By Kevin Smith
Need to get away this holiday season ? Discover 10 highlights for garden lovers on the beautiful Caribbean island of Grenada.
I’ve always admired Grenada’s gold-medal-winning displays at the Chelsea Flower Show, so I jumped at the chance to visit the island to see where the famous plants come from. And I wasn’t disappointed. I managed to visit lots of beautiful gardens during my week-long trip, most privately owned and with wonderful owners giving the tours themselves.
While the gardens were a treat, Grenada has so much more to offer. I adored hiking around the Grand Etang Rainforest, and fell in love with the waterfalls and landscape. Grand Anse beach was remarkable, and I visited chocolate factories, nutmeg processing stations, markets and a rum distillery, filling my case with delicious goodies to bring home.
Narrowing down my highlights to just 10 was a challenge, but here they are.
Sunny Side Garden
I experienced pure joy at Sunny Side when I took a turn on a wooden rope swing hanging from a tree. Everyone should give it a go. The setting helped of course, with five acres of gently sloping garden complete with koi ponds and no end of palms, orchids, hibiscus, bromeliads, all adding to the experience. I was shown around by Randy, the son of the garden’s creators, who recommended I take the tour bare food – I did and didn’t regret it.
Grand Etang Rainforest
I wasn’t expecting to see rainforest in Grenada, so the 300 acres that greeted me came as a welcome surprise. The forest sores 1900ft above sea level, with steep, winding roads making their way through the lush landscape – the driving isn’t for the faint hearted, but it’s worth it. I was lucky enough to go on a short hike led by Simon from Hidden Treasures, and I’ve never seen such large bamboo plants in my life. There’s also Grand Etang Lake in the middle of it all, which is essential for a pit stop.
I met the owner of Smithy’s, Anne Campbell, a few times during my trip so it was a real pleasure to visit her garden too. It was absolutely beautiful, and perhaps the garden I related to the most out of all those I visited – just like me, Anne has too many plants and an endless list of gardening jobs to do! Anne is a talented florist, and grows as many flowers as she can for arranging and donating to Grenada’s Chelsea exhibit.
I’d read the estate grows flowers commercially, many of which head to Chelsea, so I was expecting to see regimented lines of blooms. What greeted me couldn’t have been more different, with all the plants growing naturally to form an incredibly beautiful landscape. The estate is skilfully cared for, and one of the knowledgeable staff gave me a fascinating tour, but the experience was more akin to trekking in the jungle than visiting a commercial grower. Utterly thrilling!
River Antoine Rum Distillery
I’ll try anything once – and once was enough when it came to Rivers Rum! It’s 75% proof, and I managed a measly sip. How locals drink shots of the stuff, I’ll never know. The distillery where the rum is made is completely fascinating though, with the process unchanged for hundreds of years. Sugar cane is processed in machinery powered by a water wheel, and the distilling equipment is wood fired – it really did feel like stepping back in time.
Palm Tree Gardens
It was pouring with rain when I visited Palm Tree Gardens, but that didn’t stop me enjoying a fantastic tour. In fact, the plant-filled veranda of the main building was possibly the garden highlight of my whole trip. Among the myriad gingers, heliconias, bromeliads and more, I spotted resident tortoises and the most enormous toad I’ve ever seen. The gardens creator, Lawrence Lambert, is buried in the garden and it’s now cared for by a team of dedicated staff.
Grand Anse Beach
A local told me to head to Grand Anse Beach and go for a dip on the afternoon I arrived on Grenada – the perfect refresher after the long journey. What wonderful advice that was. I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw the never-ending stretch of white sand, palm trees and turquoise water – everything you’d imagine of a Caribbean island and more. The beach wasn’t overcrowded, with tourists and locals happily enjoying the place together. Needless to say, I visited more than once.
Gem Rose Eden
I adored Gemma Flemming, the owner of this remarkable garden. Her enthusiasm for plants was infectious, as she checked the progress of each and every one, while showing me her garden’s highlights. Like all the gardens I visited, Gemma’s was bursting with tropical blooms the likes of which I could only dream of growing at home. But there was more than that – I loved her paths, steps, small ponds and the odd garden building dotted about the place. They created beautiful garden views with an intimate feel.
Hyde Park Garden
The views from Hyde Park alone, make it worthy of a spot in my top 10. It’s set high above the town of St George’s, making it possible to see the town itself, the sparkling Caribbean sea and beautiful views to the south of the island. The garden is lovely too of course, and owners John and Fay Miller worked with landscape designer Chris Baksh to bring it all together. As with all the gardens I visited, John and Fay donate blooms every year for Grenada’s Chelsea exhibit.
Sailing with Savvy’s
You don’t have to spend long on Grenada to feel the lure of the sea, and I took a sunset sailing trip that will live in my memory forever. Savvy’s boats are wooden and built by hand, drawing on the islands rich sailing heritage, meaning the experience feels every bit authentic – which it is. My trip was a treat, with my boat expertly sailed by Danny and his crew. Add to this a few cold beers and the sun disappearing into the Caribbean sea, and you’ve just about got a perfect evening