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The Sugar Factory 1,000 Orchid Project

By: Susan Kraeger of The St. Croix Orchid Society


Following the devastation of Hurricane Maria in 2017, the members of The St. Croix Orchid Society
(SCOS) undertook an ambitious community service project to reestablish the decimated orchid
collection on the grounds of St. George Village Botanical Garden (Garden).
Since that time, St. Croix Orchid Society members in an entirely volunteer capacity have redesigned
and restored the Orchid House, nurtured hundreds of orchids back to health, maintained a nursery
(and ICU) for orchids, and continue to provide twice-weekly maintenance for all the orchids on the
grounds.


The Sugar Factory ruin is arguably the centerpiece of the Garden and the Bromeliad Garden, a lovely
space with a mixture of bromeliads and orchids tended by orchid society volunteers occupies its
south end.


Over the centuries, the north end of the Sugar Factory has been reduced to three standing walls, an
interior of rocks and rubble, and an incorrigible infestation of sansevieria aka Snake Plant or Mother-
in-law Tongue.


In the late fall of 2020, the Orchid Society was offered the opportunity to grow orchids within and on
its walls.


When orchid society members saw this space for the first time one said, “We could put 500 orchids in
here!” Without hesitation the other responded, “We could put 1,000!” And, thus this project was born!
For us, the idea of 1,000 orchids echoed the tradition of 1,000 origami cranes often used to
memorialize a person or event. In our own interpretation of that tradition, we are dedicating this
space and its 1,000 orchids to all the enslaved peoples who lived, worked, and died on Estate St.
George.

When SCOS volunteers began the project the space looked like this:

Every Saturday since February 6, 2021, a dedicated group of orchid society members have gathered
for three to four hours to undertake the transformation of the space.

To fund and populate the project with orchids and the necessary infrastructure to support them,
SCOS has been the recipient of two grant awards, many plant donations by SCOS friends and
members, and a number of generous gifts. Close to 200 orchids currently adorn the space with
many more to come!
Currently, an irrigation system is in the process of being installed. Three sculptures by Waldemar
Broadhurst grace the space – The Conch Blower, Queen Matilda, and The Drummer, all of which are
designed to honor the ancestors who built and worked in the 1,000 Orchid Memorial Garden née the
sugar factory.
Less than a year after the project was begun the Sugar Factory 1,000 Orchid Project looks like this:

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