The book that launched a vacation



As soon as I saw the cover of this book, I knew where we had to go for our annual winter break. Such a thing is necessary when you live in Western New York—at least I find it so. Nothing says you’re really away from it all like a radical shift 60 degrees upward. A few days is enough.

But the normal hot spots palled. We were on a cruise last year—a gift— and I didn’t find what I needed. Too much boat.  Mexico wouldn’t work for various reasons, and none of the other islands seemed to click. Then this book hit my desk. I had been thinking beaches, not gardens, but here were the kind of gardens into which you plunge rather than walk. And most of them are in Barbados. Which also happens to be the home of rum.


Exotic Gardens of the Eastern Caribbean (Margaret Gajek, writer, and Derek Galon, photographer, Ozone, 2010) includes many private gardens as well as various official botanic gardens and such well-known attractions as the Andromeda and Orchid gardens, and Welchman’s Gully (top), a National Trust site. There is also an open garden program and of course, Barbados sends its best to Chelsea every year.

Paradoxically, in spite of the “exoticism” of it all, many of the plants are so familiar. Some are year-round residents of my home or office; others I see at the florists regularly. But not like this.

I’ll tell you if the gardens lived up to the photographs.

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Elizabeth Licata

Elizabeth Licata has been a regular writer for  Garden Rant since 2007, after contributing a guest rant about the overuse of American flags in front gardens. She lives and gardens in Buffalo, N.Y., which, far from the frozen wasteland many assume it to be, is a lush paradise of gardens, historic architecture, galleries, museums, theaters, and fun. As editor of Buffalo Spree magazine,  Licata helps keep Western New Yorkers apprised about what is happening in their region. She is also a freelance writer and art curator, who’s been published in Fine Gardening, Horticulture, ArtNews, Art in America, the Village Voice, and many other publications. She does regular radio segments for the local NPR affiliate, WBFO.

Licata is involved with Garden Walk Buffalo, the largest free garden tour in the US and possibly the world, and has written the text for a book about Garden Walk. She has also written and edited several art-related books. Contact Elizabeth: ealicata at


  1. Ever since I read about the forest in Tobago, made a protected area in 1776, I’ve wanted to go there. However, Barbados – I’d happily accept that too. Looking forward to your report.

  2. Oh ! Gorgeous plants, beaches & rum – is there another way to vacation ? Now I have the “get thee to the tropics” bug, and we’re not nearly as cold here as ya’ll are there. I think you’ll be amazed, though, at how different the familiar plants look in a more natural setting. You may even find yourself coming back and giving your plants a lecture about what they could really do if they just tried !

    Have fun

  3. Must …… visit ……… Barbados ………….. now to locate it on a map. I’ve never had the slightest urge in my entire life to visit any tropical place whatsoever, not Hawaii, not Bali …….. but these photos have stopped me in my pooh-poohing tracks. Aiiiiieeeeeeeee!

  4. That familiarity with the plants, some observed in her/his office is what I avoid in my collection.

    What is the point of keeping common place plants when one could/do set trends?

  5. Looks quite enticing. I’ve added it to my short list of island destinations. A good friend of mine just moved to Marigot, Dominica and the photos are similarly exquisite. Please report back on the trip.

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