Putting Down Deep Roots

Mike and Nadine Giese, Sunshine Nursery

By Kathy Borsuk ~ Photos By Nadine Giese

Lignum Vitae tree at Sunshine Nursery

Just as it took over 200 years for the Lignum Vitae tree shown here to reach this size, and nearly two decades for the iconic Turks Head Cactus to develop its trademark red “fez” top, so the process of growing a successful business in the Turks & Caicos Islands takes time, patience, dedication and resiliance.
Sunshine Nursery, and its owners Mike and Nadine Giese, have been putting down their roots here for nearly 30 years. Today, that early sowing has blossomed into a vital, flourishing garden center and plant nursery, which has gone a long way in making these Islands “Beautiful by Nature.”

Located across from the Royal West Indies Resort at the northeastern end of Providenciales, Sunshine Nursery sprawls over 12 acres from Grace Bay Road to Leeward Highway. This is the go-to place for anyone who wants to add a little “green” to their life, be it at home or villa, condominium or townhouse, office or resort. From a colorful enclave of buildings surrounded by fields of palms, shade and fruit trees and ornamental bushes, customers come to purchase healthy, vibrant plants, garden supplies, outdoor ceramics and even furniture. (You can also visit two brilliant and talkative parrots.) After my tour of the growing fields on a sunny November morning, I could imagine enjoying a simple stroll through the beautiful grounds!
Mike and Nadine Giese are the green thumbs behind this blooming enterprise. The couple came to Providenciales in 1985 to work as photographers for the Club Med resort. Ironically, after working in a lush area of Mexico and growing up in her native France, Nadine remembers being quite appalled at the lack of vegetation when she arrived in Provo. (Although, she admits, the beauty of the ocean still leaves her speechless.)

Site of Sunshine Nursery in 1986

It was Mike who thought of purchasing Sunshine Nursery from Tay and Linda Maltsberger, who had started growing plants there, with their first big customer being the brand-new Club Med. After having bought a few lots next to Tay and Linda’s little nursery, the Gieses bought Sunshine Nursery in 1987, and continued to add additional neighboring lots to the equation.
Mike’s passion grew stronger as he journeyed back and forth to the United States, and learned the art of gardening. In the early years there was not much interest in purchasing plants or garden supplies and the business grew slowly. However, Sunshine Nursery did supply many of the first resorts with plant material to enhance their grounds, including hundreds of palms to the Royal Bay Resort, precursor to the massive Beaches Turks & Caicos property.

Sunshine Nursery today

As the number of accommodations and businesses skyrocketed over the years, Nadine says they continue to enjoy great working relationships with most of the landscapers on-island, typically acting as suppliers for their needs. The Gieses are especially pleased that interest in using the often-overlooking native bush in landscaping is increasing among both professionals and residents. It has many advantages, including being hardy, resilient, able to withstand salt air and wind, drought and flood, pest-resistant and . . . surprisingly beautiful!
In fact, Sunshine Nursery’s sprawling growing field, besides being home to thousands of palms (35 different varieties) is replete with “native” trees, ranging from Buccaneer and Thatch Palms to Joe Wood, Lignum Vitae, Gumbo Limbo, Mahogany, Buttonwood and Sapodilla along with a variety of medical plants, succulents such as Agave, Yucca, Aloe and Cactus. and bushes including Sea Grape, Poinciana and Frangipangi.
Since all plant material is subject to phytosanitary certification when coming from the US and upon entering the TCI (this includes each individual plant being inspected by the proper authority), growing plants from seeds makes sense. Mike takes special pleasure in nurturing seeds collected from around the world, discovering species that grow well in TCI’s particular climate. His patience is a virtue, though, as some of the plants take from 5 to 20 years to get to a point where they can be transplanted or sold.
Besides finding everything you need to keep your garden healthy — from pest control and irrigation supplies, to fertilizers, gardening tools, pots and planters, Sunshine Nursery offers knowledgeable advice and guidance. Nadine says, “We can suggest what to plant, where to plant it and what works in certain areas. We can also help customers control pest infestations!” Nadine’s natural sense of style shows up in the selection of patio and indoor furniture, ceramics and home decor for sale. Much of it is selected during her regular trips to Vietnam.
Sunshine Nursery composts all their plant debris underground, which serves the dual purpose of both getting rid of the unwanted branches, leaves and trunks and putting the lacking organic material back in the sandy local soil.
Throughout their years in the Islands, the couple has sown many seeds that bear good fruit, from supplying plants to schools and offering tours to local schoolchildren, to helping staff members cope with tragedy. Nadine is especially heartened to see the sprouting interest local children have in vegetation. She senses a growing understanding that you can use living plants to improve and create upon your environment.

All in a day’s work for Nadine Giese of Sunshine Nursery

The Gieses admit that the challenges of doing business in the Islands are many, but they consistently strive to put their best foot (or thumb) forward. From shipping containers sinking in the ocean to hurricane threats calling for massive mobilization of their staff to protect their precious inventory, there have been ups and downs. Yet, over nearly three decades, the couple remains committed to their task. “If you’re not passionate about what you do, you won’t survive,” states Nadine. “There have been times when we’ve been tempted to give it all up . . . but when your product is plants, and you’ve been ‘baby-sitting’ them for years, it’s nearly impossible to leave them behind. This good soil has reaped for us many, many blessings.”

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South Caicos was once a major exporter of salt harvested from its extensive salinas. Award-winning Master and Craftsman Photographer James Roy of Paradise Photography ( created this vertical composition by assembling a series of six images captured by a high-definition drone which was a half a mile away from his position.

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