Forgotten favourites – lost for ever?
From a fabulous February to a mad March — Mother Nature has once again proven her unpredictability, as can be seen from the many defoliated plants and burnt foliage.
Often when driving around the island, a plant “jumps out” at me displaying its flowers, seed or fruit, or simply its outline.
Unfortunately many of the “old favourites” are no longer seen and most probably not even grown by the plant nurseries: royal poinciana (Delonix regia); jacaranda (jacaranda mimosifolia); loncharpus (Lonchocarpus violaceus); Magnolia (Magnolia grandiflora); tamarind (Tamarindus indicia); yellow poinciana (Peltophorum pterocarpum); Jerusalem thorn (Parkinsonia aculeata); Carib Wood (Sabinea carinalis); Carob tree (Ceratonia siliqua); tulip tree (Spathodea campanulata); calabash (Crescentia cujete); Brazilian coral (Erythrina crista-galli) and olive (Olea europaea).
Shrubs have also been lost in the landscape of time, again perhaps because of not being grown by the nurseries.
Some of the old favourites include Pride of Barbados (Caesalpinia pulcherrima); Cassias (Cassia floribunda); powder puff plant (Calliandra haematocephala); cotton (Gossypium barbadense); Chinese hat plant (Holmskioldia sanguinea); Panama rose (Rondeletia odorata); Singapore holly (Malpighia coccigera); coral plant (Jatropha multifida); red bauhinia (bauhinia punctata); angel’s trumpet (Brugmansia x candida).
Many of the “old fruits” are now very difficult to find in the landscape and are certainly not propagated to any great extent. It is a shame because fruit trees are an integral part of a landscape, exhibiting the beauty of their flowers and seed or fruit. Annona cherimoya (cherimoya); Annona squamosa (sugar apple); Dovyalis caffra (Kei apple), which also makes an almost impenetrable hedge; Monstera deliciosa (locust and wild honey); Euphoria longana (longan) and Manilkara zapota (sapodilla) were all once plentiful here.
Our landscape has changed tremendously in the past 30 years — from storms and new development, the latter not always having a large piece of land in which to develop a garden — but there are many large properties that can accommodate large trees and a wide range of material once lost to cultivation in Bermuda.
It is not easy to import material, hence the need to propagate local stock not only to increase quantities but to regenerate the existing stock.
It is unfortunate that many of our landscape companies have little if any knowledge of the flora that grows in Bermuda and therefore never consider these plants in the landscape. This leads to the nurseries not growing material that is old and not sold, or which is never requested.
Diversity increases the interest level of a garden tremendously — the introduction of a flower, seed or fruit that is visually pleasing or edible to the gastronome, or birds.
Large trees offer shade while making a bold statement within the property, using shrubs that flower at various times creates continued interest when neighbouring plants are not active and fruit trees, of course, become the “icing on the cake” with their additional bounty of produce.
When we import so much fruit, much of which I am sure is wasted, surely it makes sense to grow our own produce, which costs less and is much fresher to the taste buds.
When driving around the island look out for the blooming red poincianas, the blue/purple jacarandas, the red tulip tree and yellow cassias. See if you can find the seed of the tamarind tree or calabash, the fruit of the longan, sapodilla, cherimoya or sugar apple — I would suggest it would be difficult.
The best chance would be in the older, larger properties or perhaps St David’s with its windy roads and old garden areas.
Ask for these plants at local nurseries and encourage them to reintroduce the “oldie goldies” back in to the landscape.
The diversity of plant species can only enhance our landscape, both for those who live in Bermuda and just as importantly our tourists who come here to see that Bermuda is another world.