Sometimes I carelessly throw around the word tropical where it doesn’t apply—referring to plants that merely require warmer temps than I’ve got. But when you’re as far south in the Caribbean as Barbados, you can use the word tropical with a fair amount of confidence.
I saw plants here that I would only see this close to the equator, but I also saw plenty of familiar plants—in unfamiliar contexts. Poinsettias look pretty good growing as tall woody shrubs outside small Bajan homes, along with hedges of croton, and—everywhere—red cordyline, which I use as a container accent every summer, but which here is growing 9-feet and higher.
Then there are plants familiar only as exotic choices at the florists or as tropical houseplants: heliconia (a native), anthurium, and orchids. Finally, there are the truly exotic plants (to northern eyes): plumeria, ixora, and all the different palms and tropical fruit trees like calabash and mammea.
This was not really a garden sight-seeing trip, but I did see Welchman’s Gulch (on the way to the caves) and the Andromeda Gardens, which were left to the Barbados trust by British horticulturalist Iris Bannochie. Most of the plants were familiar or labeled, except this shrub/small tree. It looks like a double white poinsettia. Sort of. The petals look like bracts, in any case.
Was I envious? Did I wish I could live among these orange and red plants and take advantage of the cheap rum? Not really. A croton hedge might be cool, but I would definitely lose my love for colocasia/alocasia if I had to see it as often as it appears here.
UPDATE: Anne asked that I share more sensory experiences from Barbados. Here you go, Anne: the whistling frog (Eleutherodactylus johnstonei—present everywhere by the thousands) and the sound it makes:Elizabeth Licata on January 18, 2011 at 5:04 am, in the category Real Gardens.