CREATIVE SPACE #4  of 2021 (uploaded February 17th 2021)

CREATIVE SPACE is a series spotlighting local (Antiguan and Barbudan/Caribbean) art and culture. As a brand, it dates back to 2009, published in LIAT’s inflight magazine. It was revamped in 2018 and ran to 2019 on Its publishing partner, as of 2020, is the Daily Observer newspaper. It continues to expand across other media platforms (which can be viewed on AntiguanWriter on YouTube). CREATIVE SPACE is created, owned, and written by Joanne C. Hillhouse – Antiguan-Barbudan/Caribbean author, journalist, producer, and freelance writer, editor, and trainer.

Here’s a link to the issue as it appeared on February 17th 2021  in the Daily Observer:  CS DO 4

Below is the extended online edition (not a duplicate of the edition with publishing partner Observer Media) with extras.

If you would like to be featured or to sponsor (i.e. advertise with) a future installment of the online edition of CREATIVE SPACE and/or CREATIVE SPACE on YouTube, BOOSTing your BRAND while boosting Antigua-Barbuda Art and Culture, contact Joanne.

CREATIVE SPACE:  How Does Your Garden Grow?

My mother has always been a gardener. I mean, the kind of gardener who can make things grow from hard, resistant earth. When I was a child, I remember this mostly being limited to ornamentals, her lush garden of crotons, hibiscuses, and more, that diamond necklace dressing up our home. I remember a time when my sister and I had our mini-gardens alongside hers – role modeling is one of the best ways to encourage in children the behavior and passions you’d like to see; reading, for instance. All the role modeling in the world, though, didn’t help me develop a talent for gardening, but the appreciation remains.

My mother, pictured with watermelon grown from her garden, is part inspiration for my latest book The Jungle Outside, a panel of which pictures main character Tanti in her garden.

My father gardens as well, not ornamentals though; his spinach, okroes, and potatoes have lightened my grocery list many times. And over the years, my mother has also turned her talents to vegetables –everything from pigeon peas to pumpkins, grown from the most uncooperative soil one can imagine. Even my sister is planting now, in pandemic times as many more people are.

As I observe newbie gardeners share their first fruits on social media or advertise excess for sale, I am reminded that gardening is resource, is business, is therapy, is art; there is a sense of joy and fulfillment the gardener exudes and a desire to show and tell.

My sister in law snagged me recently for a tour of her garden– which has benefited from her focused attention over the past year of being at home– and I snagged some pictures along the way.

One thing that struck me right away, one thing that every gardener possesses is the environmentally-friendly practice of repurposing containers for growing things, and using up every available space.

Her garden is actually four or more separate gardens at different parts of her yard. One lush section, with the purple-flowered mint tea she informs me was planted by one of her daughters, looks to be the most flourishing. It’s also noticeably populated by different species, triggering a question from me about spreading roots encroaching on each other, which she shrugs off. For the intuitive gardener, if it grows, it’s working; navel gazing writers can later wonder if this patch of garden works as a metaphor for multiculturalism, the co-existence of diverse cultures.

Gardening is a very practical affair and many in this past year have turned to it for something to do, to ease the fear, the tension, the pocket, the boredom of the invisible bars this pandemic has erected around our lives. In it, some, like my sister in law, have found a spark – a creative spark, an entrepreneurial spark (as she plans to pot and sell some of her ornamentals), a way to contribute to the sustenance and health of the family – growing everything from cucumber to turmeric, which she informs me pushes up the earth when ready, a reminder that plants let you know when they are ready to be harvested.

Shout out to the professional farmers who have been encouraging us to buy local, eat local, and emphasizing that a country wholly dependent on imports is doomed. We could never have imagined, I don’t think, the need to be able to feed ourselves as emphasized as it has been this past year. Granted we still have imports and our supermarket shelves remain stocked but there is a certain vulnerability that has been exposed. These backyard gardens do not relieve of us the need for professional farmers but they do provide some practical relief, an ease of mind, and an outlet amidst the current uncertainty – something to do, and, if we’re fortunate, something to eat.


full jacketThe book mentioned in this post, my latest, is Collins Big Cat children’s picture book The Jungle Outside. It launched in the UK in January 2021 and is now available in Antigua and Barbuda. It drops in the US market in March 2021 and can be pre-ordered online.


Interested in growing your own garden? If you’re in Antigua and Barbuda, the Ministry of Agriculture has had an initiative in the past year to distribute seedlings and promote backyard gardening; and community non-profit Trees 2020 Inc. has been on a similar mission.

All Rights Reserved. Sharing or excerpting with link and credit is okay. But for re-publication of CREATIVE SPACE or any other content on this site contact Joanne – also use this link to contact Joanne for appearances (reading, speaking, discussions), workshops/courses, writing, editing, or other offered service.