Earthy delights

The Caribbean’s public gardens are places to enjoy the pleasures of nature — and centres for research and conservation as well

Andromeda Gardens, Bathsheba, Barbados. Photograph by John WebsterCienfuegos Botanical Garden, Cienfuegos, Cuba. Photograph by PHB.cz (Richard Semik)/shutterstock.comPalmentuin, Paramaribo, Suriname. Photograph by Evert DamanSt Vincent and the Grenadines Botanic Gardens, Kingstown, St Vincent. Photograph by Kay WilsonJardin de Balata, North of Fort-de-France, Martinique. Photograph by Pack-Shot/shutterstock.comGuyana Botanical Gardens, Georgetown, Guyana. Photograph by Michael Lam

Andromeda Gardens
Bathsheba, Barbados

Near a steep cliff overlooking the island’s east coast, Barbados’s best-known garden began as the private horticultural collection of Iris Bannochie, author of Gardening in the Caribbean. After her death in 1988, Bannochie left the garden to the Barbados National Trust, which has preserved the collection of more than six hundred plants, artfully laid out with streams, pools, and waterfalls over six acres.

Cienfuegos Botanical Garden
Cienfuegos, Cuba

Formerly known as the Atkins Institution, named for its founder, an American sugar planter, these gardens for sixty years housed the Harvard University Botanic Station for Tropical Research. A succession of professors and students visited the arboretum, thought to include the world’s largest collection of tropical palm species. Since the 1959 Cuban Revolution and the departure of Harvard’s staff, the gardens have been run by the Cuban government.

Palmentuin
Paramaribo, Suriname

Once the private garden of Suriname’s Dutch governors, the Palmentuin — or Palm Garden — was opened to the public at the start of the twentieth century, and remains one of Paramaribo’s most striking outdoor spaces. A manmade forest of royal palms and other species tower above the wooden buildings of the city’s historic district, making a vertical expanse of green.

St Vincent and the Grenadines Botanic Gardens
Kingstown, St Vincent

Founded in 1765 to preserve and study rare species of plants, the oldest botanical gardens in the tropical world are an historic landmark for St Vincent. A breadfruit tree in the twenty-acre ground is a third-generation descendant of the original plant brought from the south Pacific to the West Indies by Captain William Bligh in 1793, and the gardens are also home to a crucial captive breeding programme to rescue the highly endangered St Vincent parrot.

Jardin de Balata
North of Fort-de-France, Martinique

Martinique’s nickname is “Island of Flowers.” Horticulturalist Jean-Philippe Thoze’s Jardin de Balata is all the proof you need. Open to the public since 1986, the garden — with its three thousand plants, including numerous anthuriums, heliconias, and bromeliads — is surrounded by the hills of the Pitons du Carbet. A canopy walkway offers stunning views from treetop height, and a flower boutique lets you take some of this tropical beauty away with you. They’ll even deliver a bouquet to the airport for your flight home.

Guyana Botanical Gardens
Georgetown, Guyana

South of central Georgetown, the Botanical Gardens sprawl over 185 acres of the former Vlissingen sugar estate. Laid out in 1878, the green expanse is a birdwatchers’ delight, and also famous for its series of ponds, home to a family of semi-tame manatees. Nearby, the celebrated “kissing bridge” with its elegant green and white cast-iron railings is a popular location for wedding photos.