Lots of people, especially if they live in one of Cayman’s Condominiums, have very small gardens. But that is no reason why they shouldn’t be just as lovely, in their way, as a big garden. A row of joined up homes in George Town, which backs onto an old strip of mature and overgrown woodland is a good example. Here you perhaps wouldn’t have thought that anyone could do much with the narrow, communal strip of land at the back of the homes. But in reality, each homeowner or tenant has made it pretty, unique and wonderful. The dense shade from the big trees beyond helps make it lovely and cool, even in the hottest weather, and when one of the residents, Wendy George, showed me around, back of her home it was like stepping into another, secret world.
When you have a small space, you need to make the most of everything. Hanging baskets and of course plenty of pots – not just on the patio, but on tables as well, are ways of keeping things pretty, and in order. Wendy had got a number of plants arranged in pots around a lovely tall silver thatch tree.
“This is my little herb and vegetable garden here. I’ve got mint; I’ve got a tomato plant coming up, too.” Ms George said. “That’s one kind of thyme (small leaved) and this is another kind (big leaved) of thyme as well,” she said, “and this is basil, which is an old plant, but its done me pretty well,” she said. It’s certainly nice having fresh herbs growing just a few steps away from your kitchen, and of course, some kinds of plant, like basil, or hot scotch bonnet peppers can be pruned and then they come back again.
“That’s Cilantro they use it for cooking fish and I like its lovely aroma,” she said, rubbing a leaf between her thumb and forefinger. ”Here is parsley and this is called chives or scallions…and this is my struggling kale plant. It’s is an experiment; I want to see if I can use it in salads.”
Ms George even has a little lime tree, and next to it, a little lemon tree, each growing in a pot. At the back of her garden are the lovely, feathery fronds of the Areca palm, which forms a kind of visual screen. “This is my cherry tree, and the cherries are best when they are nice and dark,” Ms George said.
Ms George likes to start plants growing from cuttings, and there is quite a lot of ‘sharing’ of cuttings going on between friends in the development. A few doors down, one of Ms George’s neighbors also had some amazing ideas for small spaces. There were a total of four bird-baths there and the friend said she very much likes to see all the birds coming there for a drink and the bright yellow bananaquits add a splash of color, while they are having a drink and a splash in the bird baths. Gardens aren’t just about flowers, but animals like birds or even frogs and insects can add interest, too.
“It’s a very shady area with the woods behind, so there’s not a lot of sunlight, so one of the things I’ve focused on is getting variegated leaves,” the neighbor explained. Variegated leaves are a way of introducing some color where flowering plants would find it difficult to grow, because there is not enough light for them. Ferns of course do well in the shade too, and look so lovely.
On the patio are plenty of plants growing in pots: “These are called the Crown of Thorns – they are pretty hardy, and do well here,” the neighbor said. “Unfortunately we do suffer from some of the sooty mold from the trees which is all over the island. There is a nice little well-kept lawn, too.
Dwarf pineapples were growing in some borers and on a pot on the patio table, too. The neighbor is also growing Milkweed, which is the favorite food for monarch butterflies – so called because their chrysalis is distinguished by a wonderful golden ‘crown’ which surrounds them. Tadpoles too, were ‘growing’ in a plastic container full of rainwater: “I came out one morning and the bird baths were all full of tadpoles, so I just put them into a big tub to see what happens,” she said.