Over Christmas we must have been the luckiest gardeners alive, as a trip we took to Tortola in the British Virgin Islands turned from 3 weeks to 4 - all this was due to a combination of ferry companies unplanned island stops and an airport with all their flights overbooked, causing us to miss the plane home!
What can I say - initial disbelief and anger soon changed as we realised what they were telling us at the airport “you can’t fly home with us until next Thursday “. That’s 6 days away we thought ! 6 more days in the Caribbean – Horray !!! We have wanted to travel to the Caribbean for many years now as the idea of warm weather, beautiful beaches and amazing plant collections have more than just a little bit of an appeal during the dark cold winter in Britain. Blue skies every day, temperatures of 30c, warm seas for swimming in, combined with a bit of gardening can make you feel very happy and relaxed.
We were luckily staying the whole time with family in Cane Garden Bay and had one method of payment for their amazing hospitality - you guessed it (Gardening). First up was a look around to find out what was growing. Having worked at a Botanical Garden and grown many tender plants over the years I was overjoyed to find whole beds of Helaconia needing a really good tidy up. I am used to these in glasshouses at home taking a few years to flower and really struggling if the temperature drops to below 10c in the greenhouse. The temperatures at night don’t get much less than 20c even in their winter, so they grow rampantly.
After initially tidying up all the beds we set to work on building a small shade house and bug proof area for growing crops, away the from the extreme heat and out of reach of the giant caterpillars. When I say giant I really mean it – the garden was infested with Frangipani Caterpillars that were up to 6 inches in length. The timber frame for the house we put together from old pallets and included a roll up door at the front for access - Seeds were then sown and all germinated very quickly in the warm humid conditions, we are talking 2 days for the first ones to appear.
Any trip to Tortola must include a visit to the J.R O’Neal Botanical Gardens in Road town. Named after the first Chairman of the National Parks Trust it is run by 5 staff who look after a large selection of tropical species covering an area of 2.87acres. A great plant collection can be found there including the “Calabash Tree” Crescentia cujete and my personal favourite the “Sausage tree” Kigelia pinnata. Which was next to the dinner plate tree, honest.
What a trip we had – if you have never been, try to find some relatives that are good enough to have you for a whole month and book your flight!