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Neglect of Botanical Gardens is saddening

Dear Sir

Under the heading “Mother Nature has a mind of her own. Look after her”, written by my horticultural colleague, Malcolm Griffiths, which appeared in your paper on July 19, 2021, I must commend his comments, which echo my own.

Members of the public are concerned with the state of the Botanical Gardens (File photograph by Blaire Simmons)

I came to Bermuda in 1956, after graduating as a student at the Royal Botanical Gardens, Kew, England, as reafforestation officer with the Bermuda Department of Agriculture; later becoming the first Superintendent of the Botanical Gardens, just before the Government purchased the Camden Estate.

I was responsible for the planning of and the merger into the existing public gardens. In fact, the photograph appearing in the article show the beds I created to display bulbous plant material.

I was also responsible for the initial development of the horticultural apprenticeship scheme. The late Peter Truran was one of our first intake into the scheme. Upon my resignation, he was my successor, although never given the title! An early part of the training focused upon labelling the plant collections.

During the 15 years I served in the department, under the imaginative direction of the late Gordon Groves, I was witness to the loss of land to develop the then new hospital — in fact, I landscaped it. We always had to deal with the commendable and annual Agricultural Exhibition, which limited our ability to develop the area as a botanical garden.

My department partner was Hubert Jones. (He was best man at my wedding to the late Kathy Mortimer in 1959.) Hubert was responsible for the development of our parks system, which included the Arboretum in Devonshire.

Understandably both the Botanical Gardens and the Arboretum, because of our limited open space, faced challenges in their development from usage for other public events, such as the annual exhibition and various sporting events.

However, under a succession of various governments, their development and — what is more important — their maintenance as homes for botanical collections have declined rapidly. I do not visit the gardens any more; I find their neglect saddens me too much.

I would be truly most excited to see these two properties revitalised as:

1, Home and sanctuary for plant collections

2, Preservation for so many species of plants, both indigenous and introduced, which are disappearing from Bermuda

3, As sites that can be so high in standard that they will serve as educational facilities for both local residents and visitors alike — their value as locations for major tourist interest has never been developed. This will mean accurate labelling of all species, as Malcolm has stated

Several years on, I became trustee of the Heydon Trust in Somerset, being primarily responsible for its horticultural maintenance and development. I quickly realised that this area of open space was free from the restrictions placed upon development of public areas, and drew up plans for its development as a botanical gardens and arboretum.

Unfortunately because of the expense that would have rested upon the Trust for its future maintenance, this plan was shelved. However, I still believe it could be developed and maintained with private investment.

I end with a plea for us to do a much better job of looking after Mother Nature, by showing so much more foresight in developing and maintaining our Botanical Gardens and Arboretum for the lasting benefit of future generations.

Thank you, Malcolm for highlighting the concerns of so many.



Graduate of The Royal Botanical Gardens, Kew, England

Fellowship Diploma Holder of the Institute of Parks and Recreation Institute, UK

Former Superintendent of the Bermuda Botanical Gardens

Former contributor to The Royal Gazette, of the Bermuda Gardeners Diary

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Published July 20, 2021 at 8:00 am (Updated July 20, 2021 at 7:52 am)

Neglect of Botanical Gardens is saddening

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