The making of Focus on Flora, the book

The making of Focus on Flora, the book

I received a message in early November last year when Tropical Storm Eta was headed straight toward Grand Cayman and we on the Dart horticultural team were all bracing for impact. This message, however, was bright and cheerful: Dart's Annika Martins asked if I would be interested in helping put together a book containing some of the articles I had written for the "Camana Bay Times" over the past four years...a book!

I was elated, honoured and dare I say, a little nervous. What would the articles look like in a book? How would my words and thoughts come across to the reader? Will I ever have an opportunity like this again? Then I spoke with Annika, the lead on the project, and it was full steam ahead.

She ran through what the project was about, who would be working on it, and that we were on a strict timeline. It was all fine for me!

focus on flora book

We started corresponding right away and I learned there had already been some behind-the-scenes work done by Hannah Reid, who had combed through nearly 50 articles to choose a beautiful compilation of plants that hold significance to these verdant islands. Hannah's choices looked at how we, as an organisation, can share with others our love for horticulture and the desire to create enriching spaces for the community.

From there, the articles were divided into subgroups, and we started brainstorming on a title. What would be sensical to the reader? What would draw them in and how do we make the pages turn and flow?

Not long afterwards, the first draft of the book was born. I was floored. Graphic designer Keri Lawrence brought the articles to life in a way I had never expected.

author and designer of book holding book
The book's author, Dart Horticulturalist Shannon Schmidt, and the book's graphic designer, Keri Lawrence.

I read through the articles and each one was displayed so beautifully I was in absolute awe. What a blessing it was to work with a small but talented group of people who normally wouldn’t work together, but combined efforts to bring something meaningful and wonderful to life.

A few weeks later, I got a message saying the books were ready and I could come collect my copy. I couldn’t get there fast enough! What would it feel like to hold it in my hands, to see the pages, to see what others were going to see? The joy I felt when holding that copy is indescribable. I felt so delighted to see all the hard work and creativity in a tangible form.

I hope that others also enjoyed the book, and it was my absolute pleasure to work on this project. I love plants, I love the stories they tell and more than anything, I love sharing those stories with others. I am forever grateful for this opportunity.

This article will appear in the March 2021 print edition of Camana Bay Times.

Caucasian women with dirty blonde wavy hair smiles at the camera

About the author 

Shannon Schmidt is a horticulture manager at Dart’s Arboretum Services Ltd. Joining Dart in 2012, Shannon previously worked in parks, public gardens and tourism properties, among others. Originally from the Finger Lakes region of New York State, Shannon loves island life, spending time paddleboarding around the canals and mangroves, in the sea, and spending time outdoors with her two energetic Boston Terriers Nollie and Ebbie and her equally energetic partner Chase! Shannon holds a Bachelor of Science in Recreation, Park and Tourism Management from The Pennsylvania State University and a Diploma in Horticulture from the Longwood Gardens Professional School of Horticulture, and loves spending time swinging in a hammock, with her favourite smoothie from Jessie’s Juice Bar and reading material from Books & Books.

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