Often when you’re travelling, it’s the people that make or break a place. Those you’ll encounter on the beautiful island of Barbados are warm and welcoming, and the man who’s the brains behind Hunte’s Gardens was no exception.
Horticulturalist Anthony Hunte can trace his Bajan ancestors back to the 17th century. His passion for his island home manifests itself in the labour of love that is Hunte’s Gardens, one of the top visitor attractions in Barbados. When Hunte came across the site, he realised he could transform it into a lush and vibrant garden. A landslide had created a sinkhole, and this deep bowl was perfect for his planting plans. It’s a twenty minute, 14km drive north east from the island’s capital of Bridgetown, but a world away.
Under Hunte’s watchful eye, a team of gardeners toiled to create a series of terraces. After two years of hard work, pathways and steps now wind down to dead ends, creating the illusion of a secret garden despite the fact that this is firmly on the beaten tourist trail. Eventually, with some backtracking, those paths lead to the bottom of the garden, where clever planting has again created little private rooms. It’s an inspirational place for a budding gardener, a chance to see how you can take a blank canvas and turn it into something deserving of the word paradise.
At every turn, there’s something else to see. Take your camera; you’ll be snapping away for inspiration. Passion and talent go hand in hand to create one of the most imaginative and delightful gardens you’ll have the pleasure of visiting anywhere in the Caribbean. Visitors are welcome to explore the gardens at their own pace. Stay for an hour, stay all day – however long you think you’ll need, be prepared to be won over the place and stay longer than you intended. This is not a place to be rushed.
Ornamental stonework and statuary enhance the planting. An eclectic collection of garden furniture creates hidden nooks where visitors can read a book or chat. Others will simply gaze at the tropical flowers and dense foliage that surrounds them, grateful that it’s not them that’s responsible for dead-heading or weeding. All kinds of tropical plants are here, somewhere. Verdant spikenards and taro contrast with tall palms that sway gently on the breeze. Pops of colour come from purple orchids, delicate water lilies and bold cannas. Local favourites seamlessly mix with imported specimens to great effect.
This is a man who takes his gardening seriously: Hunte’s Gardens supply plants for the prestigious RHS Chelsea Flower Show in London. In 2019, those contributions helped to secure the Barbados Horticultural Society their 20th gold medal in this their 32nd consecutive appearance. Hunte was a founder member of the Barbados Cactus and Succulent Society at its inception in 1961 and has had a finger in all sorts of other horticultural pies. Now in his seventies, he brings experience, enthusiasm and energy to the table.
Hunte likes to welcome guests on the verandah overlooking the gully. Jugs of lemonade, slices of cake and freshly baked cookies are handed round as he touts for feedback, keen to hear what others think of his beloved garden. Playfully competitive, there’s a friendly rivalry between Hunte’s and the other big garden on the island, Iris Bannochie’s Andromeda, now looked after by the Barbados National Trust. But these are two very different gardens, with very different purposes, and with tact and a broad smile, you can confidently tell Hunte that you like both. I did.