There are some gardens that are truly inspiring while others simply take your breath away.
Seven wonders: Each garden has its own name:
- Cottage Garden
- Sunken Garden
- Gravel Walk Perimeter Garden
- Skybridge and Fountain Garden
- Elephant Garden
- Native Area & Rockery Garden
- Orchard and Entrance Garden
Bob and Ariane Dart’s garden falls into the latter category, set amidst lush tropical foliage, birdsong, water features, and a beautiful selection of native and exotic plants and flowers.
In fact, the 2.8-acre plot is a collection of seven individual gardens with their own unique identity.
The gardens lie perpendicular to Seven Mile Beach and each reveals itself as you meander along the main pathway, which leads to a cottage-style house perched right on the edge of the sand.
The gardens were created by landscape designer, Sandy Urquhart. They run the gamut from the clean, crisp formality of the manicured lawn in the Orchard Garden, to the loose and rustic feel of the Native Area & Rockery Garden.
While there is no physical demarcation, such as a wall, gate, or perimeter fence, the change in foliage and materials used on the garden path marks the transcendence from one garden to the next.
The Orchard Garden is the first area, taking its inspiration from a traditional fruit orchard. The garden’s open expanse of lush green lawn is peppered with a selection of fruit trees which yield a mouthwatering, sweet bounty year-round for the family to enjoy, as well as offering pockets of shade. Guava, avocado, breadfruit, mango, citrus, pomegranate, lychee and mango trees fill this delightful garden, all sourced from both Cayman and overseas.
“This garden is a place to welcome guests and visitors, as well as an open space of greenery,” says Elke O’Donnell, manager at Arboretum Services Ltd, the team which manages the garden.
“It’s composed of some exotic as well as common fruit trees for the owner to enjoy with her children who love to explore the garden and pick its various fruits.”
The garden path then leads guests to the Native Area & Rockery Garden, which offers a much more loose and rustic feel than the neatly manicured lawn of the Orchard Garden.
As well as the dramatic change in foliage and style, the garden is also clearly defined by the path changing from traditional brick to recycled railway sleepers sourced from the United States.
This garden is filled with lush native plants, which grow under the shady canopy of a yawning black olive tree. A large natural pond is set in the garden, where mangroves and wildlife flourish.
Rocks sourced from local quarries create pockets throughout, where colourful plants such as crotons burst forth. An observation area, tucked away from view, provides the perfect place for quiet reflection, or for enjoying the garden’s abundant wildlife. Alternatively, guests can traverse the bridge for a closer look at the wildlife that inhabits the pond.
The Elephant Garden is at the centre of this stunning collection of gardens. This garden has been designed around a solid, handcrafted carving of a baby elephant – a treasured wedding gift from family – which also guards over the family’s animal friends that have passed away.
The Elephant Garden is filled with tropical and ornamental plants, including periwinkles, bromeliads, cassandra, cordyline, codiauems and fragrant frangipani, which offers a striking medley of colours and scents year round.
A meandering path, made from colourful decorative stones, leads visitors around the garden, which is filled with intimate spaces, hidden from view, as well as seating areas to while away the hours.
“The Elephant Garden is a place to spend time reminiscing about the sweet passage of time,” Elke says. “The selection of plants that surround the garden provides an ambience that lifts the spirit.”
As guests leave the Elephant Garden, the path changes to one made of sea shells – once again marking the change from one garden to the next.
The Fountain Garden features a stunning manmade waterfall, creating a soothing and relaxing backdrop as the water cascades over the rocks below. Those with an eagle eye will spot the heavily foliaged pathway leading to the Skywalker Bridge – a 70-foot long bridge made from recycled telephone poles, rope and plywood – which offers an unparalleled bird’s eye view of the garden below.
Adjacent is the Sunken Garden, a walled area hidden from view, which provides a place of solitude, away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. This whimsical garden is filled with blooming orchids, fragrant citrus flowers and the sweet calming scent of gardenia. A large sculptural metal seat in the shape of a butterfly is a nod to the number of butterflies attracted to this garden.
Finally, visitors come to the Cottage Garden, a space filled with trees and plants which would typically be found in a traditional-style Caymanian garden or yard. Bougainvilleas, mussaendas, thryallis and junipers offer bursts of colour throughout the year.
Although the entire garden is a private family retreat, it’s also an oasis with a good cause. Each year Ariane opens the gates to host the annual fundraiser for the National Gallery of the Cayman Islands, delighting all who attend.