Bath Botanical Gardens, Saint Thomas

Established in 1779, the rural community of Bath in Saint Thomas is home to the Caribbean’s oldest botanical garden after the botanical garden in Kingstown, St. Vincent and the Grenadines. Two and a half centuries later Bath Botanical Garden may not be as well-kept as it once was but it’s certainly a beautiful national treasure worth visiting. Many foreign plants which we have since made our own were first planted here. These include flowers like the croton, jacaranda and bougainvillea, and foodstuff like cinnamon, ackee, otaheite apples, jackfruit and breadfruit– the delicious Jamaican staple which I couldn’t imagine our cuisine without! Jamaica has four public botanical gardens. Last year I visited Hope Gardens’ newest addition of the Harmonious Enjoyment Garden and also explored Castleton Botanical Gardens, Jamaica’s second oldest botanical garden. Thus, Cinchona Botanical Gardens in the hills of St. Andrew is my only garden left to visit.

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Castleton Botanical Gardens, Saint Mary

The Castleton Botanical Gardens sit in a river valley on both sides of the Junction main road which links the Saint Andrew and Saint Mary parishes. It is one of the oldest botanical gardens in the western hemisphere, established in 1862 by English planter Colonel Castle on what was once a sugar plantation. The Bath Botanical Gardens in St. Thomas, Jamaica’s first botanical garden, had suffered repeated flooding by the Sulphur River. This led to much discontent and paved the way for Castleton’s establishment. In 1869, Colonel Castle gifted the gardens to the government of Jamaica. As a result, the 15-acre garden is free and is now a popular picnic spot for Kingstonians wanting a break from the city. The tortuous Wag Water River flows parallel to the gardens, adding to the view and giving one the opportunity to swim in unbridled beauty.

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The Chinese Garden at Hope Gardens

The Harmonious Enjoyment Garden, referred to simply as the ‘Chinese Garden’, is a gift to Jamaica from the Chinese government, situated inside the Royal Botanical Gardens (Hope Gardens) in Saint Andrew. There was no better time than Thursday January 26th to visit because the unexpected tranquility restored my spirits, one clinical rotation down and three exams later. As mentioned in my bucket list, I’ve been to the Hope Gardens countless times. I find green spaces rejuvenating in the busy heart of city life. However, the Harmonious Enjoyment Garden is new to me, and felt like another world.

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