Gardening & Landscaping

garden

At 6:00 a.m., as a sleepy fog lifts itself to let the sun peep over the Maraval hills, Simone Taylor takes her first sip of coffee while walking into her garden. Behind her, Regis and Solomon, her two dogs, run up the path, licking the dew off the leaves of heliconias and sniffing the air.

A native of Martinique, Simone came to Trinidad 40 years ago, when she gotmarried. For 10 years she searched for the perfect spot to call home, while living in the traffic-filled, fast paced area of Woodbrook. Then one day she and her husband found a spot nestled deep in the Maraval hillside. This became home and this was where Simone began to recreate a little piece of her past.

“Growing up, I always lived on estates,” she says. “Gardens have always been a huge part of my life, and when I came to Trinidad it was natural for me to find a way to make it a part of my life here.This place, this garden–it’s me.”

At 61, Simone has the spirit of someone much younger, and her garden is a testament to this. It spans the back of her home and stretches for at least a mile until it reaches a stream that meanders down the hill on one side and above the house on the other.

“My garden is wild,” she explains, with her endearing French-Trini twang.

It certainly is. This is no vista of well-manicured lawns, carefully landscaped foliage andman-made fountains and rocks. Instead there are lush green fruit trees, and wild flowers popping up under unassuming leaves and between trees.

As you walk past the house, through an archway, a small unexpected circular area, like a cove, greets you.

“This is where we had my daughter’s wedding,” Simone points out. “We had the dance floor under the trees and the chairs laid out over in the open.”

area. It is now a playground for my grandkids, but every now and then we plan something special, like concerts to raise money for the Maraval church. This area is the only part of the garden that is landscaped. As for the rest of the property, well, it’s like trekking through a jungle filled with colour, light and perfumed scents that jump out at you: you never know what to expect. Simone, however, makes her way through the foliage without hesitation, following each turn, each narrow hidden path.

For the last 30 years, she has been painstakingly and lovingly adding to her garden whenever she found a plant or flower that she couldn’t resist. Many of them come from all over the Caribbean, or wherever she has travelled, making the garden a mixture of different breeds and variations of both plants and fruits. From the ornamental bananas that come waist high, to the sour oranges that reach for the sky, every nook is filled with something unique.

“I’ve been doing this myself for a long time,” she says. “I have a gardener who helps, but when it comes to choosing the plants, finding a spot for them and taking care of them, I like to do it myself. The garden is a mixture of local and foreign plants and flowers. Wherever I go, I bring seeds or plants with me and add them. So you will find some unusual plants here.”

In fact, Simone points out that exchanging plants and seeds with other gardeners is a vital part of the process. She has been a member of the Garden Club for over 10 years, interacting with local gardeners who share the same passion and interest in plants she has. The club allows local farmers not only the opportunity to share their ideas, troubleshoot problems and find remedies for plant diseases.

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If, like many, you look at a garden for it’s colour and beauty, rather than breed of plants, be assured that you won’t be disappointed by Simone’s efforts. From her house, you can see over eight varieties of colourful gingers from around the region, as well as local coscos plants, commonly known as the coconut palm, orchids, dracaena, monstera or ornamental fruit plants. There are ornamental palms, pomerac trees, oranges, five fingers, cashew and myriad species of foliage.

“Smell this,” she says, hunched down below a drooping ginger plant with one flower in the middle. “It smells like musk, doesn’t it? I love it.”

Then off she races to another flower, and another, covering the entire garden in less than 15minutes, pointing out names of plants so quickly that the uninitiated will have a hard time recording them. Remembering the colours and scents however, proves be a lot easier, particularly a sea of orange coloured gingers, almost ankle-high.

Unusual shapes also register in visitor’s mind. There are plants with honeycomb shapes, and others thatmimic the scarlet ibis. There is even one that looks like 10-ounce tenderloin steak, hanging

delicately from a six foot plant.

With her own garden already a showcase of her love for nature as well as her creativity, Simone is now looking at expanding her repertoire to include her daughter’s garden.

“Hers is very different,” she explains. “There are more hills to work with and I amvery excited about the prospect.My grandchildren love to play inmy garden and now they will have a garden of their own
to grow in and help nurture.”

Simone looks back on her childhood with deep nostalgia. She remembers playing on the estate of her grandparents and stares lovingly at the pictures of the old house. She thinks of her grand mother and her mother and the love for nature they passed on to her. Her life is a full one, and her garden is a legacy she will leave behind one day for many to admire and say, “Here is a piece of a woman we knew and cannot forget.“

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