Once a crop of rocky ironshore, the Tomlinsons’ garden is now a lush tropical paradise, with stunning waterfalls, romantic gazebos and an abundance of fruit trees
The first thing you notice about Dr Steven Tomlinson’s sprawling garden is the colour.
Sunlight shimmers against the vivid green backdrop, capturing the subtle shades of chartreuse in a leafy palm and the emerald in a fern. Flowers of crimson, indigo and gold sparkle like jewels against the manicured lawn. Delicate cerise petals peek out from a creeping vine, intertwined around a garden arch.
Everywhere, there is colour, a brilliant rainbow of hues that brings the garden to life in the early morning sun.
This horticultural paradise is Dr Tomlinson’s dream garden. But, as he meanders among the foliage, pointing out a unique species of orchid and listing the many varieties of fruit trees, it is hard to believe that he only recently discovered his green thumb.
“I haven’t always like gardening,” says Dr Tomlinson, who shares the four-acre property with his wife, Eva, “but after starting this garden, I realised how relaxing it can be.
“I didn’t sit down and create any design for the garden. I just did one part, then another and it evolved. I put it together as an amateur.”
This “amateur” effort has dramatically transformed the Spotts property, which until three years ago was rocky iron shore. Now, the garden is home to countless species of plants, trees and flowers from around the world; it is a sanctuary, with vibrant waterfalls and quiet gazebos, winding paths and a private rainforest, a place for the couple to entertain and their grandchildren to explore.
As he reclines in the shade on a rustic wooden bench, Dr Tomlinson says his aim for the garden was simple – he wanted lots of variety, colour and scent.
“Before we started, the land was just iron shore, so before we could start building [the house] we filled most of it in,” Dr Tomlinson says. “I didn’t want to cut down a lot of the trees that were already on the land so we built around them. Any tree I could keep, I did. I had to cut a lot of the smaller trees down though because there was such heavy undergrowth.
“[Now] I have hundreds of different types of flowers, trees and plants,” Dr Tomlinson continues. “A lot of patients brought me plants after they found out about my garden and I got a lot from local nurseries.
“With the flowers, I wanted colour and scent. I wanted vines too. I have a row of gardenias at the front of the house. At night, and in the morning, the smell as you walk out the front door is incredible.”
To maintain diversity, Dr Tomlinson replaces the flower beds every six months, a practice he admits is not easy on the pocket but ensures he’s never bored.
“I like change and I like to see something different when I come outside,” explains Dr Tomlinson, whose favourite flower is the dwarf crepe myrtle. “I have a lot of permanent plants though, such as the hedges. I can’t really move the hedges every six months,” he laughs.
Dr Tomlinson’s other passion is evident in the abundance of fruit trees and plants. The varieties include guavas, grapefruits, plums, sweet sop, sour sop, ackee, pomegranate, tomatoes, limes and watermelon. He also grows corn, peas, pumpkin, sugarcane and an assortment of herbs.
“I like to have my own fruits. I’ve never been a gardener, but I’ve always had fruit trees,” Dr Tomlinson says. “People say the soil in Cayman is awful, but I think you can grow anything in Cayman that you can grow in a tropical climate.”
Among Dr Tomlinson’s diverse vegetation are some unique finds, including a cocoa tree from Costa Rica and miracle trees, the fruit of which makes every flavour taste sweet.
One of Dr Tomlinson’s favourite features of the garden is a stainless steel statue of a man and woman locked in an embrace, created by Karoly Szücs of Artisan Metal Works. The statue is positioned over a fountain in the front courtyard, an ode to the couple’s romantic nature.
“It’s beautiful,” Dr Tomlinson says as he admires the statue. “It gives an atmosphere of love.”
The landscaping was not just confined to the garden, but also continues along the nature strip on Shamrock Road. Dr Tomlinson believes all homeowners should help to beautify the community by looking after their garden.
Maintenance plays a huge role in keeping the garden looking its best on a day to day basis. Three full-time gardeners tend to its upkeep, as “maintenance is ongoing”.
“You can have the nicest garden in the world, but if you don’t maintain it, it will fall to pieces pretty quickly,” Dr Tomlinson says.
Despite its size, the garden is as economical as it is beautiful, with much of the water sourced from four natural wells that were discovered on the site before construction. This spring water supplies the misters and the waterfalls and is used to water the garden.
With his green thumb now firmly established, Dr Tomlinson is content to sit back and take pleasure in the garden.
“I’m going to add things as I think of them, but there’s not much more room [in the garden],” Dr Tomlinson laughs.
“It’s a garden to enjoy.”