya" plants which is our national flower. The bunga raya attracts several types of butterflies and also the olive backed sunbirds who feed on their sweet nectar.

Further up there, you can see the herb garden where vegetables and herb plants are grown in poly bags and arranged neatly in rows and labelled properly.


Good to see fruit trees planted in school gardens.
The mangoes are dangling within arm's reach.


Ripening juicy mangoes.


A bougainvillea 'bonsai'.


A venue for meetings and gatherings. The COGA (Convent Old Girls Association) members also hold their meetings here. After graduation, some of the old students came back to become school teachers here. It must be a great feeling to be able to teach at your own alma mater and also send your daughters here to study!

Notice the vertical green wall?


A beautiful wall mural of a pair of birds. 
A row of boat lilies line the border below.

Boat lily plants are also known as Moses-in-a-Basket, Boatlily, Oyster Plant or Christ in the Cradle
Scientific name is Tradescantia spathacea.


Closeup of the green wall cover with the Tristellateia australasiae vine, common names: Australian Gold vine, Shower of Gold Climber, Galphimia Vine, Maiden's Jealousy, Thryallis Vine.

My kudos and salute to the teachers, students and administrators of SMK St. Bernadette's School of Batu Gajah, Perak, who have managed to maintain a beautiful, wildlife friendly garden within the school premises despite their daily busy schedules of teaching and studying for exams. There are herbs and vegetables and even fruit trees being grown here! It is not surprising that they had won numerous awards for their beautiful garden.

If every school maintain the greenery, keep the shrubs and trees, grow vegetables and herbs within its compound, imagine the massive cumulative effect on reducing our carbon footprints, thereby contributing towards helping reduce greenhouse gases and global warming. It is good that children learn from a young age to care for our environment and help save planet Earth from further damage. The knowledge gained will be useful throughout their lifetime.

If you have nice experiences and memorable moments with your old school and school gardens, do share them with me.


  1. What a lovely visit we had, Autumn Belle! It's a curiosity how different school looks when you leave for a while.

    My elementary school burned to the ground and the old High School is now City Hall, so things change.

    Around here it is fashionable for school children to plant butterfly gardens or meadows. That's a start toward an interest in growing things.

    1. Thanks Jean! The first time I set foot on the grounds of this school after so many years was like a homecoming for me.

  2. That's great to visit ex-school! It's so beautiful!

    1. Malar, thanks! My ex-school now is more beautiful than before, at least for the garden part.

  3. Oh you're back, and you're not anymore hiding behind a pen name, haha! Thanks to Autumn Belle, Elaine Yim is here now! So you are Catholic, didn't know that! My high school building is in a cramped little place and the grounds are shared with the municipal hall, not a very nice area for high school students. But my primary school has wide grounds and also in a sprawling land so almost like yours. And of course my college campus is in a very vast area of protected landscapes including a whole mountain, that influenced my brain and heart to plants, environment, nature, conservation and everything there.

    1. Andrea, I went to a Catholic school but I am not Christian. During those days, we had certain periods where the non-muslims attend moral and bible class while muslims go for islamic studies. Your college campus sounds very interesting and beautiful.

  4. Hi Autumn Belle,
    It is wonderful that you visited your old school! It looks really nice!
    I was back in hometown of Malacca this past weekend, and my sisters and I, we passed by our old school, CHIJ (yeah, we are CHIJ's too!) and thought that it would be nice to visit our old schools one of these days.

    1. Yes, yes, my dear Kitchen Flavours! Glad to know your are also another convent gal, hehe. We went as a whole group of former students on a schedule date and was given a very warm welcome by the current school teachers and headmistress. So nice to be entertained by the current students to some traditional dances and songs at the same school hall we did our concerts. I'm sure you'll have a wonderful time visiting your alma mater. I am so thankful to the dedicated teachers who taught us and molded us during our early years. Thank you so much for sharing your experiences here too!

  5. What a great trip for you Autumn Belle and such lovely gardens.

  6. i miss my school..thanks for bringing back all the memorable moments! ;'(

  7. Class 1975 graduates. Our principal was Sister Coleman until she retired and Mrs Verghease took over. Which Year group were you? Would be nice hold Old Girls' Association party at school and have sleepovers campfire when school is closed for holidays. Remember the huge graveyard next door, lots of adventures in the hills after sports and activities, cycling home to BG. TQ for updates on school decoration and new front gardens.

    1. Dear anonymous, thank you very much for sharing experiences and suggestions for BG Convent. You are my senior! The ex-classmates are reconnecting again via whatsapp, facebook groups and COGA (Convent Old Girls Association) :)

  8. Oh I miss my old school too ,graduated in 1975 , how we used to play around the compounds with colourful cannas dancing on their garden bed, the singing class, miss leans voice with starter of Do RE Me,so many memories

    1. Pathma, thank you for sharing your memories of BG Convent with me. Do join the COGA (Convent Old Girls Association) to keep in touch for your former classmates, schoolmates and teachers.

    2. Hi Class75 Pathma :) we should meet up. I was school prefect from Science Form 5. Yes, Do Re Me Fa Sooooooo. Love singing in school hall, choir practice and recorder lessons. See u COGA.

  9. Thank you so much Autumn Belle (Elaine Yim) for sharing your memorable days in Convent, Batu Gajah which is also my Alma Mater (year 1968). I must commend you for this amazing write up as I can feel you write with much love and passion with well illustrated photos which took me around the school for a while. I last visited the school with a group of my year 1968 classmates in December 2018 when we had a reunion after 50 years but ours was a quick tour. Thanks for the memories.

  10. Thank you so much for sharing your memories of the school and its grounds. Brings back lots of memories..So true about the dedicated teachers and how they moulded us to become who we are today. Fond memories of Sister Colman, Sister Gabriel and also Mrs Varghese who became the headmistress after Sister Colman's retirement.


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