Belize Botanic Gardens was a 45 acre cattle pasture in 1993 when the land was purchased by Ken duPlooy, an amateur botanist, and his wife Judy. BBG is located adjacent to the duPlooy’s Family Lodge. Ken held a keen interest in restoring the severely eroded land and with his love of orchids and palms he started collecting these plants for conservation purposes.
Belize’s main commercial fruits were, and still are, bananas and citrus. High taxes, expensive fuel and imported tools and machinery make it expensive to compete on world agriculture markets so Ken’s plan was to begin experimenting with tropical fruits which could be grown organically and command higher prices on the market, thus creating the diverse orchard on site.
The duPlooys gardens were changed in 1997. Brendan Sayers from the Irish National Garden came along to collect Belizean orchids and palms for Ireland. The plants were collected and recorded. Brendan noted that Belize did not have a botanic garden and suggested that the duPlooys’ register as Belize Botanic Gardens. A Board of Directors was established and the garden registered with the Government of Belize as a non-profit organization. Since then BBG has been collecting, studying, cataloging and conserving plants with the emphasis on natives.
Belize Botanic Gardens exists to serve as gardens and educational grounds for Belizeans and visitors to enjoy and take advantage of, as well as a scientific and living germplasm resource pool for botanical and horticultural institutions world-wide. The focus of our collections is native and exotic plants of Belize, as well as non-native and non-invasive plant species. We strive to educate local communities and international visitors of the importance of protecting native plants and ecosystems. In 1999, Belize Botanic Gardens and several other gardens, along with Mentor, Peter Wyse-Jackson, then Director of BGCI (Botanic Gardens for Conservation International), presently President of Missouri Botanical Garden, started Caribbean Botanic Gardens for Conservation. CBGC now includes gardens from Central America as well and has hosted its first joint conference in Panama from September 19-24, 2016
Ken died in August of 2001 and daughter Heather and her husband, Brett ran the garden until 2010 when they left to work at Naples Botanical Garden in Florida. In 2012, when Heather and Brett left to start a flower farm in North Carolina, Judy stepped in as Director of the gardens. Recognizing the growing job market for gardeners, funding was sought and secured funding from the European Union’s Belize Rurual Development Project to start a program to train landscape gardeners.
This 10-week job skills program was delivered free to unemployed Belzeans and the result was that 79 or the 109 graduates obtained employment, a number of them as head gardeners..
The landscape training program continues as nominally-priced one to three-day courses and workshops and is open to anyone, including groups visiting Belize. Their is also a three-day Introduction to Belizean Plants and Birds available by reservation.
BBG has become a dynamic recognized organization with the assistance of a dedicated team of hardworking individuals who make up our staff.