Made in Cayman: Something in the air

Made in Cayman: Something in the air

By Christopher Tobutt

21 February 2022

Mark Miranda got the idea for Olivia’s Garden after his wife started remarking on the number of plants there were in their house, and suggesting that maybe it was time to start selling them.

The business is named after Miranda's 5-year-old daughter, Olivia, who helps watering them and planting them in pots, just as Miranda helped his mother with her plants back in the Philippines, where he grew up.

Miranda’s passion for plants is obvious when talking to him; he loves to share his extensive knowledge of how to look after them with anyone who visits his stall at Camana Bay’s Farmers & Artisans Market on Wednesdays.

Among the many different leaf shapes and shades of green, Miranda will proudly point out a plant to talk about.

“This one is called a snake plant, because it looks like a snake when it gets bigger,” he says, picking up a pot full of twisting leaves which look like tongues of flaming fire, “but its other name is 'mother-in-law’s tongue.'”

mark miranda
Mark Miranda with an air plant mobile at his "Olivia's Garden" stall at the Wednesday Camana Bay Farmers & Artisans Market. Photo: Christopher Tobutt

Pointing to a neighbouring plant with large, delicate-looking leaves, he says, “This is called elephant ear, but this one’s leaves look just like a stingray.”

Hoyas come in many colours and can climb all around a room, filling the air with the aroma from their delicate flowers. Lucky bamboo are believed to bring wealth.

"They are a favourite gift plant,” Miranda says.

But it’s the enigmatic air plants which have been capturing the imagination of passers-by, and have become one of his biggest sellers. He sells these unique plants in cut-away glass globes, which hang from ropes and provide a kind of protected microclimate for them as they grow. He also creates jellyfish-like hanging mobiles using sea urchin shells from which the tentacles hang like a magical green Medusa.

“The air plant tillandsia doesn’t require soil to live,” he says, adding that the plant absorbs water and nutrients through its leaves. "In the wild they use their roots to attach to trees and the face of the rocks, but they don’t absorb nutrients through their roots."

Air plants don't need much care, Miranda says.

"They grow very slowly and they need only two sprays of water once a week to keep them healthy.”

Prices at Olivia's Garden start from CI$3 for a small pothos plant and range to $50 for a philodendron.

"But most of my prices are between $10 and $15 and the air plants in the containers are $25," Miranda says. “People are looking for affordable house plants to put in their homes, so they come and check on me.”

This article was originally published in the February 2022 print edition of Camana Bay Times.

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