Gardens in Regrowth: Flowers, Plants and Produce Rebound on the Nature Isle

IMG_20180223_072553_828 (2)
A beautiful rose blooms in the Gordon’s garden in Wallhouse, Dominica in February 2018.

When I first arrived back in Dominica in January 2018, there was considerable  Hurricane Maria-caused devastation and destruction all around.  But what truly amazed me throughout my two and a half month visit, was the remarkable regrowth of plants and flowers, even during the short time that I was there.  No matter where I traveled on-island, I discovered natural beauty rebounding in all areas.  Despite the lengthy recovery process from this catastrophic cyclone, which adversely impacted life and property on Dominica, there were definitely signs of recovery in the botanical world.

 

From my first day in my old neighbourhood, I was truly amazed by the bounty of floral splendor around my apartment, located

IMG_20180128_195700_329
Colourful plants along a property boundary wall at the Gordon’s home in Wallhouse, Dominica were often refreshed by a rainshowers.

on the property of Vernon and Geramise Gordon in Wallhouse.  While they toiled away at extensive home repairs and roof reconstruction, as well as addressing the responsibilities of  their demanding jobs, they always took time to tend their garden.   I was definitely a grateful recipient of their energetic efforts, as I frequently sat on my porch to take in the immediate beauty that surrounded me.

One of my frequent favourite “haunts” during the years  I lived near Roseau was the beautiful Botanical Gardens. But after Hurricane Maria tore up the island, this once-lovely setting looked “empty”  when I was there a few months after the direct hit from the cyclone.  A full report of the substantial losses in this previously gorgeous site can be found in this informative article in The Sun Newspaper Dominica. It is hoped that this historic and naturally attractive public space  will rebound over time. I have previously written about this tropical garden, which originated in the 19th century in my blog, Ti Domnik Tales.  You can read about it here.

Some views of the Botanical Gardens near Roseau, Dominica in March 2018:

 

My other favourite garden in Dominica, located near Trafalgar in the Roseau Valley also experienced dire losses of plants and trees, but thankfully the owners on-site survived the storm.  Papillote Wilderness Retreat, lovingly designed and cultivated by Anne Jno Baptiste for more than half a century did not escape the wrath of Maria.  Her four-acre tropical garden was drastically affected, but its changed condition was not stopping the vivacious octogenarian from picking up the pieces, revising her plans, and moving ahead to revive the naturally luxuriant rain-forest property.

Throughout my years in Dominica, I had frequented this sensational site, as its offerings of wholesome organic lunches, massages by physiotherapist Ariane, hot and cold mineral pools for therapeutic baths, waterfalls and 360-degree greenery were only 20 minutes from my home. I always felt rejuvenated after spending a healing day there.  I have written extensively about this international award-winning property.  You can find those pieces on my Ti Domnik Tales blog here

It was a real treat to visit with Anne, and a delight to be in the company of mutual good friend, organic gardener Karen Sutherland of Roots Farm in Cochrane. I was grateful to Karen for taking a day off from her busy organic farm, which had also incurred devastating losses as a result of Maria. Karen and her partner Roy have worked extremely hard for about two decades (so far) to establish and maintain a sustainable, environmentally-friendly, 100 per cent organic farm, as well as their chemical-free home and guest apartment in the mountains, just north and east of Roseau. While I was on-island, I purchased their produce during weekly visits to the Roseau Market on Saturdays.  The offerings  were limited initially as the vegetables needed time and tending to regrow.  However,  as the weeks wore on, more edible plants flourished, so I happily bought and eagerly devoured the fruits of their labours from their pristine environment. While I did not visit their farm this time, I have previously written about their exceptional efforts and high standards for sustainable living on the Nature Island.  You can read those posts on Ti Domnik Tales here.

 

On a very hot day in Dominica, Karen kindly drove us up the Roseau Valley to Anne’s cool place, where we chatted and sipped basilic tea freshly “snipped” from the garden.  The spry proprietor showed me around the property: her latest projects included upgrades and repairs to some guest apartments, as well as modifications to her lush garden.  While the hurricane had caused considerable damage, I could see that Anne was allowing nature to “take its course.”  This wise woman appeared to be watching and waiting to see how things would evolve, as well as actively fixing up what she could on her stunning acreage near Trafalgar Falls. I appreciated her wisdom and intuition with respect to adapting to these unforeseen circumstances.  This type of situation, which repeated itself all over Dominica reaffirmed to me that ultimately, “God is in control,” which is an oft-repeated affirmation on the Nature Isle.

 

As well as the organic offerings that I relished from Roots Farm in my own kitchen, I was happy to rediscover the Starline Ital Kitchen, a little gem of a “snackette” on River Street in Roseau.  Although only a few months after Maria, it was up and running early in 2018.  Nigel, the proprietor, serves up tantalizing ital (all natural) vegetarian meals  and snacks for breakfast and lunch.  Much of the produce comes from his own garden near Soufriere, on the southwest coast.  Whenever I go to his establishment for lunch, I insist that I can only eat half of the meal, as the plates of food are so large. Now I better understand the definitions of “devour” and “savor” after having consumed such a tasteful combination of natural flavours! I know that this Rastafarian works very hard and spends long hours doing what he loves for the healthful benefit of others. I thank him for his loving efforts for better living.  My mouth is watering as I write this.  I can’t wait for my next meal from StarLine Ital Kitchen!

