Category: gardening

An Amazing Weekend in Nassau

Finally, a few minutes to write about last weekend! As some of you know, last Saturday was my book signing at Logos Bookstore in Nassau. Huge thanks to Logos’ owner Ricardo Munroe and his staff for being so welcoming.

From one author to another… me with Bahamian meteorologist and author, Wayne Neely. (Photo courtesy of Wayne Neely.)

Logos has long been my favourite Bahamian bookstore. For years, every trip to Nassau has included at least one visit to Logos to check out what’s new in their Bahamian history section (and, I’ll admit, to imagine what it would be like to have my own books displayed there.) Thanks to Ricardo for helping me make that dream a reality.

And thank you to everyone who came out for the signing, which was a terrific success.

It was wonderful to see so many old friends – including a few I hadn’t seen in decades – and to meet some new ones. I also discovered a few new relatives!

Two of my favourite Bahamian authors – Rosemary Hanna and Wayne Neely – also stopped by to say hello.

In addition to being a meteorologist, Wayne is the author of a series of books about the most devastating hurricanes to hit the Bahamas.

His books, which draw on first-hand accounts as well as his professional expertise, include The Great Bahamas Hurricane of 1866The Greatest and Deadliest Hurricanes of the Caribbean and the Americas, and  The Great Bahamian Hurricanes of 1899 and 1932. They make for fascinating reading, and the latter was instrumental to me in conducting research for my own book.

Amy Roberts Garden Club Fundraiser This Saturday

This Saturday morning, February 25, from 9:00 am to noon, the Amy Roberts Primary School Garden Club will hold a fundraising bake sale at Green Turtle Cay’s basketball court. Along with sweets and treats, they hope to also sell locally grown herbs such as basil and cilantro.

Fundraiser for the Amy Roberts Primary School Garden Club takes place this Saturday, February 25, from 9am to noon at the basketball court.

Members of the Amy Roberts Primary School Garden Club with Stacy Jones Maxwell, Teri Ray and Kim Daugherty, who generously donated seeds, gloves and other supplies. Photo: Ashrica Gardiner.

Fish Hooks Update: Our Garden (Part 2)

You know how sometimes, the smell of something can trigger a flood of memories?

Night-blooming jasmine

(Photo by Francisco Manuel Blanco (O.S.A.) – Flora de Filipinas via Wikipedia)

That’s what happens to me when I smell night-blooming jasmine (aka cestrum nocturnum).

Its musky, sweet fragrance reminds me of summer nights strolling through the quiet streets of Green Turtle Cay, eating ice cream and laughing with my cousins.

When Tom and I moved to Los Angeles a decade ago, I was excited to discover that jasmine was quite common. I soon learned, however, that it’s not the same as the night-blooming jasmine I know.

The jasmine we have in California blooms continuously for a few weeks during the spring. It’s covered in pristine white blooms and gives off a powerful, cloying-to-the-point-of-inducing-headaches fragrance.

By comparison, night-blooming jasmine isn’t much to look at. Most of the time, it’s just a leafy shrub with scrawny, greenish buds. But every so often, on balmy tropical evenings, those buds open and exhale delicate wafts of fragrance.

When we were young, it seemed like night-blooming jasmine was everywhere on the cay. It’s much more difficult to find these days. Fortunately, I ran into a friend last trip who has a plant, and he very graciously agreed to give me a few clippings.

I was beyond excited. For more than a decade, from the moment we began thinking about buying Fish Hooks, Tom and I envisioned having night-blooming jasmine in the yard. Junior Roberts, whose team of gardeners maintains our property, has promised to mind my prized clippings and plant them when they’re suitably rooted.

Night-blooming jasmine

Night-blooming jasmine plant (center and right)

Thanks to Junior and his team, the garden at Fish Hooks is coming along nicely. Once nothing more than a rocky pit, our front yard is now carpeted with soft, healthy grass. And our flowering plants and shrubs, coconut palms and young fruit trees are all thriving.

Fish Hooks Garden Update

Coconut palms given to us by our late neighbour, Winkie, and a mango tree propagated from a seed by our previous gardener, Charles.

Unfortunately, not much was in bloom while I was most recently on the cay, but fingers crossed, our oleander, hibiscus, bridal bouquet and frangipani will be blossoming when I’m back later in the spring.

And I cannot wait for the first time the fragrance from our own night-blooming jasmine wafts in from the garden!

My neem plant

Also a gift (this one from our kind neighbour, Eileen Hodgkins) our neem plant will also scent the garden when it matures.

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Growing New Friendships with the Abaco Horticultural Society

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Abaco Horticultural Society Meeting, Green Turtle Cay

During a recent trip to Abaco, I was invited to a meeting of the Abaco Horticultural Society at Papillon, the Green Turtle Cay home of Chris Dale.

Tom and I have long admired Papillon, so I was excited to have an opportunity to see the house and explore its gorgeous English garden. Chris has designed a beautiful, meandering outdoor space with cozy seating nooks from which to enjoy dozens of colourful tropical plants and enjoy the ocean breeze.

