Grenada’s fertile volcanic soil fosters a profusion of colorful tropical vegetation, and gardeners on the island take full advantage. Some of the best gardens in Grenada occupy former plantations or estates, centerpieced by a manor house. Local tour operator Caribbean Horizons organized a half-day excursion for us to three such gardens.
On another day, we delved farther into the island’s verdant, mountainous interior, which is home to numerous picturesque waterfalls. Some of the loveliest can be reached only by muddy and/or lengthy hikes. It takes 30 to 45 minutes to reach St. Margaret’s Falls, an hour to reach Au Coin and three hours to reach Tufton Hall, for example. We opted to visit the two waterfalls that were simplest to access.
It's possible to visit these sites on your own, but having appointments at the gardens makes the tour worth its price, and it's far more relaxing to have a driver navigate Grenada’s narrow, twisting roads.
On the outskirts of St. George’s, the Hyde Park estate has remained in the same family now for seven generations. Its current owners, John and Fay Roberts Miller, greatly expanded its gardens, turning the property into a veritable paradise overlooking the city and its harbor. Fay showed off some exquisite orchids and desert roses she had potted by the entrance to the restored main house — she sends examples to the RHS Chelsea Flower Show in London — and John took us on a private tour of the rest of the gardens. He was a charming host with an endearing Scottish accent and an impressive command of the plants’ common and Latin names. He led us past velvety congea, fragrant Rangoon creepers, showy patria bushes in bloom and yet more orchids. It was fascinating to hear about how he and Fay had developed the garden over the years, strategizing about what to plant where. At the end of the tour, they invited us to join them on their terrace for some cool fresh fruit juice. I felt as if we’d made some Grenadian friends by the time we’d departed.
This estate has belonged to the Renwick family for a century, and the latest generation (Randy and his wife, Rhonda) manages its extensive gardens to this day. We joined two other couples on a tour led by one of the head gardeners, Adrienne. She amassed a great deal of knowledge about gardening by working for several years at Sunnyside Gardens. She pointed out calabash trees laden with gourdlike fruit, tough lignum vitae trees (with wood so dense it sinks in water) and a towering mahogany, complete with a swing attached to one of its sturdy branches. In addition to impressive trees and flowers, the garden has lily-filled ponds home to koi and tilapia, as well as an enclosure protecting a group of endangered red-footed tortoises. Although this tour wasn’t private, I still enjoyed it immensely.
The imposing stone-and-brick mansion at the center of the Tower Estate, complete with a four-story tower, would not look out of place in Yorkshire. Built in 1913, the house was purchased by the Slinger family in the mid-1940s, and its gardens began to take shape three decades ago, under the direction of the mother of the current owner. His wife, Victoria, now oversees the gardens, and she took us on a private tour. She has a superb eye and a talent for landscape design, creating an array of impressive horticultural compositions. I especially loved the vast assemblage of different varieties of crotons in her pointillist-style garden. She was especially proud of her “twisted sister” heliconias, and rightly so — they regularly make an appearance at the Chelsea Flower Show. I was also impressed by the wild pineapples, extravagant bougainvilleas and fernlike cycads, a type of plant that dates from before the evolution of flowers. Victoria was a gracious host, and she made us feel like honored guests at her home. Indeed, I regretted not booking a house tour as well. Note that the house and gardens are open only on Fridays.
This waterfall is Grenada’s easiest to reach (if not the tallest or most dramatic), making it the most popular with tourists, including groups from cruise ships. Fortunately, we visited after the end of the season, and we shared the falls with just one other couple. To reach them from the parking lot, it’s an easy five-minute hike down and up a well-maintained trail. On one side of the falls is a concrete viewing platform, but the other side is unspoiled, even primeval. The falls cascade into a pool framed by a wall of rock festooned with shade plants. A local man offered to jump into the pool in exchange for $50 (he bargained himself down to $20), but I declined the offer. On my return, I walked along a path above the main route, which passes through tropical gardens.
Our driver arranged for a guide to take us from the trailhead to the falls, walking about 15 minutes one way through tropical forest. The path was mostly easy, with rolling slopes covered by soft sugar cane husks, but we did have to cross the small Marquis River at one point, stepping from boulder to boulder. The falls, the tallest on the island and unspoiled by anything man-made, reward the effort. Our guide led us to a second set of falls along the river, which cascaded down a more gently angled rock face. “People slide down this,” our guide told us. “Would you like me to do it? You can get a good photo.” This time I agreed, and to my amazement, our guide careered down the falls and emerged uninjured. “Would you like to try?” I wish I could boast that I did, but I declined.