St. Lucia’s Diamond Falls Botanical Gardens

Carolyn’s Shade Gardens is a retail nursery located in Bryn Mawr, PA, specializing in showy, colorful, and unusual plants for shade.  The only plants that we ship are snowdrops and miniature hostas.  For catalogues and announcements of events, please send your full name, location, and phone number (for back up use only) to carolyn@carolynsshadegardens.com.  Click here to get to the home page of our website for catalogues and information about our nursery and to subscribe to our blog.

St. Lucia Gros PitonThe Petit Piton, one of two volcanic spires unique to St. Lucia, rises over 2,400′ directly from the water on the Caribbean side of the island.

With all the cold weather and snow in the mid-Atlantic US as well as the UK and the rest of Europe, I thought my readers might appreciate a post from a warm climate.  I was recently invited by Donna at Garden Walk Garden Talk to accompany her to her cousin’s home on St. Lucia, an island in the eastern Caribbean.  Who could resist when the only cost was the airfare?  Thanks Donna.

St. Lucia Sandy BeachThe other side of St. Lucia fronts the Atlantic Ocean.  This is a view of the Maria Islands from Sandy Beach in Vieux Fort on the extreme southeastern tip of St. Lucia.

St. Lucia is an island country located in the eastern Caribbean Sea north of Venezuela at about the same latitude as Nicaragua .  It is part of the Lesser Antilles and is surrounded by the islands of St. Vincent, Barbados, and Martinique.  It covers 238 square miles and has a population of 174,000.  St. Lucia was originally colonized by the French, and French influences remain quite strong.  However, it ended up in British hands and gained independence in 1979, although it remains part of the Commonwealth.  Residents speak English and Patois, a dialect of French with some  Caribe and African words.

St. Lucia Sulphur SpringsLava more than 1.5 miles underground produces steam and heats the spring water to over 300 degrees F at the Sulphur Springs site outside the town of Soufriere.

St. Lucia is a volcanic island and is more mountainous than any other Caribbean island, which makes for quite scenic geography.  The area around the southwestern town of Soufriere is a collapsed crater surrounded by dramatic mountain peaks.  Two of these peaks, the Gros and the Petit Pitons along with the ridge between them and the underwater coral reefs in front of them form the Pitons Management Area.  It is a UNESCO World Heritage site and is one of the most dramatic landscapes I have ever visited.  St. Lucia’s climate is tropical although not as hot as other Caribbean islands due to the moderating trade winds.  The predominant vegetation is tropical forest which climbs the steep hills and fills the valleys.

St Lucia Pitons Management AreaA view from the water of the UNESCO World Heritage Site framed on either side by the Pitons.

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Before we visit the botanical gardens, let me show you a few more views of St. Lucia generally:

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St. Lucia architecture

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St Lucia architectureThe local architecture reflects the influences of French colonization.

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St Lucia Gros PitonA view of the Gros Piton from Sugar Beach.

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St Lucia SoufriereThe town of Soufriere where the Pirates of the Caribbean was filmed sits in the middle of the volcanic crater with the Pitons behind it.

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St LuciaEven when the Pitons aren’t in the picture, St. Lucia rises dramatically from the water.

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St. LuciaEven without the mountains, there is always the gorgeous blue Caribbean to stare at.

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St. Lucia

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St LuciaThe sunsets were magnificent every night.

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St LuciaEspecially when viewed from between the Pitons.

One of the many highlights of the trip was our visit to the Diamond Falls Botanical Gardens in Soufriere.  The gardens are on the site of a 2,000 acre plantation granted by Louis XIII to the Devaux family in 1713 and still owned by the same family.  Empress Josephine was a cousin to the Devauxes and played there as a child.  Mineral springs heated by the underlying volcano were developed in 1784 into a bathing area for the troops of King Louis XVI.  Today, the upper part of the botanical gardens are crowned by the lovely Diamond Falls, and visitors can still bath in the therapeutic mineral waters.

.St Lucia Diamond FallsDiamond Falls

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St Lucia hot springsSteaming mineral water leaves Diamond Falls on its way to the mineral baths.

The botanical gardens comprise six acres along the gorge formed by the mineral springs.  Although the plantings have been  well established for at least two hundred years, they really came into their own in 1983 when a Devaux descendant decided to develop them as a formal botanical garden.  Although I thoroughly enjoyed my walk around the gardens, I don’t know anything about tropical plants so you are on your own with the photos:

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St Lucia botanical gardenGravel paths wind through beautifully cared for but dense tropical vegetation.

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St Lucia botanical gardensLush vines, I believe this is schefflera, climb all the trees.

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St Lucia botanical gardens.

St Lucia botanical gardens.

St Lucia botanical gardensTree ferns were everywhere.

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St Lucia botanical gardens

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St Lucia botanical gardens

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St Lucia botanical gardensI was particularly taken with this flower called lobster-claws in the genus Heliconia.

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St Lucia botanical gardens

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St Lucia botanical gardens

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St Lucia botanical gardensBromeliads and moss colonize a log.

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St Lucia botanical gardens

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St Lucia botanical gardensThis tropical begonia looks exactly like Begonia grandis, the perennial begonia hardy in the mid-Atlantic US.

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St Lucia botanical gardens

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I have given you a quick glimpse of the beauties of St. Lucia and a short tour of the botanical gardens.  St Lucia is the most beautiful Caribbean island I have ever been to, and I am so thankful to Donna and her cousin for making my trip possible.

Enjoy, Carolyn

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Carolyn’s Shade Gardens is a retail nursery located in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania, US, zone 6b.  The only plants that we mail order are snowdrops and miniature hostas and only within the US.

