Gardening In Paradise

Maddy from The Balcony Gardener team was fortunate enough to spend her Easter holidays this year on the beautiful island of Man-O-War Cay in the Bahamas, a paradise island surrounded by beautiful, tropical waters. Besides the snorkelling, sailing, sun-bathing and rum-punching, Maddy also spent time visiting local artisans who have created a rich industry amongst this small cluster of islands of woodwork, boat-building, cloth-making and copper work. She’s shared a few pictures here from her trip and also spoke with her lovely hosts the Save family about gardening on an island prone to heavy hurricanes.

Without wanting to make the rest of the team too jealous when I returned from my picturesque Easter holiday (I had treated them to copious picture of me on a paradise island either sun-bathing or with a large rum cocktail in my hand!) I was keen to show everyone pictures of the beautiful floral and fauna found on Man-O-War Cay. A small island in the Abaco region of the Bahamas, Man-O-War Cay can only be reached by boat; there are no cars on the island  and any long journeys need to be taken by golf buggy. The total distance of the island only reaches 2.5 miles long and is relatively narrow with often less than 100 metres between the harbour and beach side of the Island; so of course a golf buggy is the only way to get around! It was fascinating to see that on an island so small, it boasted such craftsmanship – we visited a wooden workshop and a cloth-making studio brimming with busy sewers.

Anne-Charlotte spends the Winter months on Man-O-War and keeps a bright and beautiful garden blossoming, I was astonished to see the size of the lush basil bush in her vegetable patch. Every year they need to prepare for the prospect of an approaching hurricane, a factor that we just don’t have to negotiate with in European gardening. Ann-Charlotte explains, “We more than hope that it will miss this island. When a hurricane hits here the wind is so strong and the ocean spray covers the houses, and will carry all the salt – this is what really kills the plants. You just hope for a good rain afterwards to clean up the salt.”

Last year, Man-O-War was one of the first hit by the destructive Hurricane Sandy and many of their plants and flowers fell victim to the mighty hurricane, as Anne-Charlotte explains: “the problem with Hurricane Sandy  was that we never got rain afterwards, so many plants simply gave up.” However looking forward, a few months on the plants are lush and growing again, “This time of the year we are replanting since we are going into summer time and the rainy season. Everything looks so pretty and green at the moment.” Anne-Charlotte kindly sent us the below picture of a beautiful orchid growing in a neighbour’s garden.

I also admired the wooden window boxes adorning many lone windows, reminding me of a few of  my favourite The Balcony Gardener’s window boxes! They are all made on the island by a carpenter called Hartley, he inherited his Father’s business and has a workshop brimming full of wooden crafts, statues and made to order wooden creations.

Sailing to a neighbouring island, we visited the copper-making studio of another artisan, the work was astonishing – using salt cases they would encase the copper in a design and shape, before knocking the salt away to reveal a copper fish, turtle, dolphin… Again the studio was full of workers and designer, all creating hand-crafted pieces.

A beautiful holiday in beautiful surroundings! What was the most revelatory was meeting such skilled craftsmen and creatives across these hidden Paradise islands, and also seeing such beautifully lush greenery. Another favourite was also the nightly cocktail watching the sun go down before dinner….Bliss!

To create your own Paradise Island look, pick a few pieces from The Balcony Gardener website:

With special thanks to Anne-Charlotte and Per.