Belize Botanic Gardens was a 45 acre cattle pasture was purchased in 1993 by Ken duPlooy and Judy duPlooy. The land which later became BBG is located adjacent to the duPlooy’s Family Lodge. Ken’s keen interest in restoring the severely eroded land and his love of orchids and palms were the start of collections 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. 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.
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. It also serves as a living germplasm resource pool for botanical and horticultural institutions world-wide. The focus of our collections is native 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 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 Adams, ran the gardens until 2010. They then worked at Naples Botanical Garden in Florida. In 2012 Heather and Brett left Florida to start a flower farm in North Carolina and Judy stepped in as Director of Belize Botanic Gardens.
Recognizing the growing job market for skilled gardeners funding was sought to deliver a training course to unemployed Belizeans. The European Union provided the funds and 79 of 109 students graduating from the course, found employment immediately. The landscape training program continues as nominally-priced one to three day courses and workshops. Training is open to anyone, including groups visiting Belize. There 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.