Orchid Boardwalk opens in memorable weekend at Park

“Miss Joyce, this is for you.”

With those words, Frank Roulstone
cut the ceremonial ribbon for the opening of the Orchid Garden Boardwalk and invoked
the memory of the late Joyce Hylton, founding president of the Cayman Islands
Orchid Society.

The boardwalk was opened on
Saturday at the Queen Elizabeth II Botanic park during the annual orchid show
and sale.

A founding member of the Orchid
Society, Mr. Roulstone recalled that Miss Joyce was a long time member of the
American Orchid Society and in 1986 pulled people together to form the local group.

Mr. Roulstone said even on the eve
of her 90th birthday Miss Joyce was exploring tropical jungles in Central
America, house boating on a lake in Canada and taking a hot air balloon
ride. “She had a zest and a passion for life and her passion fuelled the Orchid
Society.”

One of its aims was to encourage
orchid cultivation through regular shows and the first one was in Miss Joyce’s
own yard. The event has since grown to take over the Visitors Centre at the Botanic Park.

Another founding principle was –
and remains – the preservation of Cayman orchids in their natural habitat.  The 600-foot boardwalk through native forest
provides a home for local orchids, many of which are rescued when developers
call the Orchid Society with an invitation to collect plants before bush is
cleared.

Miss Joyce would be proud to know
that the Orchid Garden is now a reality, opened in her
name, Mr. Roulstone said. “She was an inspiration to all of us.”

The new attraction
is a result of that inspiration and a degree of exigency, member Dr. Sekhar remarked
later. A grant of CI$16,000 was received last year from the Stanley Smith Horticultural
Trust in the US.
“We had to spend it within the year or give it back.”

Planning began in early 2009, with
members scouting the area to determine which trees made the best hosts for
orchids and which could be removed for the boardwalk. The path was laid out in May
and construction took place in July
and August. The grant money plus funds from the Orchid Society and individual
donors was sufficient for a boardwalk of 382 feet.

But members dreamt of an
all-encompassing walkway that would lead visitors around the area and back to the
entrance. One person, who asked to remain anonymous, went to various banks on
the Island to solicit help. The result was
another $16,000 and the completion of the 600-foot boardwalk.

Andrew Gibb, the architect who drew
up plans for the project, pointed out that the Orchid Garden
area is subject to flooding — the right kind of environment for orchids – so
the boardwalk is raised off the ground. Support
posts are encased in concrete and all connectors are stainless steel, so the
boardwalk should last 15 to 20 years.

Since its completion, members of
the Orchid Society have been busy installing orchids in their new home.

Total cost of construction was around $40,000, with the rest of the money
raised going toward the purchase of orchids from the Caribbean
region to display in the garden.

Cayman orchids tend to bloom only
around June, but with the wider variety, there should always be some plants in
blossom.

“This is an ongoing process. It
will take years to develop properly,” said Orchid Society member Kirkland
Nixon.

Meanwhile, the boardwalk provides
easy access to native woodland, with orchids and bromeliads everywhere at
eye-level, above one’s head and below one’s feet. One pleasant addition is the
installation of a bench on the boardwalk, donated in memory of the late Dickie
Black.

To remind viewers why orchids attract
such devotion, the exhibit inside the Visitors Centre and the plant sale outside
featured numerous species and hybrids of all shapes and colours.

The much-anticipated judging of
orchids grown by Island residents did not take
place. This was because plants brought in for sale arrived a bit late and
organisers were concerned they would not have sufficient time to set up the
exhibit. Rather than separate plants for judging, growers opted to put their
collections into the exhibit.

“People were co-operative, not
competitive,” explained member Stuart Mailer.

FEATOrchidGardenSTORY

Maureen Harrison finds it easy to focus on subjects so close.
Carol Winker

Comments are closed.