Size: 11 Acres
the Retreat Garden is an 11 acre jewel tucked away in Nassau, New Providence. The Garden contains one of the largest private collections of palms in the world. It is internationally known that the retreat has some of the most spectacular and rare palms in the world today. The retreat garden has an interesting and an excellent collection of native trees and hardwoods- Tamarinds, Sapodillas, Logwood, Gum elemi, Madiera and Horseflesh. Once a private home, The Retreat is now the national headquarters of the Bahamas National Trust.
The history of the Retreat is a colourful one. In 1925 Arthur and Margeret Langlois purchased the property from two Canadians, William and Ernest Frazer. An early exploration of the grounds uncovered eleven different types of palms evolved in both of the Langlois and they traveled to Trinidad, one of the hearts of palm country, and to South America, returning to the Bahamas with seeds and seedlings to be planted and grown at The Bahamas Retreat. Later the Langlois travelled all over the world seeking and learning about palms. They corresponded and changed seeds with other palms enthusiasts internationally and were extremely successful in their attempts to germinate seeds and raise seedlings in the rather dry Bahama Islands.
Many types of palms demand moisture and dampness and in some requires a great deal of shade. The Lanalois gave their young palms a semblance of their natural habitat in the retreat by planting the palms in the deep natural pot holes found in the shade. The container- like area made it easier to water and fertilize their collection and the surrounding native trees provide shade and leaf mold which helped to provide nutrients and conserve water. Mr. Stanley Kiem, former superintendent of Fairchild Tropical Gardens said this of the Langlois’: “To grow and maintain palms under such difficult conditions and having persevered through it all is quite an accomplishment. The Langlois managed to do this”.
For 55 years Arthur and “Wumpsie”, as Margaret was affectionately known, dedicated their lives to their Garden. It was their greatest wish that the garden live after them. Sir Jack Hayward purchase The Retreat. In 1975, Arthur Langlois donated one half of the property value and Sir Jack purchased the remainder for the Bahamas National trust. Mrs. Langlois was able to remain in her home tending the Garden until her death in 1995. On October 18, 1985 HRH the Duke of Edinburgh officaially opened the retreat gardens.
Importance to Biodiversity
Birdlife: Because of the density of fruit bearing trees and water features, The Retreat Garden serves as a haven for migratory and resident birdlife alike. On any given day you may see, Red legged thrush, Bananquits, Bahama Mockingbirds, Greater antbullfreh
Wildlife: The Bahamian Boa constrictor is able to grow to maturity in the protected environment of the Gardens. Many different species of Anoles other kinds of lizards have been seen on the grounds.
Native flora: When the Langlois’ purchased The Retreat Garden, they left in place many of the native vegetation. The property boasts quite quite a collection of mature native species such as Gum elemi, Poisonwood, Silk Cotton, Logwood and Mahogany.
Palms: The most precious palm at the Retreat Gardens Is the Areca vestiaria. In 1940, the Langlois’ received the seeds of an orange- crownshafted palm that was then known as Areca 208. The Langloises were the only individuals who received the seeds to this palm. They sent the specimen to taxonomists in Germany, in an effort to affix a name to it and it come back with the name Areca langloisiana. In 1977, John Dransfield found the palm again and said that this palm was actually the Acrea vestiaria and that the palm was no longer named for the Langlois’. After Arthur Langlois’ death in1977, Hal Moore wrote in “Principes”, the Palm Society Magazine, that there were two palms named after Arthur Langlois , one of which was the Arcea langloisiana.
A variety of programmes are offered by the BNT Education Office for schoolchildren as well as adults. Also housed hers is the BNT Reference Library which offers a selective collection of books, articles and videos highlighting the natural environment.
Tours: Visitors are welcomed at the Retreat Garden Monday to Friday. The old house, which now serves as the office, has a dining room attached which was built in 1860, the plantation well and the outside kitchen, built during the second world war, are all points of interest. The gravel marked trails wind through the garden, allowing visitors to have close contact with nature. They can see a Cuban Petticoat Palm, with its fluffy appearance, or sea a Zombie Palm, with its spiny trunk. The visitor can walk under a vine-covered path or look into a hand hued plantation well.
Links to the Image Gallery will be provided here