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Barbados / Special Interests / Flowers & Gardens

By James Henderson

Barbadian gardens are some of the prettiest in the Caribbean. Even around the smallest home you will find crotons (brightly coloured perennial leaves) and bougainvillaea or hibiscus. And hotel gardens are often wonderfully landscaped and can be particularly interesting if you do not know tropical flora well. Hotel gardeners can be fun to talk to. Get them to tell you the local names for the various plants, which are colourful in a different way - check mother-in-law’s tongue and lobster claw. The most interesting public garden in Barbados is Andromeda on the Atlantic coast, but the others, including the Flower Forest and Hunte's, are delightful too and certainly worth a look.

The best time of year for flowering is in the dry winter season between January and March. The Barbados Horticultural Society (BHS) has its annual flower show at Balls Plantation in Christ Church towards the end of January, as well as a programme of Open Gardens, which runs between January and March. Also, the BHS has been very involved with the RHS Chelsea Flower Show in London. In just over twenty years to 2013, they have won an impressive fifteen Gold and ten Silver-Gilt Medals in the Great Pavilion. In 2006 the Barbados Flower Arranging Society also won both the Gold Medal and the Best in Show award in the Flower Arrangement category. The Flower Forest has a new owner who has greatly added plants to the garden and had some of his plants at Chelsea Flower Show.

Many tropical plants carry the name Barbadensis in the Latin system of plant classification, indicating that they originate in the island. Though some do, in fact it is not true in many cases. In the great days of the ‘plant hunters’ in the late 1700s and early 1800s, when adventurers were transporting plants around the world, Barbados was used a holding station for Kew Gardens. After quarantine on the island they were shipped off to Britain and the name Barbadensis has stuck despite the fact that many of these plants come from other parts of the world.

Public gardens in Barbados include:

Andromeda Botanic Gardens, Bathsheba - A six acre garden started as a private plant collection around the home of the late horticulturalist, Iris Bannochie in 1954. There are over six hundred different species of plants on view, laid out in a series of ‘rooms’, spaces sectioned by borders and stone walls. Andromeda was left to the people of Barbados in 1988 and is now run by the Barbados National Trust. There is a gift shop and small café. Open daily, 9am-5pm.

C O Williams Flowers, Canefield Plantation - Commercial growers of anthuriums, ginger lilies and heliconias who supply local florists and businesses. They also produce specimens for the Barbados Horticultural Society’s award winning displays at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show in London. They have an intriguing array of anthuriums which can vary in size, shape and colour – large green and pink heads to a striking purple. There is a small show garden (the greenhouses are not open to the public) and you can purchase cut flowers. They also have a mixed fruit orchard. Open week days only.

Flower Forest, Richmond - A fifty acre, lush, tropical garden with a nature trail and lovely views to the east coast. The gardens are stocked with a variety of heliconia, hibiscus, red ginger lilies, torch ginger and palms. The area of lawn with a gazebo at the heart of the garden has excellent views and is often used for weddings. Snack bar and gift shop. Wheelchair access and facilities, though the trails can be bumpy. Open daily, 9am-5pm.

Hunte's Gardens, Castle Grant - Delightful gardens created on the site of a former sugar plantation by the owner, Anthony Hunte, who lives on property. The slopes of a small gully have been completely filled with all manner of flowering shrubs and plants, of varying shapes, sizes and colours. There are hundreds of tropical plants from all over the world here, including South America and Thailand. Down in the gully is a lovely area of lawn with a wicker table and chairs where you can sit and admire the surrounding slopes. The gardens and nursery are open daily from 9am to 4pm and the entrance fee includes a rum punch or soft drink. There is no wheelchair access.

Orchid World, Groves - A stunning six acre former pig and chicken farm with around 20,000 orchids on display. Well worth spending an hour or two strolling around the attractive grounds. The best specimens are kept under cover or special netting. Snack bar and gift shop. Open daily, 9am-5pm. There is wheelchair access and facilities, though the trails can be somewhat bumpy.

Welchman Hall Gully, Welchman Hall - A jungle-filled limestone ravine bursting with exotic trees and plants, and a good place for spotting the Barbados green monkey, early morning or late afternoon. If you would like to imagine what Barbados looked like before sugarcane arrived, this is the place to visit. The gully is part of the same geological network as Harrison’s Cave, and you can see limestone formations along the trail. One of the few places where you will find nutmeg trees on Barbados and a rare clove tree. Self guide although guided tours are available with 24hrs notice. A Barbados National Trust property, acquired in 1962. Open daily, 9am-5pm.

Barbados Horticultural Society, Balls Plantation - Balls Plantation is the location of their annual flower show which is normally held towards the end of January

Read more about Barbadian/Caribbean plants.

Non-profit organisations and Government links:

The Barbados National Trust, Wildey House, Wildey, St Michael, t 426 2421, natrust@sunbeach.net | www.nationaltrustbarbados.com Office open Mon-Fri from 8am to 4pm.

Contributors: Deana Bellamy

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