Ms. Joy really does have the right name, because her garden in Savannah Newlands is a pure expression of joy and happiness. It’s a celebration of color, like a wonderful firework display with all the fireworks going off at once. But unlike a firework display a garden is a living thing and when one flower fades, there are ten more to replace it. Don’t forget the leaves, with many shades of green, from light yellows to rich, dark greens. Who said there was only one kind of green, anyway? Gardens are for exploring variety in foliage and plant architecture, subtleties of shape and tone, and letting them blend together in a glorious symphony for the eyes. But not just the eyes – there is something for all the senses, really in a well-planned garden. Joy mixes fruits and vegetables with her ornamental plants along with herbs, and so there are plenty of things to sniff and taste and touch, and birdsong and the buzz of insects provide the music.
Joy showed me around. Her garden is not very big, but she has made every single inch count, and there is so much to see, that after a while you feel you must be in a huge park. Pointing to a dark red leaf with a lime-green border, she said, “They call this one ‘Joseph Coat.’” Planted next door were some pretty, bright yellow flowers and some tiny light blue flowers too, “These are my Trialis and my Plumbago,” she said, “I like to do a little mix ‘n’ match. Here is my guango tree, so I can have pigeon peas for Christmas.”
Some leaves, like the Joseph’s Coat, are just as colorful as any flower, and larger than most. But it’s the different shapes which are so fascinating. In one place, great green banana leaves flap overhead like the wings of a huge bird. They provide shade, not just for people but for the plants that like to be protected from the hot sun, too, as well as looking really nice. “I have different types of roses – That’s a coffee rose right there,” she said, pointing out a tiny, delicate-looking white rose looking so pretty against the dark green leaves, “and these are Crown of Thorns,” a type of pink rose. “That’s an avocado tree, and this one is called June Rose. She pointed out the tree, mixed in with her roses, and a blue flower, bobbing in the breeze, with some pink roses nearby.
Everywhere you look your eye catches on little statuettes and garden ornaments. “I like statues, they enhance the garden,” she said. Two cheeky looking cement sea gulls are there to welcome you when you walk up to the front door. Round the back of the garden, by Joy’s pond, there is a pretty bronze lady looking out of the plants to the ornamental pond, which is full of goldfish; but her face is, turquoise-green patina of oxide, making her look like an ancient, lost treasure. Sometimes letting things age naturally adds character and unexpected color to your garden. Bowls and plinths and little pillars made the garden look as if it was hiding a lost ruin from another time. Joy has used them to good effect by scattering them around in a semi-random way, and it goes with the garden’s informal, free-and-easy style.
Both the front garden and back garden have ponds. The back garden one is larger, and was built from cement and a tough waterproof membrane. The front one is small and she bought it ready made, but she has added interest by fixing it up to a pump, so that the water circulates, enclosed with large shady leaves, including many ferns – a water-nymph’s paradise. “It has this mesh over it to keep away the snakes and birds, because they like to come and eat the fish. I used to have a lot of fish, and I couldn’t understand how they kept disappearing,” she said. I got in several truckloads of soil, because below, it is all bedrock and a lot of stone.In the back garden, the lovely surprises continued. Here was one border filled mainly fruits and vegetables, but they were mixed up with ornamentals too. But why can’t fruit trees be decorative too? Of course they can. Everything depends on balance – the balance between different leaf shapes, tones, and the contrast with the surrounding plants. Basil plants and other herbs were in with the ornamentals too – wafting their scents over the garden. Broad beans, papaya, and guava were there, and right in the middle of the garden there was a mango tree, looking like the Tree of Life in the Garden of Eden.