Wish You Were Here! — Gardens of Jamaica
Norse Hill Estate Botanical Garden
Through the years, Iris Johanssen has planned, plotted and managed the estate’s botanical gardens with a keen eye for the indigenous flora, along with the exotic flowering plants, ferns and trees she imported. Albert, Norse Hill’s lead gardener since 1965, built the network of exploration trails under Mrs. Johanssen’s direction. He retired in 2014.
Guests encounter shimmering peacock ferns, colorful croton, hibiscus, allamanda, jade, red and yellow ixora, plumbago and poinciana, and hundreds of orchids. Fragrant allspice (called pimento in Jamaica), almond, breadfruit, cocoa, fig and nutmeg trees share the grounds with avocado, banana, orange, papaya, pineapple and tangerine trees. Trail walkers find serene ponds and tranquil meadows framed by groves of bamboo. And the abundance of tropical flora naturally attracts a variety of rare, colorful birds and butterflies – including Jamaica’s own “Doctor Bird” hummingbird.
Castleton Botanical Garden
The garden was established on November 19,1862 as a result of dissatisfaction with the site at Bath, St. Thomas. Shortly afterwards, Castleton Gardens became one of the great gardens of the Hemisphere with its rich variety of plants. In the past, Castleton had over 4000 species of plants from the great English Garden at Kew. In 1897 there were 180 species of palm in the palmetum. Many plants introduced to the island in the late 19th and early 20th centuries were planted here.
Many interesting plants can still be seen at Castleton today. These include, the strychnos from which medicine (and poison) strychnine is obtained, the Velvet Apple, West Indian Mahogany and specimens of coffee. Nestled in the hills of St. Mary, Castleton Gardens is a haven for nature lovers who want a cool, quiet place to relax.
Cranbrook Flower Forest
At the entrance to Cranbrook Flower Forest is the restored remains of an old sugar mill. The mill is believed to be around 200 years old and now houses a museum. Many tame peacocks live on site and can usually be found flanking the mill building. Near to the entrance is a pathway lined with royal palms, leading to a pagoda which overlooks the Little River.
Further on there is a series of landscaped gardens. One of which contains a recreation of a traditional Arawak village, showing the kind of housing the Taino Indians lived in prior to the discovery of Jamaica by the Spanish
During the course of our trip we are also visiting a magnificent waterfall, taking a bamboo raft cruise down the Rio Grande river and visiting an orchid farm. Check out highlights of this year’s tour and find out how you can sign up to have first chance at getting in on the 2016 trip. Space is limited to 9 double occupancy rooms of one king or two twin beds so both couples and friends are invited to join in.
I hope you can join us next year! —Jerry