Professor Henry FraserArchitecural Historian / Heritage Consultant
Chairman, Sentinel Committee, Barbados National Trust
Writer, TV Presenter, National Orator & Motivational Speaker
Professor Emertius, Medicine and Clinical Pharmacology.
Immediate Past Dean, Faculty of Medical Sciences.
University of the West Indies, Cave Hill Campus, Barbados.

 



The kiss of the sun for pardon
The song of the birds for mirth
 One is nearer God’s heart in a garden
Than anywhere else on earth.”

(From "The Lord God Planted a Garden" by Dorothy Frances Gurney (1858-1932) )

The recent National Trust Open House, Pandanus, with beautiful gardens overlooking an awesome St. Peter gully, inspired me to think about the Great Gardens of Barbados – past and present.

Early visitors described Barbados as “one large garden”. The first reference to specific gardens is Schomburgk’s History of Barbados (1848). He described Mr. Piers’s garden at Staple Grove as the finest in the island, and he mentioned Codrington College and Government House.

The Farley Hill gardens became famous in the time of Sir Graham Briggs, who imported exotic plants, including the first Norfolk Pine, and was a great collector of art, antiquarian relics, maps and plants. James Anthony Froude, controversial English historian and editor of Fraser’s Magazine (no relative!) described Farley Hill as “a palace with which Aladdin himself might have been satisfied”. He also waxed warm on the gardens of Government House in his travel book The English in the West Indies (1888). Barbados, unlike Jamaica with several botanical gardens, and St. Vincent, where the Botanical Garden was started in 1765, never developed a botanical garden in early days, but Government House under Lord Seaforth, 200 years ago, was a repository for many exotics, and Froude described the many palms and the cannon ball tree, our famous South American emigrant.  The specimen at Government House on the South Western corner of the East lawn is the most magnificent in the island, even bigger than that in the Fountain Gardens.

In the early 1900s, Lady Carter and ladies of the Civic Circle developed several public garden spaces, including the Esplanade and Queen’s Park, which Lady Carter designed, complete with African hut and fountain, which we’re incapable of maintaining!  She was the beautiful, young wife of Governor Sir Gilbert Carter (1904 – 1911). Incidentally, for reasons unknown, when they retired here in 1918, he had hyphenated his name, becoming Sir Gilbert Thomas Gilbert-Carter, so she was known throughout her later 25 years as Lady Gilbert-Carter. They purchased adjacent properties, Glenelg and Richmond Lodge, on Government Hill, creating a magnificent Edwardian mansion and great gardens, rivalling Government House down the road!  And they chose the name Ilaro – in memory of Nigeria, where he was Governor in the 1890s -  a powerful symbol of our African connection, and our perfect Prime Minister’s residence (AND A NATIONAL TRUST OPEN HOUSE THIS WEDNESDAY!)

Over the years ladies of leisure competed with their plantation house gardens, meeting at houses like Villa Nova, Woodland, Ashbury and others. But it wasn’t until the last half century that our modern great gardens were created. Iris Bannochie, (widow of the great Diagnostic Clinic founder Dr. Harry Bayley) created Andromeda Botanical Gardens on family land at Bathsheba, overlooking Atlantis Hotel. It was named after the mythological Greek maiden Andromeda, chained to a rock by the Gods as punishment for her mother’s boasting of her beauty. Iris brought in exotics from everywhere, and her orchids, hibiscus variants and palm collection were world famous. Andromeda is an international Heliconia Centre, and the gigantic Talipot palm, great wonder of the plant world, which flowers once after 50 years and then dies, is now in bloom – DON’T MISS IT!

Our other great gardens are the breath-taking Flower Forest, unique Hunte’s Gardens at Castle Grant, and beautiful Orchid World, in a former quarry at Groves. Welchman Hall Gully provides a tropical rain forest habitat in the collapsed cave above Harrison’s Cave; it’s a perfect place to commune with God.

Beautiful private gardens opened once a year for the Barbados Horticultural Society in January and February include Garden House, Constant; Glendale on Golf Club Road, Fisherpond Huse (Michael Winner’s Global Restaurant winner) and others, especially splendid West Coast villas, while hotels such as Cobblers Cove have the most breath-taking gardens – glimpses of Paradise!

Many of our greatest gardens are beautifully captured in Barbados in Bloom, by David Button & Keith Miller, with splendid colour photos by Derek St. Romaine, UK Garden Photographer of the Year, and the most magnificent, informative captions and text by horticulturist Dr. John Webster. It includes Eusteen’s splendid cottage garden, which reminds us of past pride in roadside gardens. If only we could all take such pride in these fields and hills and wayside plots, Barbados would once more be described as “One large garden”!

And speaking of gardens and flowers, here are some Bouquets of the week: To David Seale, Liz Dean and the amazing Jalon Samuel for the greatest World Cup race imaginable; to Ezra Stuart for reminding us of the greatness of our Hero, Sir Frank Worrell; and to Undine Shorey, for leading the fight to improve real literacy across Barbados. And Brickbats to those morons or selfish people who continue to cross the new double lines at the apex of the Wildey Triangle, holding up traffic behind them.

Professor Fraser is Past President of the Barbados National Trust, and past Dean of Medical Sciences, UWI.


Henry Fraser Historic Houses Of Barbados Book CoverHistoric Houses of Barbados
Written by Henry Fraser & Ronnie Huges.
Available at all book leading book stores in Barbados.


Henry Fraser Treasures Of Barbados Book CoverTreasures of Barbados
Written by Sir George Alleyne and edited by Henry Fraser.
Available at the UWI Bookshop the publishers.


Henry Fraser Chattle House Book CoverBarbados Chattel Houses
Written by Henry Fraser and Bob Kiss.
Available at all leading book stores.


Henry Fraser A-Z Barbados Book CoverA-Z of Barbados Heritage
Written by Sean Carrington, Henry Fraser, John Gilmore and Addington Forde.
Available at Days Bookstore Barbados and Amazon.com


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