While the island of Bermuda offers many fun and exciting activities for those adventurists, it also offers a multitude of flora and fauna for those who are looking to relax and enjoy the islands’ natural beauty. One of the best places you can experience this is the Bermuda Botanical Gardens. Despite Bermuda’s small size, it shockingly has over 8,000 recorded species, all originating from North America and the Caribbean due to ocean, wind or human borne dispersal. The more beautiful specimens can be found on display in the Gardens.
Open from sunrise to sunset Monday to Friday, the Gardens are located a mile away from Hamilton City. It is free for everyone all year except over the Annual Agriculture Exhibition in April. One of the most famous visitors was John Lennon who visited in 1980 and ended up naming the album “Double Fantasy” after a flower he saw there while exploring.
The Botanical Gardens, originally known as the Public Garden, began in 1898 with only 10 acres. By 1912 this changed to the Agricultural Station when Ga. A. Bishop, a professional horticulturalist, arrived. The size of the gardens doubled in 1921 after the Montrose estate was acquired and by 1958 the name was changed from the Agricultural Station to its current moniker. It was expanded again in 1966 when Camden House and its surrounding land were acquired. Today the winding Botanical Gardens cover 36 acres and showcase a wide variety of the local flowers, fruit, trees and shrubs.
The Visitors’ Center inside the Botanical Gardens opens at 9:30am-3:30pm Monday to Friday and shows short videos and provides brochures based on the flora found within. For those interested there is also a free guided 90 minute tour that starts from the centre on Tuesdays, Wednesday and Fridays at 10:30am. Visitors looking to sit and enjoy a bit of breakfast or lunch can relax at the picnic tables and benches provided.
While exploring the Botanical Gardens, visitors have the opportunity to walk through a variety of gardens filled with palmetto trees, subtropical fruits, roses, hibiscus, frangipani, banyan trees, ficus trees, Bermuda cedars, greenhouses filled with orchids and cacti, an aviary with peacocks and ducks, as well as “The Garden for the Sightless.” This sensory garden was created in 1960 and was specifically designed for the benefit of the blind. The design was submitted by Mr. Don Wellington and is based upon a similar Garden for the Blind in Queen’s Park, Birmingham, England. The idea was to make the garden easier for the sightless to navigate and enjoy. To assist, the map and all of the signs are written in Braille along the stone pillars. All of the plant beds within this garden have also been raised so that visitors may be able to touch the plants without having to lean. The plants chosen were specific to fragrant flowers with pleasant textures and the scent of savoury herbs such as sage, thyme, lavender and rosemary to stimulate the senses. As running water is essential to sensory gardens, there is also a small pool and fountain. The fountain centerpiece is a replica of the Putto with Dolphin sculpture by Verrocchio, which was originally intended for the Medici villa of Careggi but now can be found in Florence in the Palazzo Vecchio.
Along with the wonderful winding gardens, tourists and locals alike have the opportunity of visiting Camden House. It is the official residence of Bermuda’s Premier, though typically they don’t live there and instead the property is used for public functions. The building dates back to the early 1700s and is a fantastic example of true Bermudian architecture. It was originally purchased by Francis Jones in 1714 and he lived in the house until 1796 when he died of Yellow Fever. The house was then bought by Henry James Tucker in 1823 who was the Mayor of Hamilton City from 1851 to 1966. While Tucker owned the property he added on an arrowroot factory behind the house which has now been turned into the Masterworks Museum of Bermuda Art. By 1966 Camden House became government property and was opened to the public for all to enjoy its historic exhibits and artifacts. Visitors now have the opportunity of a free tour inside between 12 noon – 2pm on Tuesday and Fridays.
While strolling through the Botanical Gardens and Camden House visitors also have the opportunity of exploring the Masterworks Museum of Bermuda Art, a not-for-profit which has been acquiring and showing art since 1987. All of the artwork is by Bermudian artists or those inspired by the island. The museum encompasses 16,000 sq. feet, has three galleries and collections varying from paintings, drawings, photographs and maps. The displays change every six months, with a few regular exhibitions. While the Bermuda Botanical Gardens and Camden House are free to visit, there is a $5 admission fee (free for members & children under 12) to enter the Masterworks Museum. It is open Monday – Saturday 10am -4pm and Sunday 11am-4:30pm.
A visit to the Bermuda Botanical Gardens offers the sights and scents of the Bermudian flora, historical Camden House and a lovely cultural experience at the Masterworks Museum of Bermuda Art.
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