Cornelia Wylie, a New Zealander living in Vanuatu for the last two decades has created one of the most beautiful patches of paradise within the beautiful patch of paradise that is Efate Island - and she is less than 10 minutes from Port Villa airport.Photo: Rainbow Botanical Gardens' dam is a productive & beautiful fishpond.
Amazingly enough, most of what we toured through was only planted 18 months ago - which gives you an idea of how quickly things can grow here.Designing for aesthetics leads many landscape designers to create an unsustainable ecosystem which requires large inputs of chemical fertilizer and pest control to maintain the aesthetics of their design.
Cornelia, however, has a passion for sustainable agriculture - her other 100+ acre site if focused on organic food production, and integrates animals & utilizes intercropping to create a cultivated ecosystem which can provide for most of its needs (we wish we could have toured that site; you'll have to check it out for us).Photos: Beautiful bananas; Fern shoot; Ginger & orchid; Ivory palm; Beautiful bamboo; Tropical cherry
Rainbow Botanical Gardens offers an interesting study in designing for a specific use pattern - in this case, she has designed for maximum human engagement to educate & inspire visitors to take action - namely, to make a purchase.
In doing so, she has created a human-sized-venus-fly-trap for her landscape design & cut flower customers; when you visit, you can't help but want to take a little piece of the place with you.Photo: Students examine the different textures of a 'Teddy-bear Palm', and a 'Pokey Palm' - visitors to Rainbow Botanical are encouraged to touch, smell, feel, the exhibits.
Our tour group left with tomato seedlings bred for the tropics, gleaned fruit, cuttings, and the purchase of a dwarf banana variety yielding a fruit she promised us would taste like vanilla ice cream (not to mention a yearning to return home to potter in our gardens).
Paths meander through zones themed by species, each one carefully stacked with other plants to fill each niche.
Photo: Bixa orellana seed pod; Hendon having fun with the oily red dye from the seedpods.
We wound through twisting path of palms with countless varieties of orchids underneath, passed through an avenue of exotic red bananas, stumbled across the always-engaging Bixa orellana (red lipstick tree), peeked down an alley to a collection of bamboo varieties, then looped back to where we started in a thatched roundhouse (made from mahogany posts that were harvested on-site), and ended up next to a tropical cheery tree (favorite of the birds) on the banks of large dam filled with freshwater eels, tilapia, water lilies and hyacinth.
Photo: Using lots of edge to create the illusion of space.
Different (& beautiful) ground covers were splashed throughout, purple textures with white flowers dancing like popcorn, and nooks planted out with ginger & heleconia varieties (92 varieties in all) beckoned from the sides - her collection is the largest in the Southern Hemisphere.Photo: Just 3 of the 92 varieites of heleconia at Rainbow Botanical Gardens in Port Villa.
By creating so much edge in her layout, she has not only managed to stack in an enormous amount of diversity very intensively, she has also created the illusion & feeling of wandering around in a much larger space.Our group stumbled about like excited schoolchildren, laughing and pointing and (at Cornelia's insistence) touching all the new plants we were being introduced and re-introduced to, while our gracious & knowledgable hostess smiled, told stories & answered questions throughout. Photos: Touring Rainbow Botanical Gardens.
The education focus of her enterprise is significant; over the years Cornelia has helped many Ni-Van (local Vanuatu peoples) start their own nursery business, and procures many of her plants from them when she is wearing her Landscape Designer hat. She's also worked with the government to create what is now the only agricultural quarantine station in the Islands since the government lost their facility to fire years ago, and continues to work with Non-Governmental Organizations such as World Vision (and now ADRA) to support ongoing trainings & workshops in horticulture & micro enterprise development.Thank you Cornelia.