February 6, 2004
Standing beneath a massive Talipot palm at Andromeda Botanic Gardens, I can hear not only the sound of waves breaking, I can inhale a dozen tropical scents, taste the tang of the sea, and feel the ‘aaaah!’ of shade on my skin after hiking along a hot, sun-drenched path. Above me, doves coo a gentle accompaniment to the surf, while colorful butterflies and hummingbirds flit through the Garden-of-Eden spectacle that lies below.
Andromeda Gardens: I’d liked the very sound of it before even setting foot in the place. Later, I learned that the fanciful name derives from the rocky formations the gardens are "chained" to, much as the Greek maiden Andromeda was chained to a rock by the sea to appease an angry Poseidon.
It’s a romantic notion, no? Well, it’s an unabashedly romantic place, the private creation of renowned horticulturalist Iris Bannochie, who gathered exotic plants from around the globe and brought them to this picturesque corner of Barbados. While Iris is gone, her garden, beautifully maintained by the Barbados National Trust, lives on. (And what better legacy could one ask for, really, than to leave behind a lovely garden, maintained in perpetuity?)
The Trust does everything it can to make Andromeda visitor friendly, and they succeed. The staff is congenial and well-informed, the on-site Hibiscus Café can provide a picnic to take into the garden, and there are many tranquil spots to sit and take it all in. Highlights of the garden include a striking collection of heliconias, rare palms, an orchid house, many fragrant flowering vines, and a large ornamental pond teeming with bullfrogs sunning themselves on lily pads.
The lily pond, Andromeda Botanical Gardens
Start by getting copies of the walking tours at the entrance, then step across a quaint bridge into the garden. Two self-guided walks diverge here. Both are delightful, though "Iris’s Walk" is perhaps better suited to those with limited time or mobility. The second route, "John’s Path," rambles over more of the intensely cultivated eight-acre plot, ranging up through a series of terraced gardens and back down again.
Never one to stint when it comes to a garden, I attempt both walks, frequently consulting the informative handout. I learn, for example, that the native bearded fig tree, whose hair-like aerial roots cascade almost to the ground, prompted Portuguese sailors to call the island "Los Barbados," meaning "the bearded ones."
It’s hard to follow the walks’ numbered routes, however, as paths head in multiple directions, each seeming more enticing than the next. Soon I’m simply wandering through the horticultural maze, not particularly caring if I’m taking the proscribed route. I pass a happy-looking couple enjoying a picnic in the gazebo on the hilltop, then pass by them twice more during the course of my perambulations. They haven’t stirred an inch.
Come to think of it, they may have had the right idea all along.
From journal I'd Rather Be in Barbados