As the rainy season rolls into gear and another drought comes to an end, Caribbean garden lovers flock to their lawns to groom and tend to their plants. But for one group in Trinidad, this happens year-round. This is the Trinidad Garden Club, and at 130 members, the group has come a long way in 22 years.
“It started off as just a small group of friends starting a club because they were garden enthusiasts,” Chancy Moll, past president and current vice-president of the Trinidad Garden Club, said.
“Garden enthusiast” seems a fitting term to describe the members of the club. This is more than just a group of ladies who love to garden and keep busy. Unsurprisingly, the men and women of the garden club are more than the stereotypical housewives and well-heeled husbands with too much time on their hands. With some of the most respected names in Trinidad, including doctors, lawyers and business professionals, in the membership, there is a lot more to this club than meets the eye.
With extravagant gardens and luscious flowers being the symbol of wealth and status in Trinidad’s earliest days, one might assume that members of the country’s premier garden club would be among the wealthiest of the nation, but that isn’t exactly true. The executive board accepts every applicant who shows love and dedication to horticulture and his or her own garden. Credentials are straightforward: to become a member of the garden club, one must be a keen gardener.
“A garden is something that is shared by people irrespective of class, creed or colour. We have people from every walk of life engaged in gardening,” explained Moll. “And that is why the club has become so popular.”
At a member’s home in Westmoorings for the month’s scheduled meeting, the enthusiasts gather in the garden, participate in show benches and discuss their love of their gardens and agriculture in general. It’s these monthly meetings that solidify the bond of the group.
But this bond goes far deeper than monthly meetings. The members of the club pride themselves on educating themselves and the public about gardening techniques, the importance of gardening, and horticulture itself.
Sponsoring a bursary at the University of West Indies St Augustine campus for students studying horticulture and agriculture, the Trinidad Garden Club is passionate about fuelling the next generation’s love for garden culture.
“The most important thing is education,” Moll said, explaining the group’s dedication to facilitating discussions and workshops and teaching both their members and the public about gardening and horticulture.
Besides teaching formally, they aim to share their knowledge with one another—as each member has a different insight to add to the discussion.
According to Moll, gardeners in general should strive to educate themselves on the craft, especially when it comes to purchasing plants and blooms. Not every plant can be placed just anywhere, with many better suited for bright sunshine or shaded areas of the garden. Most importantly, not every plant thrives in our tropical climate, but when they do, they really shine.
“We have a lot of sunshine, we have a lot of rain,” added Moll. “And that combination makes for a lot of good gardening.”
Caribbean gardens really are unique in that way: the bright colours, wild greenery and diverse selection, almost as if they were made to mirror our own culture. Trinidadians are a little bit of everything, and the garden club takes inspiration from our people for their gardens, with hybridization becoming a more and more popular trend. Many members have done hybridizing of orchids on their own terms and in their own gardens, putting together what Moll calls the best of two worlds: creating a somewhat “ideal” species, taking the best qualities from each family to create a better flower: better in form, better in shape, and better in beauty.
Through colourful blooms, lush greenery and succulent fruit-bearing trees, gardeners have created picturesque and somewhat serene oases, begging to be photographed and shared with the world. Seven years ago, Moll finally took the plunge, suggesting the idea of sharing a little piece of their gardens with everyone else, creating an annual calendar showcasing 12 gardens of different members each year, complete with tips and tricks to following suit.
While all of the members tend to their own gardens, the club has placed a green thumb on several larger spaces throughout the country—landscaping areas for the National Zoo, the TSPCA and the Tortuga Church, among many others. In the past, the Trinidad Garden Club would use the funds raised through the annual calendars to landscape, upkeep and contribute to these sites, but a few years ago members had a better idea for the money.
Celebrating its 20th anniversary in 2013, the garden club donated $20,000 to different charities throughout Trinidad, benefiting Vita’s House Hospice, Living Water community, the Animal Welfare and St Vincent de Paul, among others. Through plant sales, tea parties and calendar orders, the group continues to give back to the community—be it through assisting in sponsoring healthcare, supporting a local charity or providing for local churches and organizations.
“There’s something for saying when you touch the soil, there’s something that touches you in your soul,” Moll said.
With a unit that’s more like a family than a group of friends, there is nothing quite like the bond that the club members share. Their love for the art of gardening, combined with their love for one other makes this group one like none other.M