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Pride in gardening


GERCINE CARTER

Pride in gardening

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The 82-year-old grandmother’s Christ Church home is adorned with countless medals and awards won over decades of producing top quality fruit, vegetables and flowers in small garden plots wherever she has lived.

In her latest winning venture, judges were spellbound with her interpretation of Independence celebrations in a garden where the blue, black and gold theme screams, and the Broken Trident rules.

Anite Daniel’s winning 2015 Garden of the Year in the Community Independence Mini Parks and Gardens Competition is like an artist’s palette where nature’s riot of colour is displayed in various hues –oranges blending into reds with a tinge of pink; well-pruned crotons in vibrant yellows, popping golds and subtle dark reds. Delicate pale and bright-coloured flowers contrast against sturdy cacti, succulents that Anita has set out like an architect staging his design in an appealing and pleasing pattern.

Garden benches she painted blue and gold are framed by a well-manicured hedge, while gnomes and leprechauns laze on the green turf in company with a giant African snail whose sighting is this time delightful delighting rather than destructive.

Adding its rich green colour to the flower garden is Anita’s vegetable garden. You take one look and immediately you cannot help but conjure up a picture of the possible salad combinations in your mind.

Anita has won countless prizes at Agrofest.

“The idea was to let parents and children see how you can grow plants in smaller receptacles,” she explained. From this arose the thought of entering the Community Independence Mini Parks and Gardens Competition. She did in 2013, winning the first prize in the Flower Garden section and second prize in the kitchen garden section.

Floored by Chikungunya last year, her efforts were half-hearted, and so were the rewards.

This year was different however, and she began preparing for the completion early. With her experience in how the planting season works, she managed to produce blooms that favourably caught the judges’ attention.

Anita’s green thumb has been in evidence since age four.

She told EASY: “My mother died when I was two years old and I was brought up by my grandmother… who was an ardent gardener.”

“At my fourth birthday on March 8 just before the 1937 riots my grandmother took me in the yard and she decided it was time that I learnt to plant.”

The family lived in a modest home at Mason Hall Street in Bridgetown and Anita watched her grandmother as she went around collecting discarded Trumpeter cigarette tins and converted them to plant pots.

“Everything that we ate with a seed she cured in ash from the coal pot,” Anita said.

Pots containing seeds were labelled and lined off on the kitchen counter.

Almost 80 years on, Anita still talks about her excitement the first day her grandmother introduced her to the land like it was yesterday.

“This morning she had her little plot all dug up and she called me and said: ‘Dolly (the pet name her grandmother called her) you have to learn how to plant because these times are very hard and if you don’t plant you wouldn’t eat.”

It was the period just before the 1937 riots in which Barbadians rose up in protest against the harsh economic conditions.

Anita recalled: “Everybody was supposed to have a water barrel under the eave of the house -which is what people should be doing now. You had to put fish in it because if the sanitary inspector came around and found any mosquitoes in it, there was a charge.”

She washed her clothes and her hair with that rain water.  

From her grandmother’s initiation into gardening she was an expert gardener by age five, reaping the cherry tomatoes she planted and enjoying them in a meal with spinach grown on a fence in their backyard.

There are two varieties of kale, sweet basil, okras, cucumbers and eggplant and other vegetables, much to the satisfaction of her youngest son, a vegetarian.

It is clear the mother of three grown sons and a married daughter who is also a gifted artist has inspired her children with her creative talents. She is also an excellent cook, constantly experimenting in the kitchen, and her garden, just down the steps from her kitchen door, supports the culinary ventures.

She boasted: “It is really a joy when you can step outside your house and pick your flowers and your vegetables. I don’t have to go to the supermarket for these things.”

Anita was one of those people who responded to late Prime Minister Tom Adams’ call to plant at least one citrus tree in their back yard many years ago. The golden apple juice and the lemonade she offers visitors from her home are made with freshly picked fruit from her backyard.

She no longer competes in the Barbados Horticultural Society’s shows and though she said she has since returned the big trophies won over the years, she savours the memories of her success when she was an active competing BHS member.

Retired from her job in the public service, she now gets out of bed every morning between 6 and 6.30 and heads for the patio to look down at her garden below, while thanking God for this and other blessings in her life.

Next, she dons her walking shoes and hits the road for her morning walk. Back home, it is straight to the garden. She feels invigorated and up to the day’s task of plucking weeds, pruning and planting.

When she said: “I love gardening” detected a groundswell of pride, satisfaction and reward from Anita’s chosen hobby.

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