Sharon's Independence Gift: Community Service (Part 1)
Sharon Cain introduces the Aechmea 'Loie's Pride' (Photos: Joseph Wellington)

When I was a child, I remember helping my mother (now deceased) to water and tend to her plants which were potted in old containers such as tin cans, galvanised bath tubs, broken jugs and mugs or anything that could hold dirt. I guess that's when the love affair started.

As I grew older, I remember that the first plant I bought was a Boston fern. The fern outgrew its pot and I decided to divide it into two plants. I found out that there were other varieties of fern, so I started to buy a different one at the end of each month when I got paid. I started to visit flower shops and plant nurseries and invested in other plants and my plant collection grew to include anthuriums, hydrangeas (lacecap, mopheads and incrediball), orchids and a wide variety of aglaonemas, dracaenas, philodendrons, spathiphyllums (peace lily), sansevieras, palms, among others.

One of the plant nurseries I frequented every month was owned by Rupert Truman. On one of my visits, Truman said to me: "You must have a beautiful garden. I would love to see it." I shrugged my shoulder and said "not really". Every month after this he would ask to visit my garden. I eventually invited him to my garden and he invited me to become a member of the Jamaica Horticultural Society (JHS). I asked him how I would benefit from becoming a member. He told me that I would be able to exhibit my beautiful plants at the annual flower show and win prizes in the form of ribbons and trophies and perhaps sell some of my plants. The selling of my plants was not going to happen at all! Still, I became a member in 1984 and I still am.

On my first exhibit at one of the JHS annual flower shows I copped 15 prizes – 10 First Places (Blue Ribbons), 3 Second Places (Red Ribbons) and 2 Third Places (Yellow Ribbons). Of course, a lot of people offered to buy some of my exhibits and I turned down every offer!

Mosty of my garden is on a hillside and is terraced with four levels. The upper level is flat, the two middle levels are slightly sloped and the lower level facing the street is very steep. I often find myself slipping on the grass of the lower level while watering the grass. There is a large naseberry tree (by the bridge on the middle level) which provides a canopy for my shade-loving plants.

I start gardening from 5:30 am every morning (once I am able) for at least four hours every day. My gardener, Patrick, comes twice per week. I am also ably assisted by my five-year-old grandson, who is a "gardener in training"/"garden assistant" and who enjoys watering and picking up trash with a leaf picker, makes sure that I stay hydrated. He will frequently ask, "Grandma, are you thirsty now?" He is also a great tour guide and knows the names of the plants. The only garden task that I don't do is cutting the grass.

I do a lot of container gardening which allows me to rotate the pots from time to time. I also plant sugar loaf pineapples, Scotch bonnet peppers and tomatoes. My garden is for all seasons - planted with mostly perennials and spruced up with annuals, as necessary. I have literally run out of space!

Since COVID-19 when we were mandated to "tan a yu yaad", I developed a passion for succulents and established a succulent and rock garden. During this time I also "adopted" my road by planting up containers at each house and maintaining them – which I call my community service.

My children tell me that my passion for gardening has turned into an obsession since I have retired from the corporate world in 2016. Gardening is therapeutic and involves a lot of physical activity which complements a healthy lifestyle. You also get a sense of satisfaction when the plants bloom and people admire your garden. I encourage everyone to plant something and watch it grow. Succulents are trending now and do not require a lot of attention. I deliberately do not use a sprinkling system as I enjoy watering and I get the opportunity of examine the plants to see if there are any pests or diseases.

Coupled with my passion for gardening and the many requests I have received, I have turned this passion into a business and have been sprucing up and landscaping gardens. My core business is rental of plants to offices and events.

Editor's Note: Sharon Cain can be contacted @scainflowers@gmail.com

Multi-award-winning gardener Sharon Cain stands alongside her Joseph's Coat plant with its variety of leaf shapes, some with thin and narrow threads and others wide and oval. (Photos: Joseph Wellington)
Sharon Cain tends to her succulents and cacti. (Photos: Joseph Wellington)
Cascading spider plant (Photos: Joseph Wellington)
Succulent head planter (Photos: Joseph Wellington)
A glorious array of sunpatiens (Photos: Joseph Wellington)
Vanda orchids in full bloom in a semi-shaded area of the garden (Photos: Joseph Wellington)
The peanut-cactus is prized for its stunning two-inch blooms in brilliant shades of orange-red. (Photos: Joseph Wellington)
Hydrangea in bloom (Photos: Joseph Wellington)
Kalanchoe orgyalis "Copper Spoon" is a much-branched succulent shrub that slowly grows up to six feet (Photos: Joseph Wellington)
The Lacecap Hydrangea grows flowers that resemble flat caps with frilly edges (Photos: Joseph Wellington)
Different types of ferns and caladiums add drama and flair to the driveway. (Photos: Joseph Wellington)
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