SMALL SPACE GARDENING:
RANIL GABO GUARINO, 40, is a plant hobbyist, government employee, and a recent graduate of law school. Guarino resides in Puerto Princesa City, Palawan. His home measures about 80 square meters, including his lush tropical garden that he further enhanced during the quarantine period. Being born and raised in a family of farmers, Guarino has always been fascinated with plants. “I had a happy childhood on a farm and I know all the farm works including plowing, harrowing, planting, as well as harvesting rice and other crops.” He has been tending a few ficus trees and ornamentals like aglaonema for years, but didn’t initially plan to increase their numbers due to his home’s limited space. His enthusiasm for ornamental plants further developed at the height of the COVID-19. He began collecting begonias, episcias, calatheas, caladiums, pothos, philodendrons, and Syngoniums. Among them, philodendrons are his current obsession. Guarino is a grower of over 1000 individual plants of about 500 species, varieties, or cultivars. During the months of isolation, he took a liking not only in raising ornamentals, but also in arranging gardens. As per Guarino, having a background in environmental planning and ecology was a big help in setting up his garden. He was a former teacher of ecology and geology and is a graduate of environmental science. “It helped me to create microclimate areas where plants are given the space to thrive pretty much similar to their places of origin.” Creating microclimate areas refers to controlling sunlight, water, heat, or humidity that varies according to the plants’ needs. Guarino’s backyard used to be extremely hot, making it difficult for some plants to thrive, so he put up a vine fence with a net on top. “Net was ideal because some tropical plants like calatheas love rain. I also controlled humidity by stacking a lot of plants together and putting crushed rocks on the ground. When you water the rocks, it will gradually release water when heated so heat and moisture in the air become more controlled,” he explained. MORE HOBBYIST THAN BUSINESSMAN He rarely grows his plants from seeds, but frequently from cuttings or shoots. Guarino initially grew his collection of plants by asking cuttings and shoots from friends and relatives and eventually, through plant swapping. Guarino occasionally buys plants that are not rare or not locally available. He shares that he enjoys the process of growing plants, but since he propagates them, he decided to sell the propagated ones to make up for the amount that he has spent in purchasing the mother plants. The money he gets from this is just enough to supply his garden essentials and to grow his collection. He sells them online through his Facebook page called PLANTito. Prices of the plants range from P50 to P1000 and up for the rare and sought-after varieties. In terms of the issue of ornamental overpricing, he says, “I think that pricing of plants is more complicated than it seems. They are not necessities driven only by the rules of supply and demand, but take into consideration rarity and willingness to pay.” To halt this situation from taking over the markets, he added that customers must be extra careful by researching and comparing prices from different marketplaces based on reasonable justifications. Guarino hopes to open his garden to the public and envisions it to be the source of inspiration to other growers who would want to start a garden in a constrained space or not. Opening his doors will also allow him to showcase not only his collection containing both endemic and exotic plants, but will also enable him to share his knowledge in growing and protecting them.