"I can't believe that I've been the new executive director of the St. George Village Botanical Garden for four months already. Part of that is just the normal process of learning a new job of course. But it has been my dream to run a botanical garden for some time now and there is no sense of time in a dream.
The St. George was always my favorite spot on St. Croix over the last twenty or so years that my family and I have been visiting the island from Cincinnati, Ohio. I was also lucky enough to have known David Hamada, the former director, who was a plant geek like me. We spent many happy hours together in the garden.
It really is an amazing place. Not only is it the site of a former sugar plantation but also of a village created by the original people who settled St. Croix well over a thousand years ago. The course of this history can be seen in the garden itself.
A typical visit begins at the Bodine Center and Museum Shop. It has served as our visitor's center since 2006. On the east side is the large parking area which surrounds a planting that contains, amongst other interesting plants, two African Baobab trees. Their ancestors arrived on the island with the first enslaved Africans who were brought here to work the plantation.
On the west side is the courtyard that connects the new with the old. That western edge is formed by the old Bread Oven which turned out the plantation's bread each day and the Manager's House where the plantation manager lived. It is still used as a house today by one of the garden's staff as well as housing the Herbarium, a repository of historic pressed plant specimens.
Beyond are the ruins of the old Sugar Factory. Today they contain the Desert Garden, a water lily pond, two fountains and the lush Bromeliad and Orchid Garden. That last garden contains some interesting food plants as well such as Vanilla and many kinds of Pineapple, a plant brought to the island by its original inhabitants.
Metal remains, among the ruins, speak to the change from wind/animal power in the 1700's to steam power in the 1800's. North of this is the Overseer's House, now home to a large colony of Jamaican Fruit Bats and a favorite attraction for kids. Gardens in this area have a theme such as dye & fiber, medicinal, and edible plants. In fact the garden boasts something on the order of 1500 plant species/varieties though I haven't counted them myself. I did find a native tree list compiled in the 1990's and if anything, there are more species now.
Across Mint Gut is The Great Hall. This really tells the story of the transformation from former plantation to botanical garden. It consists of two original worker's housing structures combined and enlarged just after the 1973 founding of the garden by the St. Croix Garden Club to create office and event space.
It is my pleasure to share this wonderful place with locals and visitors alike. I would encourage anyone with an interest in joining our family of volunteers to contact us."
St. George Village Botanical Garden
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St. Croix This Week | St. Thomas + St. John This Week
Location: # 1 Havensight Way, St. Thomas, VI 00802
Mailing Address: PO Box 11199 St. Thomas, VI 00801-4199
Telephone: (340) 774-2500
Fax: (340) 776-1466