By Vina Medenilla
Retirement may be a comforting idea, but on the other hand, this season can be filled with different emotional phases, including wanting to reestablish one’s old working routine.
Lito Dimaculangan, 58, a native of Batangas, is familiar with this feeling. Dimaculangan, an accountant by profession, is a retired OFW who has extensive years of experience in the horticulture industry.
It was in 1991 when he got into the horticulture business abroad. For 17 years, Dimaculangan worked in a landscaping company and managed Sultan Garden Centre, the biggest garden shop in Saudi Arabia. In 2007, he got a higher post in Dubai as the general manager of Dubai Garden Center, the biggest garden retail store in the Middle East.
Both positions have allowed Dimaculangan to travel to the US, Europe, and Southeast Asia where he attended sets of floriculture (flower farming) training to study plants that can thrive in an environment similar to the Middle East.
After over 20 years as an OFW, Dimaculangan retired and settled in the Philippines last 2018.
Bringing international experience to the local scene
Missing his daily routine at work, which had always been associated with plants, Dimaculangan started arranging and landscaping his garden at home. He used different gardening methods like dish gardening, indoor and outdoor plant arrangement, and the like.
Initially, growing plants was more of just a therapeutic hobby and passion for him until he posted his garden accomplishments online and his friends and followers started to get acquainted with his gardening endeavors.
“My friends started to like what I did in my garden and offered to buy some of the plants. Surprisingly, with the power of social media, the demand increased, so I started a small garden shop by converting my garage to a plant shop.”
In just a short time, he accumulated more than 18,000 followers on his garden’s Facebook page. His secrets? Offering top quality plants, technical know-how, and exceptional customer service.
The 300 square meter garden is located in Lipa City, Batangas. It consists of ornamental plants such as monstera, philodendron, anthurium, orchids, dracaena, cacti, succulents, and hundreds of different aroids; outdoor landscaping plants like annual and perennial shrubs, climbers, ornamental trees, and more; herbs; and fruit-bearing trees.
Dimaculangan nurtures all of these and manages the shop full time with the help of his family and a former colleague abroad.
“My specialty is ornamental plants, although I carry and sell almost everything to capture diverse plant buyers.” To keep ahead of the competition, Dimaculangan focuses on growing varieties that are not commonly offered in other shops like flowering ornamentals that, according to him, are in demand, yet are difficult to find.
He added, “As we are in the vicinity of adjoining rural areas, fruit-bearing trees are also saleable. Recently, rare and semi-rare pricey aroids have had a huge demand. In all these, I am very much well trained and skilled.”
About 90 percent of his plants are for sale, and the rest are for his collection. Prices range from P30 to several thousand pesos, depending on the variety. The plants for his personal collection are just for show and were used for tutorials pre-pandemic.
Stumbling blocks in the business
Despite his valuable experiences and knowledge in plants, of course, Dimaculangan becomes wiser in dealing with the challenges he encounters up to this day. Here are some of them:
Climate. Unpredictable weather is unavoidable. Whether it’s hot, too low in humidity, or heavy rains, Dimaculangan said that immediate action is needed to manage his plants properly.
Pest and diseases. Living in a tropical country entails having to deal with pests consistently. “If we are not very cautious with the health condition of the plants, mortality will always be an issue,” he added.
Slugs, snails, mealy bugs, aphids, ants, spider mites, whiteflies, and termites, are some of the common pests that growers must be mindful of. The changing weather also comes with the biggest challenge in a garden, aka fungal attack.
Dimaculangan advises avoiding the use of synthetic remedies and to go for organic options instead.
Client preferences on cheap buys. Although it is great that more and more people have become aware of plants’ importance, the sudden demand for plants has caused some concerns both on the part of the sellers and buyers. Dimaculangan said that quality was suddenly disregarded by many and plant selling became money-oriented.
“People are purchasing anything without understanding what they are buying. Now that the ‘plant-demic’ is almost gone, the challenge is how to change what the people got used to in the past. You cannot compare quality plants from those that they bought in the streets at a much lower price.”
Dimaculangan may be nostalgic about his journey abroad, but carrying with him the things he learned from his past experiences allows him to relive the old routine he has been accustomed to for more than 17 years of his life.
Photos courtesy of Lito Dimaculangan
For more information, visit Plants for Home by Lito Dimaculangan on Facebook.