Whenever I travel I tend to be drawn to the mundane: Where do people live? Where do they shop? What do they eat? Somehow, I often end up passing a graveyard. Over time and many trips, I have started to make observations about the different traditions that are observed around burials. And as a gardener, I find I am often drawn specifically to take note of and/or document the plant life that grows there as well as the small gardens that families plant on or around individual plots.
In Dominica I spent more time in cemeteries than is usual as I was specifically looking for any traces of my ancestors that I could find. With little resources or space, burial grounds are regularly overturned to make room for new bodies so it was rare to find a gravestone older than 20-30 years. Edited to add: Commenting below reminded me that Hurricane David completely devastated Dominica in 1979. That’s would be a major factor in why there are few gravestones before 1980.
I did not expect to find anything, but Davin and I looked carefully just in case. While searching, I took the time to document some of the interesting things that I saw, specifically the plants. I thought you might like to see it too and even though it has taken me three years to post these images, I had you in mind when I took them.
This was the closest I came to locating a distant relative in a graveyard. I was never able to determine if I am related to her.
Yesterday, my friend Celia visited the House of Hope in Dominica. She and her husband Paul took photos of the visit and shot a video to give us a closer look.
House of Hope from Paul Crask on Vimeo.
The following photos are of the organic food garden that is in progress on the property. They are currently growing pumpkin, sweet potato, bananas (or plantain), and coconuts.
Click here for more pictures of the visit.
Information on how to donate to the House of Hope directly can be found here.
Thanks to Celia and Paul for all of their help making the connection in Dominica.
And thanks to all of you for your support!
Guest post by Davin Risk
I am asked now and again if “I am a gardener too” and my answer is an invariably unsure, “Well, yes and no, I help.” As Gayla’s partner I am often by her side in gardens and a certain level of gardening knowledge has seeped into my brain via osmosis. I garden, therefore I am… a gardener? What would Descartes do?
My hesitation in claiming the title is common. Over the years many people I’ve met with Gayla, and many more who have come to the You Grow Girl site, have either shied-away from calling themselves gardeners or have simply stated that they are poor ones—the infamous black thumbs club. What I’ve realized though, and seen Gayla champion on many occasions, is that if you get a thrill from seeing any plant grow and you actively want to plant and foster more of that lovely green growth yourself—you can wear the title gardener with pride.
I thought of my own trepidation when Gayla asked me to write a short something about my experience with Dominica’s beyond lush, wild, varied, and rainbow vibrant plant growth. That feeling came up… who am I to write about plants or most especially gardening? But here goes… I love plants. My affection far outstrips my knowledge and so I chose to write about how much I loved the very bane of gardeners everywhere, those climbing, twisting, cover-everything plants that are especially pervasive in vastly sunny and moist Dominica.
In Dominica they struggle year-round to slash and burn back the beautiful twists and turns of plantlife. Flowering vines adorn every pole and telephone wire. A nuisance sure… but gorgeous and wonderful especially to us Northern plant lovers beaming at every bit of warm moving colour so contrary to the cold stillness of our winter.
Those wild dense spaces—bursting with life—do drive the most plant-fond gardener to the brink of sanity. But I think even those Dominicans who complained about the constant encroachment of nature had a passion for that same indomitable green force.
I choose to embrace the beauty in nuisance plants and I think that actually makes me more gardener than not.
Just a reminder that the House of Hope Drive is on until Saturday when I’ll be drawing a name for the prize. We’re currently up to $1, 130, which is crazy INCREDIBLE! Thanks so much for contributing!
My friend Celia, who lives in Dominica, is going to be visiting the House of Hope on December 21st. She is going to bring the total donation number to them and take a few pictures to send back to us.
I don’t know what the weather is like where you are, but I could use a little colour right now. I took this photo last year while visiting the gardens of two of the women responsible for the House of Hope.
A few more pictures after the jump….
Like caladium, anthurium are a tropical I never could get into. I have a penchant for freakish, alien plants, but there is something about their waxy, fake phalus-like appearance that bugs me. They just seem so Hollywood — the plastic surgery disasters of the plant world.
Last year’s trip to Dominica changed that. There, for the first time, I saw anthurium growing in their natural habitat. It turns out they live in the jungle, alongside streams where it is very humid and the soil is moist. In that environment they don’t look fake at all.
There, surrounded by a lush green backdrop, where everything is waxy and shiny, they blend right in and it seems perfectly normal to come upon a flower that looks like one of Madonna’s performance outfits, or that neon t-shirt I wore back in 1985.