In the old days, men used to go to sea and that meant that the woman of the house had the duty to tend to the family ‘grounds,’ as they were known – usually little plots of land either next to the home, or a short walk away. It was vital work you had to grow things in your garden or on your grounds to make sure you had enough to supplement the fish, or lobster, or turtle you could get from the sea. These days, of course we are freer to grow things that look pretty or things that we just enjoy. But we can still choose to grow some things to eat because they are beautiful, too. Just look at those mangos hanging there like tiny Church bells. Whether or not we are religious, we can always find God’s presence in a lovely garden if we so choose.
Darleen Ebanks spent many years as a professional nurse working at the George Town Hospital, before starting her own agency. The business is still going strong but she has always enjoyed gardening, and lives in the same house along Shamrock Road in the area she knows as Pedro. It’s the same house and garden as her mother and grandmother used to live in, and their legacy to her is the plants which remain, to this day, and the garden retains old-world charm, while bringing some ideas – like using gravel to keep down weeds instead of sand, up-to-date. There are no rules, really. if you have a little garden or plot of land don’t be afraid to try new things and let your imagination run free. Ms. Ebanks says that the layer of gravel works very well at keeping the weeds down, and is much less fuss than a lawn. You are King or Queen of your garden.
“I was born in the house, and I’ve lived here ever since,” Ms Ebanks said. Fruit trees dominate Ms Ebanks’ back garden. The mango tree we are sitting under, replaced an older one which was blown down in Hurricane Ivan. “I have a Venetia Pride and East India mango trees, and a Sour Sop tree. I don’t eat the Sour Sop fruit; I give them away. People like to make drinks from them but I don’t like the smell of them,” she said, laughing. So there’s a thought – if you don’t want it yourself, and you don’t want to sell it, give it to friends and neighbor. That’ll strengthen the bonds of friendship in communities, and sooner or later it is going to come back to you. Casting your breadfruit on the waters, as one might say. “I have a wonderful breadfruit tree. It’s been bearing from about a year and a half after I got it - It was a stump that grew up from the root of another tree. I watered it for two months and I was going to throw it away because I had another breadfruit tree to put in its place. Then the man that that was going to put in the new tree for me said, ‘but this breadfruit tree has sprouted.’ I said, ‘But where are the sprouts?’ and he showed them to me. It’s a Yellow-Heart breadfruit – very nice! It’s a pleasure to have it to give to my neighbors.” Ms Ebanks has quite a lot of banana and plantain suckers in her garden. The bananas she grows are the bigger kind. “I have the suckers for the little sweet bananas but they’re not bearing now,” she said. I have coconut palms. I’ve got somebody to open them to get the water, and the meat out when they are ready. It’s very good for you.”
There is a big bed of Aloes like a little island in the gravel. “Aloes are very common in Caymanian Gardens My grandfather used to make capsules from them, for laxatives, and you can also use them on cuts,” she said.
Around the front of the garden are some very pretty flowers, Xenias, like crimson flames of fire with bees weaving their way in and out of them. Bees are good for the whole garden, so don’t forget to attract them with flowers which they like. Butterflies pollinate too, and dance in the air like beautiful flying flowers, and although gardeners don’t like the caterpillars they make, the lovely flashes of orange, yellow, white and blue that I saw in Ms Ebanks’ garden really do gladden the heart.
In the front along the fence are palm trees with a lovely collection of Purple Orchids attached to them. “I like them; they bloom in the summer; they’re my mother’s orchids. I love my garden because it has so many various things in it including things that have been here long before I was born, and I try to maintain them,” she said.
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