Getting the Gardens in Shape
After buying the house, we focused on cleaning, repairs and painting, while casting critical eyes at the landscape. Two of us are active gardeners. Bruce lived on the Island for several years in the ‘80’s, and while he was at the home in Foxes Bay, he bought the vacant lot next to the house and spent much of his time landscaping it. He’s lived in tropical conditions for the last 25 years. Larry is a professional horticulturist, but his experience with tropicals is strictly as houseplants. So we look at the yard and see lots and lots of opportunities.
First, we are learning what we have: a couple of nice mango trees, and a large plum rose tree which is planted a bit closer to the deck than we would like. It brings welcomed shade to the pool area in afternoons in the summer, though. There are also a couple of colorful flamboyant trees, a yellow cotton tree, and a small yellow poui tree, which flowers spectacularly for about three days in April.
There are several plumerias (frangipani), some crotons, some hibiscus, and other colorful shrubs. The previous owner also planted some orchids which we are looking forward to seeing in bloom.
That said, there is a lot of open space on the property, as it’s one house on three lots.
Larry has been focusing on the perimeters, where there are a lot of trees and shrubs that have come up over the years as “volunteers.” He is trying to determine what’s native (good) and what isn’t (possibly invasive). What’s good includes a number of mahogany trees, and white cedars. What’s bad includes a number of neem trees. The latter were introduced to the island about 30 years ago as a possible agricultural crop, and they have spread through their berries.
We have been doing a lot of pruning and some tree removal, to improve the view of the sea and the Center Hills from the house. Most of what has come down is non-native; primarily the neem trees. When I say “we,” I mostly mean our dedicated garden maintenance team, led by Leroy Hixon.
We’ve planted several areca palms by the pool to increase the privacy, and they are filling in. In July we planted a dozen banana plants and about 20 of the large-leaved native philodendrons. Most of these went into the lower corner of the property where there was previously a lot of scrubby brush and neem trees.
One of the challenges is the layer of volcanic ash that has built up as the top layer of soil over the last twenty years. It is somewhat acidic and it makes it hard to grow turf grass. Mr. Hixon removed the ash from part of the property in August and has sprigged in new grass (“Devil Grass”). If it takes, we will continue the process in the lower yard. We are also looking at putting in some terraces and/or terrace gardens to reduce runoff down the rather steep slope of the yard.
So the gardens are a work in progress. We are looking forward to doing more when we return in November. We already have field trips to the local small nurseries planned. We need to put in some Key Lime trees for Bruce!