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Keen on green . . . Vivian Lee in her plant shop Formosa Botanic, above the Harbour Street Collective Cafe. PHOTO: ASHLEY SMYTH

When Portuguese explorers first spotted Taiwan in 1542, they named it Isla Formosa, or Beautiful Island.

Taiwan national Vivian Lee has introduced her own beautiful island upstairs from the Harbour Street Collective Cafe, in the shape of Formosa Botanic.

The obsession with pot plants was a recent one.

Miss Lee and her partner were building a new home, which they hoped would be ready by the end of the year.

“I thought, I will start growing some plants, so that when we first move in, the house will look pretty.”

Now, she was a self-confessed plant addict.

“They were so addictive, I planted too much.

“In Oamaru, there’s not really a place you can buy lots of house plants .. I thought, it’s good to share with people.”

Formosa Botanic opened on June 26, and business was steadily building. Miss Lee expected it would be become busier as the weather warmed up.

“I have some customers from Dunedin or Timaru, or even Waimate. They know about this shop from their friends, so slowly .. Because it’s winter, everything is very slow here,” she said.

Miss Lee met her partner when she first came to New Zealand two years ago. Oamaru was her first stop, and now she was “stuck here”.

“I love it .. and I love penguins so much. I didn’t know it was a penguin town as well.

“When my friend came here, she was like, understand why you want to stay here’.”

Some of the plants Miss Lee had propagated herself from cuttings, and others come from a supplier. She was offering rarer plants that were not available in other Oamaru shops.

People who ordered plants online were taking a risk having them shipped, and also not knowing what condition they would turn up in, she said.

“Sometimes you would receive it and they would be very sick. Also, I think some people prefer to look at the plant before they buy it, and they can save on the shipping fee as well.”

One problem with her new business presented, though, was taking holidays.

“Like, last year, around this time, we were doing a road-trip around New Zealand, and now I can’t really go.

“Last month, the beginning of June, I went to Auckland with my friend .. and afterward, some of them were so sick. So I’m scared to leave for too many days.”

Miss Lee does not keep all her stock in store, because it might get too cold. Some she keeps at home, posting photos of them on her Facebook page.

“If someone wants to buy it, I will bring it here. There, it’s nice and warm and very easy to look after.”

The shop is open Monday, Tuesday, Friday and Sunday, from 11am to 3pm. Miss Lee also works downstairs in the cafe, and is happy to open Formosa Botanic by appointment.