In 1993 Ken and Judy duPlooy purchased 45 acres adjacent to their small riverside lodge. This land later became Belize Botanic Gardens. Ken’s keen interest in restoring the severely eroded land, interest in conservation and his love of orchids and palms was the start of collections for conservation purposes.
Belize’s main commercial fruits were bananas and citrus. High taxes, expensive fuel, 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. The orchard at Belize Botanic Gardens contains more than 50 varieties of tropical fruits.
In 1997 Brendan Sayers from the Irish National Garden came along to collect Belizean orchids and palms for Ireland. Brendan noted that Belize did not have a botanic garden. 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. Our focus is on native plants of Belize and exotics from around the tropics. Here, local and international visitors learn the importance of protecting native plants and ecosystems.
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 a free 10-week intensive job skills training began. Of the 109 men and women graduating from the course, 79 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 an Introduction to Belizean Plants and Birds, available by reservation.
In 1999, Peter Wyse-Jackson, then Director of BGCI (Botanic Gardens for Conservation International, spearheaded the beginnings of CBGC (Caribbean Botanic Gardens for Conservation. Ken, along with representatives of several other gardens, met in Jamaica and formed Caribbean Botanic Gardens for Conservation. This organization, now called Caribbean and Latin American Gardens for Conservation now includes gardens from Central America as well. Its first joint conference was held in Panama from September 19-24, 2016. A second conference was held in Cuba in 2018.
Ken died in August of 2001 and daughter Heather and her husband, Brett Adams, ran the gardens until 2010. After 2 years at Naples Botanical Garden in Florida, they left to start a flower farm in North Carolina and Judy stepped in as Director of Belize Botanic Gardens.
Today BBG is a dynamic recognized organization with the assistance of a dedicated team of hardworking individuals who make up our staff.
In July, 2018, Judy sold the adjacent lodge in order to concentrate on making Belize Botanic Gardens sustainable. An 8-bedroom, 4-bath guest house has been built within the gardens. The intention is to provide affordable learning opportunities for both local and international groups. To this end, more courses are being developed and more services offered.