Photography compliments of Viridis.      Story by Wendy John.

Andrew’s Great House was built in 1923 as a managers house for Andrews Sugar Factory, thought to be the longest running sugar factory in the western hemisphere.  The house has been a second home to the Elias family since 1973 and was recently renovated under the architectural direction of Michael Gomes Associates. Mrs. Penny and Ms. Charlotte Elias were the main contributors to the landscape design process on the client side, with Mrs. Christine Millar providing input and advice from her vast experience in the arts.

As it was a historic renovation, it was decided to use mainly traditional ornamental plants in the garden renovation, many of which were salvaged and re-used from the original garden. Some of the original Crotons were dug up and placed in the Viridis nursery and variegated Dracaenas were also salvaged and propagated from cuttings. Scions from an ancient Sago palm found in the original garden were also kept and planted in the scheme later. Original Heliconias, Ginger Lilies and other flowering shrubs were replaced into the new landscape design after the reshaping of planting beds and lawns.

One of the client’s mandates was to have uninterrupted views through Mahogany trees to the east of the property which had a dense undergrowth. As it was cleared out it was discovered that the old grove of trees actually frames the full moon as it rises, a view enjoyed from the newly built east gallery and a ‘happy accident’ of the garden renovation. The rest of the new garden frames that focal point with colour, texture and vertical interest. Against the darker shaded areas of the copse of trees, bright contrasting shrubs such as Silver Dollars, yellow sprays of the perpetual flowers on the Shower-of-Gold and several varieties of Pseuderanthemum were used. Yellow Shrimp plants placed in the mixed bed plantings played with the yellow colour palette but with a variation in shape, texture and scale of the blooms. The wide variegated leaves in pink white and red of the old Dracaenas provide textural and colour contrast, as well as variety of scale.

The colours of the house, by Harris Paints, are a custom mixed tone of green on the exterior walls and a strong deep red on the roof and are unusual in Barbados plantation houses, but very effectively used here to convey gravitas. The colours of the plantings close to the house were chosen to compliment rather than compete with them. One of the plants used to the best effect in those areas are the Clerodendrons, popping out against the dark slate green of the house  with its big bold leaves and bright scarlet sprays of flowers.

Some of the specimen plants used in the design are newer varieties, non traditional for a plantation house such as the dramatic Foxtail Palms, only discovered in 1975, and the Australian Flame Thrower Palm, renowned for displaying its new leaves in a fiery unfurling show. A pair of dramatic silver grey Bizmarkia Fan Palms now stand sentinel among the old Royal Palms in the north gardens. Original specimen plants such as the large Sago Palm, mature Golden Palm and an old, rampant golden Chalice Vine were kept to great effect and spoke to the permanence of the place even in the face of change.

For colour and texture, filler plants were used in mixed bed scenarios such as Acalypha varieties, Texas Sage for a bright pop and dwarf Elephant Ears to give a different scale and form. Borders and edging relied heavily on old stalwarts such as varieties of Cuffia, Hemigraphis alternata, a purple low growing plant with a green metallic highlights and Pilea macrocarpa otherwise known as ‘Never Dead’, which gives a nice mounded textured border. Mondo grass, Portulaccas, Moses-in-a-Basket and Flax Lilies completed the border palette.

Other traditional plants used were Beefsteak Acalypha, Plumbago, Crotons, some of which were propagated in the nursery, some exotic ones brought in for added variety of colour and leaf shape. A large flowering Thunbergia hedge was kept to retain privacy between the gazebo and formal garden. Plants in the scheme along the pathway with the Cleredondrons are Star Jasmine, Flax Lilies used to brighten the way and a pair of white Mussaenda designed to create an arch of white blooms over the entrance to the pool deck.

The Rose garden along the west gallery was a special request of the client as they love the colour, form and scent of the blooms. The Roses were used to under plant a trio of Foxtail Palms in a soft stone planter. The new Rose bushes were all propagated with the help of Christine Millar using cocoa moss brought from Trinidad for the air layering technique of propagation. From one original rose bush planted by the pool many years ago, 20 plants were produced for the front and west galleries, to be enjoyed by all who approach the house.

In the turning circle of the driveway a purple Orchid Tree was under planted with a mass purple bloomed Iris, whose long greed blades echo the look and movement of  the sugar canes, now almost gone form the surrounding landscape. Magenta Portulacas, or ‘Rock Roses’ edge the scheme and hang over the salvaged soft stone blocks used for the circle. To the north of the house, a two acre orchard has been planted with fifty new fruit trees including many varieties of citrus, mango, banana and mammy apple. Species exotic to Barbados were also planted in the new orchard, such as the African Baobab, the ‘Tree Of Life’, and one of each Rambutan and Duku trees were also planted. The intention behind the new orchard was to provide a legacy of fruit to future generations.

A number of Royal Palms growing wild on the location were transplanted to more appropriate locations in the landscape, children of the majestic, century old specimens planted by Mr. Robert ‘Laddie’ Challenor and Mr. Harold Wright in 1923, and likely to be standing there in 2123.

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