Everyone the world over loves flowers. Gardens are popular everywhere. Their beauty delights the soul; stirring romance and joy in some while being used to console and comfort others. In the Caribbean there is nothing like a moonlight stroll with the scent of jasmine wafting through the air to turn your thoughts to love. Gorgeous gardens are a reason many people come to the tropics, the chance for year-round flowers. In the West Indies, the gardens are beautiful. Here, the plants get bigger; climbing philodendrons can cover the house, but be aware that these floral wonders don’t just “happen”.
There is always a landscaper somewhere for mixing plants so colors don’t clash. Hurricanes can be a problem, but they actually help the plants with water and nutrients, dry spells are more of a concern. And that is one point, things have to be just right.
Orchids are a prime example. An orchid is just a small green plant that either hangs on trees or sits of rocks, and then produces a big lovely flower. Easy to grow, right? Wrong! Each orchid has unique growing conditions. You have to get the water and light just right. Too much water and the plant becomes moldy, too little and it dies. Wrong lighting conditions, no flower. Also many orchids have to be hand pollinated, and that is difficult. No pollination means no spores and that means, eventually, no orchids.
And then there are the Caribbean Yellow or Purple Bells. Allemandes make beautiful shrubs and can even become climbing vines around the porch trellis. Goats won’t touch them and they require little watering, they adjust to the light, but beware the Christmas Caterpillars! They eat these plants with a passion, as well as the frangipani.
Bougainvilleas are beautiful and also easy to grow. Did you know that the colors are actually modified leaf bracts, the flowers are all dingy white! Unfortunately they get eaten by goats. They can also grow too fast and so require constant trimming to look best, and the caretaker has to avoid the thorns!
And that is the main problem with gardening in the Caribbean; everything has something that will eat it! Bugs, goats, birds and even small children get into everywhere and everything. Nevis, a small 36 square mile island in the Eastern Caribbean has almost as many bird species as England and possibly twice as many insects, they all get hungry! Pesticides? Not always! You can often mix and match plants to drive away insects and creatures. Oleander is a natural goat repellent. By cross pollinating Yellow with Purple Bells, you get a beautiful “Peach Bell” with fur; the fur kills the Christmas Caterpillar! Crown of Thorns is handy to keep out children, but it is murder weeding around and doesn’t always work.
Travel to the Caribbean, enjoy the gardens and remember somebody has put in a lot of work! These flower Fantasies don’t just happen.