Revitalizing that love for Guyana’s Botanical Gardens
Whether it is for a picnic, taking wedding pictures or for light afternoon stroll among untamed flora and penetrating sounds of fauna, Guyana’s Botanical Gardens still remains a prized natural landmark. It is one of the treasures of the country.
But in revitalising a love for this landmark it is important to note that the notion of the Botanical Gardens was actually started by the Royal Agricultural and Commercial Society.
To signify the commitment to this ideal, a resolution for a letter to be sent to the Governor and Court of Policy for the organisation of a Botanical and Horticultural Garden in the city of Georgetown was passed in 1877.
This later saw the government buying the backlands of Plantation Vlissengen for $72, 000. At that time it was just an abandon sugar estate. A portion of this 276 acres of land was then set aside for the development of the botanic gardens.
To prepare the land for the realisation of the plan, it was drained and trenches were excavated. The land was also raised to a higher level with soil taken from the area where the lakes nowexist. A Trinidadian botanist, Mr. John Frederick Waby was then invited to British Guiana in 1878 to serve as head gardener. Another botanist, Mr. G.S. Jenman, travelled to British Guiana in 1880 to assist Mr. Waby.
The original gardens started out as being a paradise for animal and plants of various species but it was later regularised and saw proper management in this regard.
There are several interesting features of the Botanical Gardens, which include the famous “kissing” bridge. This was one of two curved iron bridges which were imported in 1884 to span both lakes in the gardens. By January 1885, the green and white bridges had been erected. When exactly the bridge got this name has not been documented but its purpose is still used to day with many young local and foreign couples taking their first of one of many kisses on that bridge to signify their love. It is a popular attraction among brides and grooms who have taken their photographs on this bridge after exchanging their wedding vows.
The zoological park in the Gardens is also another welcoming attraction. It was officially opened on January 1, 1952. It is the home to many species of mammals, amphibians, invertebrates and fishes.
In the Gardens as well, there is a scenic caretaker’s hut which can be found at the entrance. It was built in 1880 and was used for meetings of the Directors of the Gardens.
It has a black and gold clock on the outside which was built as a memorial to George Samuel Jenman, Government Botanist and Superintendent of the gardens from 1879.
The bandstand in the gardens was also established as a memorial to John Brumell, one of the directors of the gardens, who also served as a stipendiary magistrate and a sheriff in Demerara.
Guyana’s first Governor-General, First president and First Executive President are also buried in the Botanic Gardens to the south of the main avenue.
Sir David Rose, our First Governor-General who died in 1969 is buried near the Seven Ponds. The First President of Guyana, Sir Arthur Chung, is also entombed there. Mr. L.F.S. Burnham and Hugh Desmond Hoyte also lie in the Botanic Gardens.
Within the Gardens there is a vast array of tropical flowers, fruits, and plants; some of which are of cultural significance. It was believed that at one time more than 100 species and 50 genera of palm trees from around the world were cultivated in the Gardens. Today although palm trees still dominate the grounds, they are not to such an extent.Other tropical trees that can be found within the Gardens include the Monkey Pot Species, the Saman, the Jacaranda and the night blooming Water Chestnut (Pachira aquatic).