Around the House
Virgin Islanders love to plant colorful gardens around their homes. With the palette of colors and plant types available to these tropical gardeners, it is easy to see why.
One of the favorite decorative trees is the flamboyant, or flame tree, which produces a bright red crown of blossoms every June. When it is not in bloom, the flamboyant’s wide canopy makes it a great shade tree. Another favorite for color is the bougainvillea, a hardy bush that can grow to great heights if allowed. Bougainvillea comes in a dazzling array of colors including red, pink, orange, and white. The “blooms” are actually modified leaves, called bracts, which they produce to attract pollinators to their small, white flowers.
Hibiscus blooms are also bound to catch your eye. These bushes produce brightly colored flowers that can grow as large as seven inches across. Practiced gardeners compete annually at flower shows for the best hibiscus bloom. Locals also use the petals to make a sweet, red drink.
Often used as a natural fence, oleander is a plant worth identifying, if only because of its capacity to poison. Oleander puts out five-petaled blossoms of pink, purple, and white. Do not ingest any part of the plant—it is deadly.
One of the most beautiful decorative shrubs in the islands is the poinsettia. Once you see one of these growing over your head with dense red bracts brilliant in the sun, you will never think the same about the pitiful potted ones you see every Christmas. Yellow allamanda is another favorite among Caribbean gardeners, for its bright yellow flowers and neat, shiny leaves.
© Susanna Henighan Potter from Moon Virgin Islands, 4th edition