This once grand tropical garden in a Caribbean paradise renews hope for its future!

Royal Botanical Gardens, Hope
Kingston, Jamaica, West Indies

By Calvin Chong - Click images to enlarge

Hope Gardens, Kingston, Jamaica, was established in the late 1870s to early 1880s on 200 acres of land. Original activities included plant introduction and crop testing. Crops such as pineapple, cocoa, coffee, and tobacco were introduced to the island through the Gardens.

The formal gardens were established on approximately 60 acres of the garden estate. Assistance from the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, England, and their personnel were instrumental in establishing the Gardens. Hope Gardens became a home to many exotic species as well as many endemic plants.

It was quite an amazing garden; I remember it well as a small boy. The Hope Gardens estate also includes the Hope Zoo, an amusement park called Coconut Fun Park that used to feature a small roller coaster, an orchid house, lily pond (a small lake), shrub maze, sunken gardens, palm avenue, coconut museum, poets corner, bougainvillea walk, and other attractions. Hope Gardens is reputed to be the largest public garden in the West Indies.

During a visit by Queen Elizabeth II in 1953, the Queen was so pleased with the state of the Gardens that she gave permission for it to be known as the Royal Botanical Gardens, Hope.

Sadly, due to natural disasters like hurricanes (of which Gilbert was the main punisher), poor water supply, bad management, and vandalism, the gardens entered a period of decline which has resulted in the demise of much of its plant life and attractions. The zoo, waterlily pond, and maze are among the few features that still exist in adequate condition.

Fortunately, through the help of organizations such as the Orchid Society of Jamaica, the Hope Pastures Citizens Association, and the Ministry of Agriculture, Hope Gardens has been under repair since 1996.
In my recent visit to the Gardens, I saw the huge fountain being repaired, and several workers pruning trees and doing general cleaning. There is still much work to be done to bring the garden back to its former glory. We certainly hope the vision will continue. 

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