People in the ornamental plant business will tell you that gardening is both an enjoyable and profitable source of income. But one has to have one’s own creative strategies in growing and marketing one’s products.

By Zac Sarian

Dr. Martinez and her grafted bougainvilleas.

Of course, different people have their own ideas on how to go about their plant business. Dr. Linda Martinez of Davao City, 70, whom we met at the Kadayawan garden show recently, has her own practical strategies. Just like specializing in plants that she can grow well and that people will buy at a good price.

One of her favorite flowering plants is the bougainvillea which comes in different varieties. Their flowers come in bright colors of red, pink, yellow, white, orange, fuchsia, two-toned, and many others. But her bougainvilleas are grown in presentable containers, well-groomed, and presentable. They are ready for use as décor in home gardens or in resorts and other establishments.

The plants are usually three feet tall with crowns that are full of flowers. These are grafted on trunks that are of considerable size so that they are sturdy. Some root-stocks are grafted with different varieties so that the flowers come in different glorious hues. Actually, Dr. Martinez said that she and her lone worker copied the technique of the Thai pioneers in making their grafted bougainvillea. She says that the technique is very easy; she bought a grafted bougainvillea imported by a local trader and studied how they could do the grafting.

Dr. Martinez says they use as rootstock the woody trunks of old bougainvilleas. Fortunately, there are suppliers who sell them the freshly cut woody trunks of these. She also said she has very good reasons why she likes to produce and sell grafted bougainvilleas. They are very hardy plants that are practically never attacked by pests and diseases. They can take dry conditions well. If you forget to water them for a number of days, they easily recover. Subjecting them to dry conditions also makes them more floriferous, according to her.

Customers pay a good price for bougainvilleas that are well groomed and blooming. Most of her plants in containers sell for PhP 1,500. There are, of course, junior plants that sell for much less.

DWARF KAMUNING – Another favorite money maker of Dr. Martinez is the dwarf Kamuning (Murraya) which was developed by the Philippine Nuclear Research Institute (PNRI) through irradiation. This is really a plant that can be very decorative when “tailored” by the artistic hands of gardeners like Dr. Martinez. Through judicious pruning or trimming, the plant can be formed into a compact specimen plant with very tiny textured leaves.

Old dwarf Kamuning can be formed into round heads that bear tiny white flowers that are fragrant. The fruits become an attractive red when they ripen. 

By doing their own propagations, Dr. Martinez and her garden assistant can cut the cost of production of their plants. When she trims one of her mother trees that are about 15 years old, she does not throw away the trimmings. She propagates them for sale. Each time she trims a mother tree, she can propagate at least 100 rooted cuttings. Three-month-old propagations fetch ₱25 apiece. When the same are six months old, they are sold for ₱100. Those that are two years.

This story appeared in Agriculture Monthly’s October 2017 issue.