By Joanna Lewis, Inside Out Magazine
Camana Bay has become known for its trendy shops, stylish residences and relaxing ambiance.
But it is Camana Bay’s landscaping that truly sets it apart from other places on the island.
The lush gardens, towering palms and bubbling fountains create a space that is inviting and enchanting, a place where office workers and families can mix in tranquil surroundings.
“Landscaping is a key element of Camana Bay,” explains Andy Adapa, the senior manager of Camana Bay’s nursery and landscaping services. “Some developments do all the buildings and the landscaping is an afterthought. But for us, landscaping was always a main feature that complements the buildings.”
This integration of green spaces and concrete spaces now looks effortless, as the vegetation blends seamlessly with its environment. Seagrape trees and date palms shade a waterfront esplanade; a lush garden in vibrant reds and whites provides the perfect place for office workers to unwind; blossoming vines vibrate with colour against intricate trellis. Everywhere you look, there are pockets of green. However, the process of creating this natural wonderland was meticulous, involving the careful selection of every plant to strike the ideal balance between the natural and the manmade.
“There’s a real attention to detail,” says Mr Adapa, who was involved with choosing each plant within Camana Bay. “We considered how tall a tree grows, how much it sheds its leaves, how it matures, how salt tolerant it is. We considered the rainfall, the breezes, the hurricane winds. It’s not a simple task.
“The garden needs to grow with the building, the community and the people.”
Mr Adapa says despite the sunshine and rain, when it comes to landscaping, Cayman lacks the lush soil conditions that helps plants to thrive. For this reason, he relied heavily on native plants at Camana Bay and eschewed many of the tropical foliage that had been initially chosen by the garden’s designers, Philadelphia-based The Olin Studio and local Sandy Urquhart. Camana Bay’s plants were sourced from Dart’s 20-acre West Bay Nursery.
“Historically, not a lot grows here because of the exposure to the sea,” Mr Adapa says. “If you look at Jamaica or Hawaii, Cayman doesn’t have that sort of landscape.
“Take poinciana, for example,” Mr Adapa continues. “In Jamaica or Hawaii, you can find poinciana that has grown more than 20-feet tall. But in Cayman, they will never reach that height. Poinciana stops growing after a certain height because of the salt.
“[So] we’ve used mostly native plants or regional plants, with some exotic plants. The native plants really benefit the environment and support the wildlife. Because they’re used to the environment in Cayman, they require less nutrients and chemicals.”
Mr Adapa likens the configuration of the plants to lining up soldiers in an army.
“At the front, we have the high salt tolerant plants, in the middle the medium salt, at the back, we have the low salt plants, and, we have the plants that can’t stand salt in little pockets throughout.”
In an attempt to combat Cayman’s lacklustre growing conditions, Mr Adapa implemented two layers of top soil, one of which was a structural soil, as well as a state-of-the-art irrigation system that measures precipitation, rainfall and temperature and adjusts its setting accordingly. He also ensures the vegetation is maintained day to day. With all these tools at hand, Mr Adapa says the plants have no choice but to grow healthily.
“Maintenance is as important as the landscaping,” Mr Adapa asserts. “Some developments spend millions on the gardens and the plants, and then it all collapses when it comes to maintaining it. The key is carefully following and understanding Olin [Studio] and Sandy’s original landscape design without altering it.”
One of the primary obstacles when planning the landscaping was creating a space that would be welcoming for residents, office workers and visitors. To this end, Camana Bay offers something for everyone; leafy courtyard gardens with date palms and creeping vines set the harried worker at ease, while residential areas are more tranquil, with vibrant colours and plenty of shade.
“Within the office blocks, it’s quite formal and defined,” says Mr Adapa. “Within the residential areas, it’s more colourful and more comfortable, with lots of patterns, shade and walkways. In the evenings, the lighting really brings out the landscaping.
“We want people to come in here and walk around in shorts and not feel intimidated. We want families to come in here. It’s all part of the full package.”
Mr Adapa says the aim of the landscaping was to help people to feel comfortable and relaxed within their surroundings, a feeling he tried to achieve through a harmony of the plants’ colours, foliage and height.
“I don’t think the feel of a place can be dictated because it’s an individual thing,” he explains. “But subconsciously, we hope people go ‘wow’. It’s almost like a decompression chamber.”
Dart has a long history of caring for Cayman’s natural environment, beginning with the community parks the company created in each town. Mr Adapa believes the lessons learnt from the parks, as well as from Hurricane Ivan in 2004, were priceless in creating Camana Bay. They helped the landscapers to determine which plants thrived in Cayman’s ecosystem and which were susceptible to damage.
“When the Darts started the community parks, we learnt a lot about plants. The same team that did the parks was involved in the landscaping here,” Mr Adapa says. “And after Ivan, I knew what plants worked. For example, we were supposed to use a lot of royal palms, but a lot of these were easily damaged during Ivan, so we decided to use date palms instead.”
With the environment now a prominent global issue, Mr Adapa says choosing to incorporate so much vegetation into the design was not only essential to Camana Bay, but to the people of the islands. He hopes to see many more developments, on a local and international scale, take up this initiative to add value to their property and benefit the local ecosystem.
“These green spaces act like the lungs in a human,” Mr Adapa explains. “Otherwise there’s a huge concentration of people and there’s no oxygen. Without green spaces, people get tired and feel suffocated.
“There’s a perception that gardens equal wealth,” he continues. “It’s not true. There’s a purpose to it. It’s clearly the right thing to do for the environment and for the people.”