Fish Hooks Restoration Update: Our Garden

Showers of gold, a.k.a. thryallis, from our neighbour, Eileen Hodgkins

When we planted grass at Fish Hooks, we figured that would be the extent of our yard work, at least for a while. There were plenty of indoor tasks demanding attention. And though Tom and I had visions of a lush, tropical oasis of a back yard, as condo dwellers, we weren’t terribly sure where to begin. Fortunately, our Green Turtle Cay family, friends and neighbours stepped in to help.

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The very first flower to bloom in the garden at Fish Hooks, courtesy of my cousin Alton.

My cousin Alton Lowe and his friend Mike Donovan brought a selection of clippings from Alton’s amazing garden, including sisal, aloe, bromeliads, yellow frangipani (a.k.a. plumeria) and shrimp flowers. I’m especially excited about the latter, since Alton tells us it was my great-grandmother, Ma May, who first introduced shrimp flowers to the cay.

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Shrimp flower

Our western neighbour, Eileen Hodgkins, gave us an entire pot of showers of gold (a.k.a. thryallis) she’d grown from seeds. Another day, she stopped by with a dwarf poinciana cutting, and when I admired the fragrant blossoms on her neem tree, she graciously offered us a clipping.

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A white frangipani tree, courtesy of Fanny McIntosh.

Our neighbour to the south, Winkie Wilson, brought us a handful of baby coconut trees. Another friend, Fanny McIntosh, gave us a young frangipani tree she’d rooted from a clipping. Donnie Adderley, our electrician, contributed a lily plant, and our gardener, Charles Smith, added a small mango tree, a chenille plant and several croton clippings.

A few weeks back, my uncle, Jeffrey Albury — who has clearly inherited Ma May’s green thumb — sent an entire pallet of plants, including desert roses, bridal bouquet, oleander as well as young key lime, sour orange, avocado, guava and soursop trees, on the freight boat from Nassau.

As horticultural newbies, Tom and I are grateful for the gardening advice we’ve received from Josh Lowe, Nigel Lowe and Leonard Lowe (who’s responsible for the gorgeous gardens at the Leeward Yacht Club), and for the extra sprinkler our friend, Matt Lowe, lent us to water our oasis-in-the-making.

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The first blooms on our yellow frangipani tree.

Today, we have more than fifty new plants and trees in our yard, all — except for an avocado tree I sprouted from a pit — generously given to us by family and friends!

It truly is a community garden — a lovely, living reminder of the friendship and kindness extended by so many to Tom and me throughout our Fish Hooks journey. Thank you to everyone who’s helped bring it to life.

Related: Resurrecting Ma May’s Garden

Fish Hooks Restoration: The Front Yard

Once Fish Hooks had been moved backward onto its new foundation, we had a fantastic new front yard. The bad news? It was little more than a gaping hole filled with debris, broken concrete and centipedes — as unsafe as it was unattractive.

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A “before” shot of our new front yard

One important project during our last trip to the cay was to convert this pit into a safe and welcoming front yard. Knowing Fish Hooks is one of the first things visitors see when they step off the ferry, we want to be sure our house and garden are as attractive as possible.

As soon as the porch was complete, we got started on leveling out the yard. Since garden soil is virtually impossible to come by on the island, we ordered some fill and sand from Wade Cash. And, as is his style, Wade exceeded our expectations. Instead of the plain rocky fill we anticipated, he turned up with a truckload of dark, rich earth.

He happened to be excavating a project site that week and had some soil to spare.

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Tom celebrates our good fortune

This dirt soon became the subject of much interest. At least a half-dozen of our neighbours stopped by to ask where they could get some.

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Charles Smith, our gardener, and his crew spread the newly delivered earth

With the rainy season due to begin any day, Tom and I realized that until we had a lawn to anchor it, we’d need to keep that precious dirt from washing away. Especially since several friends had jokingly promised to “liberate” any of it that ended up on the public roadway.

After a bit of thought, we knew just what to do.

When Fish Hooks had been moved a few months before, we’d set aside a couple dozen beautiful old stones. Some had been part of the house’s original foundation. Others were pieces of Ma May’s outdoor stone oven. At the time, we had no idea what to do with them — we just agreed they were too historic and beautiful to get rid of.

Now, we realized they’d make the perfect border across the front of the yard.

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The rock border in place

Originally, we’d planned for this stone border to be temporary — just until we installed a proper fence. However, we love it so much, we’re thinking of keeping it and working the fence and garden around the stones.

After the yard had been leveled out and the soil secured with this low retaining wall, it was time for grass. We chose Zoysia (it’s similar to Bermuda grass and is used a lot on golf courses), because of its resistance to salt, sun, drought and weeds, and for its fine, soft, carpet-like texture.

Charles planted small clumps of grass throughout the yard, promising that before long, it would spread and cover the dirt.

Sure enough, within a week or so, the rains started and the Zoysia began to take hold. The photo below was taken a week or so after it was first planted…

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… and the two pictures below were taken last week by our friends, Mandy Roberts and her son, Dillon. Tom and I are so happy with the yard to date — can’t wait to get back to the cay and begin planning out our garden!

bahamas, abaco, green turtle cay, fish hooks, zoysia, grass

bahamas, abaco, green turtle cay, fish hooks, grass, garden, zoysia

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