The Botanic Gardens (or Botanical Gardens) were created in 1889 from a former sugar plantation, the Bath estate, owned by Charles Davies. This grew the idea for an economic garden, propagating seedlings for the island’s farmers. The first curator was Charles Murray of the Edinburgh Botanical Gardens, followed by Henry F. Green who laid out the gardens and began the planting.
Today’s ornamental gardens are the result of the lifelong dedication of Joseph Jones, who managed it from 1892. Botanists from Kew Gardens supplied tropical species to Roseau, collected from all over the world. A functional nursery was turned into an attractive landscape. There are exotic trees and shrubs, ornate iron gates, ponds and some 80 species of palm trees.
Many important trees were lost to Hurricane David in August 1979. In particular, a giant Baobab tree fell on the yellow school bus, squashing it to the ground. Fortunately no lives were lost. The remains of the bus are an interesting feature of the gardens.
The gardens appear in works by Phyllis Shand Allfrey: ‘spread out under the hill, with the mountains blue behind that, and the nurseries of young plants and vanilla and cocoa trees running all the way up the hollow to the middle of the hill’ The plant nursery is still there, the vanilla and cocoa trees have gone. In The Orchid House – the government cut down the fruit trees so that the hungry children could not steal the fruit.
There is still a mixture of the economic and the ornamental. Amazonian parrots, the sisserou and the jaco can be found here. So too the endangered Crapaud – or mountain chicken.