Papillote Tropical Gardens

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Illustration: Tropical Flowers, original watercolor painting by Patricia Mae Young, 1998 all rights reserved.

Ten acres of nurtured wilderness, nestled in a canopy of tree fern and breadfruit trees, provide a green frame for the many “micro-habitats” of the rainforest garden created by Anne Jno Baptiste.

There are important collections of aroids, begonias, bromeliads, gingers, heliconias and indigenous orchids forming sumptuous compositions which set off shape, color and texture to their best advantage.

Trails criss-cross cold and hot mineral streams which gurgle along the natural contours of the land leading from one themed glade to another. Sparkling sunlight filtering through the canopy creates windows of light that fall upon plants happily suited to each spot.

To the casual observer it just might all be “natural and wild” yet the luxuriance and tangled growth has been designed with care and to great effect.

Today’s Papillote is the second incarnation of a garden that Anne started in 1967 with collections of mosses, ferns and orchids. “Hurricane David” destroyed this garden in 1979 when the whole valley was stripped of soil and vegetation turning from lush green to bare stone and brown in a few hours.

The rocky soil, very high rainfall levels (250 inches per year), an elevation of 1000 ft and the orientation within the valley create intense microclimate conditions that support luxuriant growth.  These conditions constrain the gardener but also enrich the content of the garden by creating a homogenous and coherent style of garden design. Constant attention to drainage and erosion control, terracing and mulching to build up the soil is crucial.

Papillote is committed to conserving indigenous species and celebrating the natural biodiversity of Dominica’s forests and wildlife. For example, rare aroids, such as the Philodendrum giganteum and the Anthurium dominicense were collected long ago as well as the endangered Epidendrum discoidale, shelter discretely among the Papillote flora.

Among the gardens” most unusual plants is the surreal Amorphophallus paeonifolius, which has been flowering since June 1997. A close relative, the A. titanum, produces the largest flower in the world and drew crowds of admirers to London’s Kew Gardens when it flowered for the first time in 1995.

Another extraordinary plant at Papillote which blooms between January and May is the Indonesian Strongylodon macrobotrys, the aquamarine Jade Vine, spreading its leaves over the verandah walls of The Breadfruit Suite.

Aquamarine Jade Vine

Feel free to explore the grounds at your leisure. Many of the plant species thoughout the garden are labeled, but the many special features of this garden are better experienced with a trained guide. Guided tours are free to primary school students and  garden members.