Chrystal Headlam née Stultz refers to her garden as an inherited, cherished space. It has been in the family since 1971, she tells Style Observer (SO) . The structure and a lot of plants were already in the yard, she added; however, there was no colour”. That was then! The garden, now hers, is a cacaphony of colour from the gentle white petals of gardenias, the dotted and frilled hibiscus, to the maroons and purples of Joseph's coats. The grand red splash of poinsettias is her final triumph and indeed a glorious tribute to her late husband Dr Herman Headlam.
Her love story commenced upon her return to Jamaica from Guildford Surrey, UK, where she studied as a nurse, graduating in 1969. Having sworn never to date a doctor she met her husband Herman at the Bustamante Children's Hospital. He coincidentally was a graduate of the UWI Medical Class of 69. Within two years they were married and relocated to Cincinnati, Ohio.
As Chrystal raised her family, two daughters and a son, she also created space for her poinsettias. “It was one of my preferred plants,” she informs. “Naturally, it had to be cultivated inside during the winter months, but I would move them outside during the warmer months,” she continues.
It's a love story that has endured some four decades. She's once again back in Jamaica and even though her husband is now deceased, there's solace to be found in the midst of her poinsettias. “It's now mid-January and they are as lush as ever... no other plant hosts a droplet of water in quite the way that a poinsettias does!” she enthuses.
According to the University of South Dakota Extension, the poinsettia (Euphorbia pulcherrima) was named after the first United States minister to Mexico and botanist Joel Roberts Poinsett, who is credited with introducing the plant to the US in the 1820s.
The sticky white sap from the plant can cause a skin rash, so keep gloves close by, is her advice when working with these plants. One should also avoid contact with the eyes and mouth, and tools ought to be washed properly after use, as the sap can make them sticky.
If poinsettias are her preferred blooms then the gazebo is her special spot, created to allow her to enjoy her garden and be at one with nature. She goes there daily to sit and reflect on family and life. This, after spending about a minimum of four hours each day caring for the garden. The time is split between the morning and the evening when it is much cooler.
Time, patience, energy and disappointment are words known to every garden enthusiast. Chrystal recalls after mid-2021 and the passage of Hurricane Grace how her garden was deeply affected. The destruction of a fence and the loss of a large Julie mango tree led to a lot of damage. Thankfully, she's been able to replace quite a few plants. The mango tree that not only provided shade, and held childhood memories, is sadly forever lost. In its place now stands a poui tree.
Chrystal's gardening tips are as abundant as her life, and, well, her garden. “Plants are like children; one has to love them, water them and care for them to see results. I look forward to coming out to my garden every day, looking forward to who [which plant] wants to be the star. There is always one!” she says.
What an absolutely marvellous way to start a new year!