Gardening – Bequia-style!

When we bought this plot of land it was covered with tall mature trees. Dennis climbed one of them as high as he could that afternoon in early December while we were dreaming and scheming about the house we would some-day build right about there on the property. “I think we may have a good view from here,” he shouted down to me. “I think we’ll be able to see the water.”

That was an understatement. Once the trees were cleared from the construction site (and only from the area where the house was to be situated – we were adamant about that!), and the structure began to rise, we realized, while standing on the verandah/main house-level that not only could we see the water, but we had the most beautiful view of the entirety of Admiralty Bay, the ferry wharf in Port Elizabeth, and right around the bend of Lower Bay – although not the actual beach – Belles, and down through to West Cay at the end of the island. Friends would come to visit and proclaim, “Just look at that view!” So when it came time for the christening party and to name our house (as people tend to do here – some also name their cars), the perfect name that immediately popped into both our heads was The View. (Sign designed and painted by Anna Landry!)

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It’s been 16 years since then. Over the years, several of the larger trees fell victim to wood lice and had to be sawed down. Others were what the locals call “cashie” (and I’m guessing at the spelling here), the name they give anything that has barbs or is prickly. Nasty stuff that can be! And we lost one tree, a Rain Tree, during a storm. Dennis always dreamed of having a palm-lined driveway, so he immediately planted rows of what should have been short trees at maturity (small nut, they’re called) down either side of ours. Those trees are now reaching greater heights than we expected and will soon be in need of replacement. As we’ve taken out trees we have replanted – a Travellers Palm and cattails next to the Cat Garden (graveyard to four furry friends who have passed on), a Norfolk Pine that was Dennis’s Christmas present one year, and a forest of bamboo we were advised would make a good privacy hedge … and it certainly has provided that – it’s looks like a South Pacific jungle out there!

Early on, we had also planted a grafted mango tree that was supposed to, in time, produce lovely, large Julie Mangoes. Unfortunately, the kid who was then gardening for us pruned off the grafted part, so we’ve only ever had small, stringy mangoes, which mainly fall onto the driveway when ripe and get squished by car tires. The mangoes now grow so high up that picking them before they fall of their own accord is out of the question. And, the tree had also become so tall that we could no longer see anything of the south end of the island. So I asked Dennis if I might supervise the gardeners for a morning, to take care of our lack-of-view problem, and he surprised me by saying, Yes! (He really does not like cutting down trees and worries I will go all Vincy and clear-cut the property if given a free hand.)

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That’s Griz, the usual supervisor, who slept through the entire job.

This all happened on Thursday, a day that began with yet another gully-washer rain storm early in the morning.

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The guys showed up anyway – Snowy and Sheddy – and they laughed when I told them, like Manuel on Fawlty Towers, “I in charge!” but laughed in a good way I knew meant we all were going to enjoy the morning. They came up on the verandah first to get an idea of how much they should cut from the top of the mango tree then we all walked down below the tree and looked from the driveway to see which branches were encroaching on the Royal Palms.

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Snowy began hacking away with a constant thwack-thwack! of his cutlass. Dennis had decided there was no need to use the chainsaw for what they had to do. Both Snowy and Sheddy climbed up the ladder and into the branches and eventually we could see their heads then upper bodies as they continued to whack away at the foliage. We made a group decision to also cut back the Ficus Tree, the one Frank Dufeck (RIP) had given to Dennis many years ago. We could never cut that down completely, for sentimental reasons, but we hadn’t realized how tall it had grown until the mango tree was shortened.

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After all was said and done, we were happy with the results – although we realized there’s a cedar tree at the corner of our property that could now be topped, and another further down the road on someone else’s property that we’d like to see chopped. But we did witness a better sunset that evening than we’d seen in years and since the sun will be setting into the sea for us once again at the end of February as it moves further north along the horizon, unimpeded sunset-viewing will be of the utmost importance here at The View. Besides, we know it will only be a matter of a few years before we have to go through this entire tree-topping process once again. We were trying to remember and think it was six years ago that the mango tree was topped the first time. Everything grows fast in the tropics, making for very interesting gardening indeed!

7 responses

  1. Fantastic post! I love your style of gardening and telling a story, bravo.

    -Samudaworth Tree Service

  2. Sue, as I am reading the blog, my brain (memory side) is racing like a nazcar bolide on its final lap before the checkered flag determining it a winner. When I arrived to the end, I felt like: no way, there must be more….it was a let down, craving for more and more. My adrelanine still racing at 200 miles an hour demanding another sentence, a paragraph, etc…
    So well written with such vivid description, humour and details. I WAS there with you, chopping and cutting (yes, you were in charge). I WAS there with you looking at the sunset and the newly ‘cleared’ view (with a glass of wine). I SAW the ‘small nut” growing awol along that steep road climbing almost like an arrow staright from the road. Don’t remember much of the bamboo ‘forest’ but I recall the ‘forested and bushy’ land that you have just purchsed (I was the witness at the deed signing, should you have forgotten). Aaaah, more, please.

    1. Thank you, Joseph! I think it’s time you came back to Bequia for a visit.

  3. As a landscaper in Calgary (my summer job) I can only imagine what it would be like to garden year round. Even West Coast gardening boggles my mind. Thanks for a lovely piece Susan, and lovely photos too.

  4. Lovely piece! Gardening is so different and yet so much the same for the pleasure it gives in every corner of the world. Thanks for sharing your garden, Susan.

    1. Thanks for reading and commenting, bjH! I’m sure you have no need of cutlasses or chainsaws in your Calgary garden’s shed …

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