Mrs. Fergusson is very aware of their importance as part of Bermuda’s heritage. That is why for the last two
years she has headed a project to ensure information about them is current and correct. The
problem with a living museum is that it’s even
more subject to the vagaries of time, weather
and mishap. A significant number of trees
have been damaged or destroyed in hurricanes,
particularly in the devastation wreaked by
Hurricane Fabian in 2003 and more recently by
Hurricane Fay in 2014. For example, a Cuban
royal palm planted in 1928 by Prince George
was uprooted during Hurricane Fay, its crown
landing in the Government House tennis court.
Sometimes, damaged trees are replanted
or replaced but not always in exactly the same
position. To compound the problem, not all the
trees’ labels are legible since the writing has been
eroded or the plaques badly damaged. Other labels have been lost or misplaced. And some trees
were never labelled at all. So, explains Mrs. Fergusson, the project was twofold. “We needed to
know what trees we’ve got and then we needed
to label them properly.” The new plaques, made
of aluminium with white writing, will be more
permanent than the most recent ones made in
black plastic. Each identifies the tree or shrub,
the person who planted it and the year, as well
as the event it commemorates, if applicable.
She engaged the help of Alison Copeland and
Mandy Shailer from the Department of Conservation, Lisa Greene from the Bermuda Natural
History Museum, George Ogden, former
horticulturist for the Hamilton Corporation,
and Christine Watlington, author of Bermuda’s
Botanical Wonderland, who all worked together
to identify the trees, number them in chronological order and create an updated spreadsheet.
The collection now consists of 150 trees, the last
of which was planted in October 2013 by David
Arkley, former deputy governor.
Mrs. Fergusson is also contemplating holding a competition for students to create the
best phone app that visitors to the grounds
Top: President Richard Nixon planted a
Senegal date palm during his visit in 1972.
Middle: A newly-crowned Queen Elizabeth II
planted a Japanese yew in 1953.
Bottom: Due to a back injury, President
John F. Kennedy had to forgo any actual
planting and instead snipped a ribbon tied
around a Canary Island date palm during
his visit to Government House in 1961.