Bocas del Toro

Chapter 20: Mind Blowing Secret Gardens – Have Fun Finding Them!

Cedric the gardener from Antibes – French Riviera, speaks fluent French and Spanish, but little English. “Fanatic” is a term usually reserved for sports fans with excessive and single-minded zeal. Cedric is a garden fanatic. He came to our mangrove island almost three years ago looking for a challenge. During his first week at Nayara Bocas Del Toro someone saw him passionately cup a flower in both hands, bury his face in the flower, and breathe in deeply. That is when we knew that Cedric was the right guy.


Cedric with his first successful Orchid on Frangipani Island


There are 36 million acres of mangroves in the world making up .1% of its surface. Yet, no one that we can find has grown a botanical garden on a mangrove island. Imagine our audacious goal of building gardens so spectacular on our mangrove island that guests might travel around the world just to see them. A sane man might think we are nuts.
To begin with the challenges seemed insurmountable. Nothing would grow in the muddy swamp water that made up most of the island. The land needed to be built up, but how? The water was brackish, deprived of air and had a very high acid PH and salinity. Would non-native plants placed on a mangrove island survive given the high concentration of salt in the soil? Would flowers be as vibrant? There was only one way to find out and Cedric was up to the task.


Our waterfall pond and garden behind The Colonnade

He began by testing plants one at a time and solving the standing water problem by digging a river wide enough for a kayak along with a large pond and using the dug-up soil to fill in the low spots on the island. Cedric has also installed French drains to keep the garden paths drained.
Fast-forward two and a half years. Cedric and his team of eight have miraculously introduced over 200 new plant and flower species.

One of our first paths at Nayara Bocas Del Toro


We suspected that new plants and flowers would bring more birds to the island, but the actual results were beyond anything we had dreamed. The varieties and quantities of birds and butterflies on the island have increased three-fold.
There were also some pleasant surprises. A sloth recently swam to our island, stayed, then hung out for a few weeks. We suspect it might have been the sloth that was living on the island when we first bought it. We also had a large iguana show up. In addition, we found a large tilapia fish swimming in our pond. The only plausible explanation is that birds somehow transferred fish eggs on their claws from the mainland freshwater rivers or lakes.
Cedric has also found many interesting flora and fauna that are native to our island including five varieties of poison dart frogs, three varieties of hummingbirds, ……



Now that Cedric has cracked the code on mangrove gardening, he is excited to move onto our next phase – “Secret Hidden Gardens”.
Imagine walking through a path like the one in the photo and seeing a much smaller unmarked path just off to your left. Curious, you decide to walk down the path. Just round the corner the patch turns into a jungle-vine tunnel like out of a Tarzan movie. You hesitantly walk through the tunnel and just as you are about to turn back, you arrive at a private open space with a manicured lawn which is surrounded by a sea of vibrant flowers in pinks, reds, and yellows. On one side of the garden is a Balinese style carved pergola shading an inviting bench. You decide to sit and are completely relaxed as you listen to the sound of falling water from an enchanting fountain.
You have this feeling like you just found a secret treasure. The question is, do you tell another guest about it or keep it all to yourself? And are there more secret gardens on the island?


The start of one of Cedric’s Secret Gardens


Questions: What would you like included in a secret garden? Do you have an idea for a secret garden that would blow someone’s mind upon entering?



Share this post

Signup: Blog Updates

Recent Posts:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *