A blossoming breath of fresh air | SummitDaily.com

A blossoming breath of fresh air

You might think reviewing a book on Caribbean gardens is a strange thing to do in the middle of winter in Summit County. But that’s exactly why I’m doing it.

“Exotic Gardens of the Eastern Caribbean” offers a mini-vacation from the single-digit temperatures we’ve experienced in the last week. The vivid photographs in this coffee-table book spark your imagination and remind your vision that there’s more to natural beauty than white snow, green pines and blue skies.

The best way to enjoy this book is by listening to the accompanying CD, which features day and night nature sounds on the islands, while lazily turning the glossy pages.

The book pays homage to Caribbean gardens, both large and small, and their owners. It begins with a short history on how settlers and sailors introduced a variety of plants to the islands from other tropical regions. It also points out that unlike most regions – particularly dry Colorado climates – Caribbean gardeners work to suppress growth rather than promote it.

Each chapter features a single garden and gardener, showing the love and creativity that go into each work of art. The book visits Barbados, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and Grenada. The fact that the stories and cutlines are written in English and French brings even more charm to the piece.

Through the stories, readers learn about island life, history (such as when King Louis XVI of France used St. Lucia’s sulphur hot springs for his troops in 1784) and wildlife, including how to protect vegetables from monkeys (mix the plants with herbs and ornamentals, which are less appealing to monkeys’ tastes).

But what really makes this book stand out is the colorful photos that seem to pop off the page and often present a unique viewpoint on, say, a palm leaf.

As the introduction reminds readers:

“(Gardens) have restorative powers to uplift your soul, bring you into harmony with nature and oneself, soothe the overworked mind, and open your heart to the natural beauty of the world.”

Even if you’re just looking at photos of the gardens.

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