 

With so many encouraging signs of nature’s rebirth  readily apparent everywhere on Dominica, it is hoped that the island will  be spared from storms this hurricane season.  One only has to look around this spectacular and unique country to be assured that nature always triumphs with innate resiliency. Perhaps this is an approach for all of us to emulate. Admittedly, it is not easy on many levels. However, we can definitely help nature along, so please do your part to protect this precious planet!

 

 

Advertisements

Places I (have) Love(d): Historic Springfield Hit Hard by ‘Maria’

 

20180127_134438_HDR
The leaking post-Maria breeze-way between the kitchen and the dining room as seen on January 27, 2018.

On a rainy Saturday afternoon in late January, my friend Nancy Osler took me up to see Dominica’s historic Springfield Plantation Guest House in its post-Maria state. She is the on-site Manager of ATREC, a local management company with study -abroad programs for students that partners with  Clemson University in the USA, the owners of the property. This beautiful natural setting of about 190 acres, some of which is rainforest, is located inland on the Imperial Road above the settlement of Antrim.  It’s about a 20 minute drive from Roseau, the capital city.

I spent my first year and a half in Dominica living at this beautiful former 18th century estate, and have loved it from the moment I arrived there in 1997. Over the years, I have been fortunate to return to this special place many times for day visits.  As well, I have been blessed to have become friends with both Managers during my almost two decades in Dominica: first, the late Mona George-Dill and then Nancy Osler, who has been there since 2005. (I have written extensively about Springfield in my blog Ti Domnik Tales. As well, I compiled an  historical overview of the estate, which dates back to the 18th century, for Domnitjen Magazine in 2009).

But now, just over 20 years since I first encountered this idyllic setting , the drastically changed scene rendered me completely aghast. I was basically speechless as Nancy showed me around the property. Truly, I just wanted to cry.  She said that I could ask her anything about it, but I just couldn’t bring myself to do it.  I was so terribly saddened by what I saw in a place that I had cherished so dearly for such a long time.

There was extensive damage to most of the structures on the site,  caused by fierce winds that gusted up to about 160 mph.

 

The surrounding foliage fared no better. An ancient Samaan tree, which had withstood previous hurricanes, had succumbed to Maria’s wrath. However, its “twin” was still standing and there was some hope (on my part, at least) that it might rebound in time. The stately Royal Palms that lined the  walkway to the Butterfly Garden en route to the trail to the river did thankfully withstand the wind blasts for the most part, although their fronds were severed or at the very least, stripped almost

20180127_131906
Stately Royal Palms rebound, as seen from severely damaged rooms at Springfield in March 2018.

bare.

And then there was the human factor.  In the days and months following the devastation, Nancy relayed bits and pieces of her traumatic ‘Maria’ story to me. Nancy had sent her staff to their homes before the storm.  She along with Liz Madisetti sought refuge in her apartment, which is located on the property.  While it seemed initially to be a sheltered spot from the winds, the normally calm stream some distance away overflowed in the torrential rains that carried debris from higher in the mountains. When muddy waters entered her living space, she and Liz sought shelter in the bathtub for a few hours. While the water up to that point was no more than four inches high on the floor, there was no way to predict what would take place from one moment to the next.  Then came a few minutes of calm.

When they assumed that the eye was overhead, there was a commotion at her door.  Desmond, a longtime staff member and some of his family had come down the hill (normally a five-minute walk) to seek shelter as the roof of their house had blown away.  But they could not open Nancy’s door.  The wind and water had lodged it so that the family had to physically break it down so the trapped occupants could

20180127_131552
The mattress that helped to protect Nancy and several others in the kitchen of Springfield during the second half of the wrath of Maria.

escape.  Then Nancy and the small group quickly mounted a flight of stairs and remained for the rest of the night in the kitchen, until the storm subsided.  They had to take turns holding a mattress against the window to protect themselves from some of the outside fury that was trying to get in!

 

Obviously, I had no way of contacting Nancy, or anyone else for several days following the storm.  As mentioned in earlier posts, there was a huge void of communication from Dominica during those first few days. I had sent a text to Nancy immediately following the storm, and I was greatly relieved when I heard back from her a few days later.  She wrote that she was “homeless, but fine” and that she and Liz were safe and had sufficient food and water. Of course, they could not leave the dilapidated premises due to landslides, mudslides, downed trees and ubiquitous debris, which blocked the Imperial Road for several days.

P1000388-1Along with extensive structural and property damage,  most of Nancy’s personal possessions were completely destroyed. But

my orchid
I gave Nancy this orchid in June 2016, when I left Dominica. To the surprise of both of us, it survived the storm! Photo by N. Osler.

despite the losses, she remains hopeful that Springfield might be  rebuilt as best as possible in these modern times. But that decision remains with Clemson University, the current owners of the estate. For now,  the local management company ATREC, with its study-abroad programs remains closed.

My wish for Springfield, my first “love” on Dominica,  is that this extraordinary site on the Nature Isle will be resurrected as the magical place in a paradise I once knew, and continue to love.

What Hurricane Maria did to Springfield, Dominica*:

*Above photos taken on January 27, 2018.