Jamaica Tourist Board and the Jamaica Horticultural Society have been joined at the Chelsea Flower Show by a modern day Captain William Bligh, over two centuries after he first visited Jamaica to plant the island’s first botanical gardens. 200 years on, the Jamaica Horticultural Society is showcasing a tropical display of fragrant flora, plants and fruits typically found throughout the islands lush and fertile landscape.
In its 12th year of exhibition, the Jamaica Horticultural Society display will be led by Jamaican floral designer and horticulturalist Pearl Wright.
The display, entitled ‘Ode to Old Jamaica - in the Footsteps of Captain Bligh’, has been designed to recreate the original foliage found in Jamaica’s Bath Botanical Gardens established in the Parish of St Thomas by the famed seafarer Captain William Bligh at the end of the 18th century. The display will also feature traditional fretwork - a hand-carved architectural design typically used in Jamaican plantation houses from the 17th to 19th centuries.
Bligh introduced breadfruit and over 1,000 other fruits, vegetables, herbs and fauna to Jamaica in an effort to ensure a sustainable food source for the enslaved men and women shipped to Jamaica during the 18th and 19th centuries to work on the island plantations. Captain Bligh planted Jamaica’s first breadfruit plants in the Bath Botanical Gardens and was such an advocate of the plant’s nourishing properties that he became known as ‘Breadfruit Bligh’ throughout the Caribbean.
This week, during the Chelsea Flower Show, a modern day ‘Captain Bligh’ will be again be sowing seeds in Jamaica’s Bath Botanical Gardens. This time however, the project will be acknowledging the bicentenary of the Abolition of the Slave Trade Act of 1807. This momentous date, which is said by many to signal the beginning of ‘Jamaica’s True History’ is being marked by a number of ceremonies throughout the Caribbean and worldwide.
But ‘Captain Bligh’ will not be alone in the Bath Botanical Gardens two centuries on, he will be joined by communities throughout Jamaica who will be participating in the Jamaica National Project to restore the Bath Botanical Gardens to its former glory on the 23rd May, Jamaica’s Labour Day, a public holiday which coincides with the Chelsea Flower Show.
In keeping with the bicentennial observance of the abolition of the transatlantic trade in Africans, the focus for Jamaica’s Labour Day 2007 is “Honouring Our Ancestors and Strengthening Communities”. The focus of activity is aimed at protecting, preserving and honouring ancestral sites including those associated with slavery such as the Botanical Gardens in Bath.
Visitors to the Jamaica Horticultural Society stand during the Chelsea Flower Show are invited to learn more about Jamaica’s rich heritage and tropical landscape.