If you are within visiting distance and would like to receive catalogues and information about customer events, please send your full name and phone number to carolynsshadegardens@verizon.net.  Subscribing to my blog does not sign you up to receive this information.

Nursery Happenings:  The 2013 Snowdrop Catalogue is on the sidebar of the website and orders are being accepted.  To view the catalogue, click here.  There are a few spaces left in the February 22 session of Charles Cresson’s 2013 Winter Interest Plants Seminar.  To view the brochure and register, click here.

Facebook:  Carolyn’s Shade Gardens has a Facebook Page where I post single photos, garden tips, and other information that doesn’t fit into a blog post.  You can look at my Facebook page here or click the Like button on my right sidebar here.

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39 Responses to “St. Lucia’s Diamond Falls Botanical Gardens”

  1. So, so beautiful, and I could feel the warmth, thank you Caroline and lucky you!

  2. How beautiful Carolyn… lucky you! I have always especially loved the tree ferns and have grown them in my home… unfortunately, they eat up a lot of space inside! Spectaculr…. Larry

  3. I just love love this place!! We are going to have to pack our travel bags and visit this paradise!

  4. Carolyn, what a beautiful and well researched post. You showed so much of what we experienced and your photos are wonderful. Like I told you at Ladera, you got the best sunset by far. Only five Piton shots? Like you, I had a hard time not photographing them. That was the only time I did feel like a tourist though. We saw so much of the island and experienced like a resident. Barbara is very lucky to live in such a beautiful place, and we were very lucky to visit her. Thanks for posting your trip, I enjoyed how you experienced it.

  5. Gorgeous flowers and it sounds like a wonderful trip!

  6. Loved seeing the bromeliads growing on a log. I always have one on a side table in my living room….the current houseplant looks just like one in the photo!

    • Marian, Donna commented that the plants we saw at the botanical gardens were all plants she had growing in her house. The thing was they were hundreds of times larger and growing closely together in their natural habitat. Not being a houseplant fan, I thought that was much more exciting. Carolyn

  7. Barabara Berlin Says:

    Thankyou so very much for sharing your wonderful holiday!

    Itwas like alitttle bit of a warm respit for me.

    sincerely, barbara berlin

  8. What a fabulous trip! Those are some big bromeliads. My little houseplants pale in comparison…I suppose this is what they should look like in their native climate 🙂

  9. How fun to see your pictures, my next door neighbour is from St. Lucia! He always talk about the beaches and the sun and the plants there. I can’t for my life understand why he wants to live in London when he comes from a place like that, but I guess it is more work here than there. He calls me ‘the Flower Lady’ and always strikes up a chat about the plants in my garden since he doesn’t have a garden himself here.

    Loved your pictures and description, I could almost feel the sun on my back 🙂

  10. Yes, we do appreciate you sharing these “warm” spring break photos. Thanks! I remember seeing Heliconia in Hawaii, and it has been a favorite tropical ever since. Beautiful!

  11. So beautiful, love the tree ferns, and heliconia. Thanks for transporting me to a tropical paradise momentarily.

  12. Carolyn, this is a great post full of wonderful images, I like very much to have yours and Donna’s vision of the same landscapes. I can tell you had a fantastic time tere and as I said to Donna, all I can think of is: I want to travel there! you too could be named ambassadors of the island!!

    • Lula, I actually wouldn’t say this about every Caribbean island I have traveled to, but St. Lucia is well worth the trip. The beaches actually aren’t the best but the island itself is gorgeous. I was just staring at the landscape the whole time. I couldn’t get “used to” how beautiful it was. Carolyn

  13. What a tropical paradise! How nice to get away from the cold for a bit, to some sun and warmth. I would LOVE to be lying on Sugar Beach! What a gorgeous place! And those heated mineral waters is intriguing. I hope you went bathing in them!

    • Holley, When you arrive at the botanical gardens you can buy an additional ticket to bath in the mineral waters. Being the adventurous garden bloggers that we are, we sprung for the tickets and bathed. The setting was beautiful and I am sure the waters exerted their therapeutic powers on us. We did forgo bathing in the even more therapeutic mud baths at the Sulphur Springs volcano area, although Donna took photos of people doing it. Evidently, you have to sacrifice a bathing suit to this experience which I wasn’t willing to do. Donna is a reluctant bather under any circumstances. Our guide assured us that the mud bath removed “age spots” which I have to admit was tempting. Carolyn

  14. Cassandra Hogue Says:

    This was delightful, looked like a wonderful visit.

  15. catharinehoward Says:

    Stupendous vegetation. Lucky you.

  16. What a wonderful trip to take during mid-winter. You must have appreciated the warmth and sun along with all the gorgeous plants. I particularly liked the Bromeliads on that nurse log, they look so natural and exotic at the same time.

  17. So glad you had a great time…what a stunning place with such lush beauty…love the falls and the idea od mineral baths.

  18. wifemothergardener Says:

    Just beautiful. How nice to great a break from winter and all that you do, and just before spring picks up.
    We are heading into cold temps again over on this side of PA, though tomorrow is supposed to be 40 first. I saw a few C. tomasinianus peeking out today, so I am hoping they open up before the cold!

  19. You have really showcased the visit to St. Lucia quite nicely. What a beautiful place. Love your sunset pixs. I envy your time there, tropical and lush and colorful.

  20. Vanda Claudino Sales Says:

    Hello, Carolyn, congratulations on your pictures and on your gardens! I am a Brazilian professor and I am writing a book about world natural heritage sites, following UNESCO`s list. The book will be published in English by Springer, in The Netherlands. I am seeking two pictures of the beaches of Pitons, Saint Lucia, to illustrate my book, and you may can help me. All credits would be give in the book, including the webpage. I thank you the kindness of an answer! All the best, Vanda Claudino Sales

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