One retired Caymanian is revisiting the gardens of her childhood to inspire her own front-yard farming, raising plants just like her parents and grandparents used to do.
Donna Bryan‘s roadside nursery, located in front of her George Town home on Fairbanks Road, is worth a stop, even if it’s not for plants. This Bracker-turned-George Towner holds a multitude of Caymanian cultural traditions and stories that will keep you entertained for hours.
The tiny nursery can easily be missed, so if you’d like to pay a visit, keep a sharp lookout for the colorful establishment tucked away in the bushes and greenery not far from the Field of Dreams baseball complex.
Crotons, petunias, impatiens, coleus and flowering purslane spill out of cleverly arranged hanging pots, herbs and greeneries within clay pots are arranged on wooden benches. In the garden, beautiful host plants, like hibiscus, desert roses and shamrock, are ripe for clippings.
After retiring at age 60, Ms. Bryan decided to supplement her income by cultivating and selling plants. She said she has always loved working with plants, as well as thatching and sewing.
“I don’t think I can make a living from it though,” she said, a sad note in her voice.
“Things are hard these days and I have lots of grandchildren that need a little help after losing their father,” she continued.
“I also have medical issues and the little plant sales help with my income from working on the bus,” she said.
Growing up on Cayman Brac, Ms. Bryan, like most Caymanians, learned sewing, thatching and craft work, and inherited a love of plants from her parents.
She has fond memories of her mother’s garden in the Brac.
“I loved to watch my mother tend the garden and remember her telling us not to touch her special aralia tree as we played in the grass, and I enjoyed when the rains came that brought in the great smells from the garden,” she recalled.
“My mother loved crafts, people and plants – she was also one of the best seamstresses in Cayman Brac. Everything I got from my mother,” said Ms. Bryan, proudly explaining that gardening was in her blood.
Ms. Bryan’s Fairbanks Road plant nursery came about when she started potting plant clippings friends and family were throwing away. Once they caught, she planted a tree in her yard so she would have a “mother plant” from which she could get her own clippings to grow other plants.
“My pleasure is getting to see the beauty in my plants every day,” she said.
“I talk to them, especially when I see a little bud forming; then I coax it along so it won’t die. Researchers believe that talking to plants may stimulate growth because of the carbon dioxide produced when people exhale as they speak,” she continued.
“When you can look at God’s nature and see how living plant-like things are able to grow, it makes me have a great appreciation of nature.”
Ms. Bryan’s time in the garden has given her a chance to reflect on her childhood and how life has changed for the people in Cayman in a relatively short time.
Her childhood memories are full of adventures, like climbing the Cayman Brac Bluff, enjoying the outdoors, swimming, and collecting fruits and plants.
“Saturday evening, when all the chores were finished, we roamed the bushes to pick seagrapes, coco plums and mangoes, all these things that children do not take advantage of today that [are] very healthy,” she recollected.
When she came home from school, she would help her mother sew items to sell to tourists.
“Those days, things were much cheaper and you could stretch the dollar, plus we had a lot of seafood and ‘breadkind’ to make do,” she said.
“Honestly, I think life in the Cayman Islands is much harder for the poorer class of people today than it was years ago.”