Queen Elizabeth II Botanic Park wins a Silver Medal for its Entry in the 2008 RHS Chelsea Flower Show in Chelsea, London, 20-24 May 2008
The Heritage Garden Grand Cayman 2008 Entry
at the Chelsea Flower Show
The Sand Garden is the traditional style of garden in the Cayman Islands. The way a society shapes and arranges dwellings and domestic spaces is a reflection of the way-of-life, and of the values held in common by that society. The cultural combination of African practices of using and maintaining the shaded sandy spaces around their dwellings and the British traditions of using flowering plants to decorate their gardens has resulted in a remarkably distinctive sand flower yard in the Cayman Islands. As the Cayman Islands have become more affluent, this style of garden has fallen out of favour; however, an increasing number of Caymanians are rediscovering the sand garden as part of their cultural heritage and as a more sustainable and environmentally friendly way of gardening.The backdrop to the garden is a façade of a traditional Caymanian cottage. The traditional cottage is of modest size with a porch on the front, and it is painted in attractive pastel colours with fret work decorating the front. The Caymanian cottage is an integral part of the sand garden. The sand garden is traditionally bounded by both dry stone walls made from limestone and picket fences. The land for crops would be cleared and any stones that were removed were used to make the boundary wall. The wall separates the sand garden from the road or path that passes in front and the fences separate the garden from neighboring properties or the natural woodland beyond the space cleared for the cottage and sand garden. An arch with a climbing flowering plant rises over the entry gate. Both the rural and town Cayman sand gardens are very similar and contain the same design elements.
The terrain in the Cayman Islands is very rocky with alkaline soil occurring in pockets. Wherever soil does occur it is usually thin and exceedingly well drained (except in the swamps). The plants grown in the sand garden are ones that can withstand the long dry season with very little supplemental watering. The ornamental plants must not require too much care as the crop plants would take priority. Plants with fragrant flowers, especially by the porch or bedroom window were popular. The location of the cottage and garden would determine the types of plants grown with a protected inland garden containing a wider variety of plants than one located closer to the sea. The garden depicted in the exhibit is one far enough from the sea that it is protected by the sand dune and a thicket of sea grape (Coccoloba uvifera), not actually depicted in the exhibit, and coconut palms so that a wider variety of plants can be grown. The central feature of the garden is the white sand that is used as a mulch to cover the ground. The sand garden would be swept clean once a week, if not more, and a fresh layer of white sand applied at each Christmas for a “white Christmas”. The stone wall is a traditional limestone dry stone wall used to delineate the front of the property. The pathway to the house is made in the traditional manner using bits of dead coral that has washed up on the beach. This coral acts like a “doorbell” as the homeowner can hear when someone approaches the house from the scrunching sound made by the visitor’s feet on the coral. The pathways were always lined with conch shells. Even today, the traditional Cayman cat boat can be found laying under a tree when not in use. The Cayman Islanders were traditionally a seafaring people and the cat boat was an important possession. A cat boat is used in the exhibit as a tribute to Cayman’s seafaring heritage and the boat is filled with the flowers and foliage of the modern Cayman garden.The plants chosen for the exhibit are those that have been grown in the Cayman Islands traditionally for many generations and which can still be found in gardens today and newer plants that are now found in the modern Cayman garden. Ornamental plants were found near the house along with a few economic plants while most crops were grown further away in what is called grounds”. The Coconut Tree (Cocos nucifera) was very important due to the many products it provided. The native plants incorporated into the exhibit are ones that have deep cultural significance to the Cayman Islanders while a few of the traditional tropical crop and medicinal plants relate to the important relationship Caymanians had to the land. The ornamentals used have either always been favorites in the Cayman Islands or are newer varieties that are now found in the Cayman gardens of today. The foliage and flowers exhibited in the cat boat display a variety of non-traditional plants that can be found in the modern Cayman garden.
Proud Winner of the Silver Flora Medal 20-24 May 2008