Photos by Stephen Clarke

Jennifer Godfrey encounters a surprise in her garden just about every day.

Recently, it was a hoya plant that blossomed for the first time, displaying exotic purple flowers. Occasionally, it’s an afternoon visit from Cayman parrots who come to snack on the seeds of the Pride of Barbados plant in the back garden. And every morning, a tiny bananaquit flits by the window to say hello.

“That’s why gardens are so exciting,” says the long-time Cayman resident. “I love the surprises of waking and walking in the garden with my cup of tea each morning. There is always something new and beautiful to surprise me. I love the beauty of God’s creation. It is relaxing and peaceful.

“I’m especially thankful for an interesting garden in these days of isolation due to COVID-19 virus, then sharing photos on social media.”

The garden is lush and natural – jungle-like in some spots – with several distinct areas on the expansive grounds of the South Sound home.

The entranceway features towering shade trees and lush greenery, including this striking Bismark Palm (Bismarckia nobilis).

“I like a very natural garden, with plants just happening,” says Jennifer.

Originally from Jamaica, Jennifer and her husband Michael Godfrey moved to Grand Cayman in 1977.

The couple built their home in 1982 – Michael is a founder of Arch & Godfrey, one of the oldest and largest construction companies in the Cayman Islands – moving in a year later.

Jennifer joined the Garden Club of Grand Cayman – she’s been a member for some 30 years now – to share her passion with fellow gardeners.

“Elaine Kirkconnell was a great inspiration to me with her beautiful garden,” she says. “She was president in 1983 when we moved into our home.”

Hurricane devastation

A favourite spot for Jennifer to relax is on a wooden rocking chair in the back garden.

Inspiration turned to devastation in 2004 when Hurricane Ivan hit. The garden was completely wiped out, with sand and seawater flooding the grounds, and even a boat from across the street landing in the yard then becoming wedged in a bathroom.

“It was so very hard to see 21 years of work gone all in one day,” says Jennifer. “It was six months before we could even attempt to start again.”

The total devastation is hard to imagine. Today, the garden is flourishing, with established shade trees and showpiece greenery and flowers.

While Ivan was heartbreaking, Jennifer says it did give something back. In the front and back gardens, seedlings from poinciana trees began growing.

“We saw these seedlings popping up, and I said, ‘why don’t we encourage them’, and so we planted them,” she says. “Ivan gave us these.”

The towering trees feature flamboyant orange-red flowers when in season, a striking addition to the garden.

Jennifer enjoys relaxing on this wooden bench that sits near the cherry tree in the front garden.

 

Growing influence

Birdbaths and birdfeeders throughout the garden attract a variety of fine feathered friends.

Jennifer inherited her love of gardening from Michael’s mother.

“My mother-in-law was an amazing gardener, and she taught me so much about plants,” she says.

One of her treasured plants is a Eucharis lily, which she grew from a bulb dug from her mother-in-law’s garden in Jamaica. She brought it to Cayman in the 1970s, and it is now nestled amongst a large bed of ferns.

“It’s special,” she says. “The mother of this plant is 100 years old.”

Jennifer is also a huge orchid buff, with orchids of all kinds and colours dotted throughout the gardens. Most are tied to trees, rather than being planted, and are found in abundance.

“Orchids are so exotic – and addictive,” says Jennifer, who recently built an orchid house in the backyard, replacing the one lost in Ivan. “They are such incredible plants.”

When she asked Martin Motes, a well-known Florida orchid grower and expert, why people are so addicted to orchids, he replied: “They are the only plants that are diametrically similar, as are we humans.”

“That’s an interesting take on these exotics,” she says.

Desert roses are also featured throughout the garden, another of Jennifer’s favourites.

“They are so very easy to grow, and the varieties are endless.”

There are several birdfeeders and birdbaths throughout the garden, along with decorative statues and garden knick-knacks. Inviting seating areas offer a space to relax and be surrounded by nature.

“I like gardens with places you can just stop, rest and enjoy,” she says.

“I love sitting on the bench early in the morning under the cherry tree. The wild birds are fed in that area at 7:30 every morning, and I love watching them jostle for their breakfast.”

Another favourite spot is by the pool in the back garden, where Jennifer relaxes in a rocking chair by the Pride of Barbados plant, which attracts the parrots.

“It’s also the area that I sit amongst orchids,” she says.

A popular gathering spot is the enclosed patio on the side of the home, which features skylights and large windows so the garden greenery can be viewed.

JOIN THE CLUB - InsideOut is a platinum sponsor of the Garden Club of Grand Cayman. Anyone interested in becoming a member can contact Janet Morse on morsejanet80@gmail.com or visit caymangardenclub.com.The space can seat around 60 people, where Jennifer hosts gatherings including the Garden Club’s annual Christmas dinner last year.

Like the patio, the Godfrey home features plenty of windows and natural light, with the garden always in sight.

“Everywhere I look, there’s the garden,” says Jennifer.

 

Originally published in InsideOut magazine, Issue 37, Spring Summer 2020.

Air plants add a decorative touch.

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