The love of gardening is a seed once sown that never dies. – Gertrude Jekyll
For Vivian Bould, that seed was planted as a young girl growing up in Ireland. It blossomed as a teenager when her parents built a new home.
“We had to start from scratch and that’s when I really caught the bug,” she says. “Cecil, a dear friend of the family, taught me every aspect of gardening on glorious long summer days and also in the heart of winter with frozen fingertips digging up the dahlias.”
Years later, the long-time Cayman resident had another opportunity to start from scratch – building a new home with her husband, Martyn Bould.
The couple had been living at Plantana on Seven Mile Beach for more than 20 years, with Vivian creating a patio filled with flowering plants highlighted by a beautiful overhanging bougainvillea. But she missed having a garden.
“I made a comment one day: ‘I would love a garden to nurture again.’” she recalls. “Martyn said: ‘I shall build you a house with a garden and we shall call the house Callaloo.’”
Vivian began planning – and learning. “The differences between starting an Irish garden versus a Caribbean garden was a big leap.”
Incorporating as many indigenous plants as possible, Vivian enlisted the help of gardener Rob Bennet to help choose and identify the various plants and shrubs she liked.
Today, more than a decade later, the grounds are an island oasis boasting a lush palette of colors, textures, levels and layers.
West Indian tradition
Callaloo is built in the design of a traditional West Indian great house with the gardens reflecting the Caribbean setting. Nestled on the waterfront of the Cayman Islands Yacht Club, it has been designed to make the most of the spectacular views, and transitions seamlessly from the inside to the outdoors.
“From every window you will see the garden,” says Vivian.
The home and gardens were two years in the making. The property, designed by Cayman-based architect John Doak, is centered around a great house, which incorporates a great room, kitchen, laundry, study, wine cellar and a master bedroom on the upper floor. Individual cottages provide guest accommodation, a gym, staff quarters, a garden potting room and garage.
“We wanted to create a home and garden for our lifestyle, and not to have spare rooms uninhabited for months on end awaiting visiting family and friends or garden spaces that could not be utilized for different purposes,” says Vivian.
Indeed, that is reflected in the thoughtfully and artfully arranged spaces.
The symmetry of the home makes the outdoor areas appealing, providing a pleasing blend of balance, flow and calm. It is infused throughout the expansive gardens, with a number of intimate, cozy spaces that each take on a personality and place of their own. Others are spacious, yet welcoming, areas that serve a range of purposes, including as a setting for cultural events.
Culture and coconuts
While Vivian is the creative force behind the gardens, Martyn did have one request when they initially began planning – a coconut grove. Located west of the property, the towering trees – most Jamaican Talls – provide natural shade to the main house as well as plenty of fresh coconut water for the household.
The home and gardens often double as performing arts spaces, serving as a setting for cultural and fundraising events. The Boulds are strong advocates of arts and culture, with Martyn a founding board member and chairman of the Cayman Islands Cultural Foundation and founding board member of the National Gallery of the Cayman Islands.
Their newly created orchard, located east of the property, offers plenty of space for cultural performances. Last year, the Boulds hosted their first private performance there called Arts in the Orchard, featuring dance, music and storytelling under the stars in celebration of CNCF’s 30th anniversary.
There are two formal lawns by the waterfront, where performances are staged. It is also used for croquet, particularly over the Christmas holidays. They will be moving the game to the orchard this year, where there is a little more shade. Located by the swimming pool, the lawns are also used as part of their daily workout with a conditioning therapist.
A cozy south-facing outdoor breakfast patio overlooking the lawns is a favorite place to wake up to the day, or wind down.
The entrance to Callaloo was created with berms for privacy and to provide greenery on the roadside rather than the hardscape of a solid wall. The front courtyard is made of large concrete pavers with grass in between to soften the area. It features plants in three color schemes: yellow (Vivian’s favorite color), white and orange, with the varying textures of the greenery adding interest.
Martyn and Vivian use the gym garden for yoga and meditation, a tranquil space with a Buddha statue that watches over the purple ruellia, bougainvillea, Chinese crotons and orchids.
“We have what we call weekend hammock time in the gym garden, where we set up our double hammock between two coconut trees, read our books or doze off to the music or chirping birds,” says Vivian.
Music is a soothing touch in the gardens. Outdoor speakers in various places create a background for relaxing or working the soil. There is a selection of wind chimes from around the world – the Boulds are avid travelers – along with a special bronze bell purchased from the studio of Paolo Soleri, who studied as an architect under Frank Lloyd Wright.
Dotted throughout the gardens are a variety of potted plants – 120 pots and counting.
Their garden is a work-in-progress, an organic canvas that is always changing and growing. A routine for the couple is taking “a turn around the garden” before sunset, when Martyn shares his thoughts on various aspects of the garden.
“By the end of the following week, the seed is sown, and I get to work incorporating his thoughts into the various areas of the gardens,” says Vivian.
For Vivian, gardening is a big part of her lifestyle, and the rewards are many.
“It’s just reaping the benefits of your hard work, when you can enjoy the fruits of your labor,” she says.
Among those fruits of labor is a kitchen garden that yields fresh herbs, fruit and vegetables.
It also produces a fresh supply of callaloo – spinach-like greens they both enjoy, and their home’s affectionate namesake.
“We live in it – and we grow it,” says Vivian.
Thoughts on gardening
Gardening restores the five senses; thoughts flow and ideas form from being at one with the soil.
Creating a new bed in one’s garden is very satisfying. When it is completed, one just stands and smiles at the wonder of nature.
It is the one place on Earth where one can be alone and not feel lonely; just being surrounded by beauty and your own thoughts.
Most gardeners will always want to smile when they hear the sound of rain, just to think of how much one’s garden will appreciate the extra water.
Gardeners, in general, feel happiness is created in their garden for family and friends when a good day’s work is done and everyone, including the gardener, can reap the benefits of having tilled the soil.