St. John Morning Orchid Story

St. John Virgin islands Morning
the morning was crisp and clear

I just got back on island from a trip to America. A great visit. “Chirren dem” (kids) and lots of love and generally beautiful spring weather. Nonetheless, St John is a great place to come home to.

There were several big squalls last night, some with heavy rain and thunderclaps that would just about knock you out of bed, but the morning was crisp and clear.

The garden looked good. My prize mangoes were coming in nicely. The lime tree was in flower with baby limes forming out on all the branches. The “square foot garden” was overflowing with basil, mint and oregano.


baby lime


The most interesting garden event, however was the flowering of some very special orchids. The orchid story goes like this:

The house I live in was built on the site where a another house once stood, that is until Hurricane Marilyn came along in 1995. The couple who lived here then told me that because the house was not really strongly constructed and lay exposed to the winds on the east, they choose not to stay there and spent the night safely at a friend’s home.

The next morning they drove out to survey the damage if any. About a block from the house they saw their refrigerator lying in the road.

“Not a good sign,” said the guy to his wife.

All that was left was the cistern and tile covered concrete slab that constituted the main floor. Wooden beams and furniture and roofing and all the other countless pieces and parts and wires and fixtures that make up a house lay strewn about the property.

Some years later I bought the land and the cistern and slab and built a new house on the site, this time out of bricks and mortar, like the third little pig who wanted some protection against the big bad wolf who huffed and puffed and blew houses down.

The property was also a mess. Most of the bigger trees were broken. Wild tamarind had sprouted up anywhere there was a light gap and over the years many had gotten quite large. In short, the yard was a mess.

Over time and, as the Beatles wrote, “with a little help from my friends,” the land was cleaned up and the result was a rather beautiful canopied native dry forest.

Below the deck I planted bananas, mostly from slips given to me by my friend Calis Sewer and in the tree branches I placed the first orchids of my growing collection, compliments of Trinidad Charlie.

Over the years the orchids spread through the trees becoming quite extensive in places. But for some reason, unlike many of the orchids purchased from various stores and nurseries,  Charlie’s orchids never bloomed. They grew and reproduced and spread and the leaves and stems were green and hearty, but no flowers bloomed, not for ten years, not, that is, until now.

This morning as I walked through the yard, there they were! All of Charlie’s orchids in bloom, beautiful little flowers, reaching through the leaves and foliage from the tree branches and trunks at the end of long spindly stalks.

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