Archive for Gros Piton

St. Lucia’s Diamond Falls Botanical Gardens

Posted in garden to visit with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on February 5, 2013 by Carolyn @ Carolyns Shade 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.

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