While “Three Days in Rio” sounds like a great movie title, I’m going to share my three days with you on my blog even though the days were filled with action, blazing colors, artistry, and of course, incredible gardens.
The Cayman Islands has close to 600 bank and trust companies but only one Botanic Garden. The Caribbean Islands are described as paradise, but money isn’t shade, flowers, and food. Without plants, there is no paradise. This is my first time in the Caribbean, the temperatures are pleasant in the low 80’s, the breezes are blowing gently, palm trees and colorful bougainvillea in red, pink, white, purple, and orange grow wildly along the roadways. I need practice in relaxing on a beach, I’m not naturally good at it, I don’t sit still easily let alone lie in the sun for hours. Naturally, I set out for the Queen Elizabeth II Botanic Garden, amazingly, a reciprocal admission with my membership in the American Horticultural Society.
Forgotten Gardens of the Islands of Salvation
Devil’s Island was an isolated prison from 1852-1953 with some 80,000 prisoners held in unspeakably horrible conditions during that time. Now we tourists wander about it looking at the crumbling buildings, glancing at the chapel paintings done by the imprisoned art forger, Francis Lagrange.
The Sunnyside garden sits high on a hill in just east of the Capital, St Georges, in Grenada. You must walk a broad, steep and uneven driveway to reach the gardens. Once again the garden is placed to take advantage of the best views. The true gardener for this property was a woman, who had her own money and a passion for plants. Today she is nearly 90, and unable to physically or mentally participate in the gardening. Her son, Randy and his family have taken over the care of the garden and are just beginning to manage it so cruise tours can visit. Many improvements are needed but there is a collection of plants and a treasure of designs built by decades of dedication.
This small country seasons the world with nutmeg (20% of the world’s supply), mace, cloves, turmeric, cinnamon, bay leaf, and cacao. This agricultural output rightly gives the country the spice isle title. It is also a land of rich volcanic soil. The weather here is 78 degrees and sunny, rainy spells, averaging 218 rainy days. The island is humid but balmy sweet breezes keep the temperature bearable. Grenada sits at the end of the hurricane range but Hurricane Ivan hit in September 2004 damaging 90% of the homes and killing 39 people. Before that damage was fully repaired Hurricane Emily hit in July 2005. The damage can still be seen today with stacks of pulverized cars and trucks sitting around the island. What do you do with the trash when it comes in such enormous amounts? The vegetation helps some since Pink Coral vines grow wild here and cover some of the junk.
January in New Orleans offers Camelias, live oaks dripping with Spanish moss, and the anticipation of Mardi Gras season. A walk through the Garden District with grand houses and mossy green balustrades gives a peak of the garden challenges in this area. In my garden every drop of water is precious and purposely placed, here water is in the air, and preventing overgrowth is part of gardening. One must pull out, cut back, lift up, so the chosen plants are allowed to see the sun.
The Longue Vue House and Garden, New Orleans, LA, built in 1942, by Edgar & Edith Stern is a masterwork of design. Every room in the house looks out on a perfectly placed scene in the garden. Imagine having the foresight and the resources to set your home on the land in such a way that every window offers a connection to the garden looking out on a painting done with plants. Ellen Biddle Shipman considered the dean of women landscape architects, influenced the integration of the garden views in the design of the home. This was created at Longue Vue. The story of the Sterns* is inspiring in every way. The garden is quite genuinely genius in design.
2018 was a wonderful year of visiting gardens. We took three trips; a short spring trip to Atlanta, GA, a six-week road trip through the US, and a 30-day fall trip to England. Looking over my journals and photos of the past year it is full of memorable moments of the beauty in our world. I want to share a few marvels that delighted me along the way.
In my pursuit of visiting gardens, I have many people look at me with curiosity, disdain, and pity; assuming that I limit myself, seeing the same things over and over again. One man commented I “wasn’t into art” and would, therefore, miss the great works that make us human. I smile and nod politely knowing full well a garden holds so much art, architecture, and stories, I feel sorry for those who are not into visiting gardens.
England’s influence in gardening is both historic and far-reaching, so it is fitting that London has the Garden Museum. The Museum is built upon the site of the tombs of John Tradescant the Elder, gardener for Charles I, in 1630, and John Tradescant the younger, both considered the first great gardeners and plant hunters in British History. The old Victorian church, St Mary at Lambeth, was slated for demolition in the 1970’s when one woman, Rosemary Nicholson, rallied support to save this historic space. As restoration projects go it took time to redesign and finance the transformation of the oldest structure in Lambert Borough, located along the River Thames across from Parliament.