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Bonty’s Zeb





I was lucky enough to have rented a house and then bought land and built a home in the area of Dominica, my husband’s homeland, called Shawford Estate.  The nickname in patois is Do’shan meaning go find it. It is on the road to Trafalgar, halfway up the mountain, safe from the high winds and the raging sea.  But more lucky because the best gardener on the island, for sure, Mr Bonty Henry lives in Trafalgar and took care of some gardens in the area and one afternoon he was standing in my yard calling “lady.”  He asked if I need help.  Since this was a rental I said no but pointed to our, as yet uncleared acre plus lot spanning road to road filled with bush and the occaisonal mango tree to be saved or some bamboo at the top of the road, the whole place needed to be cleared and landscaped.

Deforesting was done by hand by my nephew Gage and a couple of partners for $1200. With sharp, and I mean sharp, cutlasses they cut down the bush and the weak and dead trees and moved the rocks and cleaned up so I could see what we had, and design my home. We lived down the road a piece and every morning with my cuppa I would sit on a ledge at the top side of our hunk of mountain and try to picture its layout.

As you come up the long drive from lower right to upper left you pass two one bedroom cottages on your left, built into the mountain like tree houses.  Then there is a wide swath of mature trees and cane from road to road so the cottages cannot be seen from the house.  There she stands.  Somewhat similar for those who know 12 Old Brook Drive, with an entry like that to a house on the hill. Beyond is the afterthought and purchase of a building that was abandoned.  (A story for another day,) that we have made into three rooms with baths.

So Bonty was in his element, free hand free range.  Never asked me to spend a nickle on plantings but picked and brought and moved and found and planted.  Maybe I bought a grafted guava that has amazingly delicious fruit if I get it before the birds and a grafted mango.   I’m never here in the spring to get those.  I grew an avacado from pit and it is now twenty feet tall and produces the most flavorful pears.  Those come in November and I hardly get one in January when I arrive.

Bonty would start work every morning at 8:30 in his boots and heavy clothes.  It was cold in the mornings on the mountain.  He would have his cocoa tea or coffee and then sharpen his cutlass and begin his work.  Trimming the carambola (starfruit, we have the sweet and sour trees)  and moving the vinca to make a hedge outside the wall to stop the rain from turning it green.  He would start a booka, a fire that he could maintain for weeks even though he was gone at night and every weekend, even though it rained. Every afternoon when he left he said, “God is love.”  And I said, “Yes Bonty she is.”  Om Shalom   To be continuted. . .




  1. The Editors of Garden Variety says:

    I have never been to Dominica but I’ve heard it is quite beautiful. Your picture on confirms it.

  2. dominicaduo says:

    It is magnificent. My gardens of flowers and fruit trees seemed mature within minutes. The rainforest would be a must see for any horticulturist. RBW

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