Hamilton Gardens, New Zealand
Unique in our experience, Hamilton Gardens offers the opportunity to compare gardens from around the world, all in one accessible place. Also in contrast to typical botanical gardens, this one offers more than a collection of plants with labels. Instead, they’ve created a collection of gardens built around themes.
If you go, schedule a tour. The guides love the Gardens and volunteer their time to support its mission. Chris, our guide pictured above, provided commentary giving us both context and details that greatly enriched our experience.
With the help of some prison labor, brick recycled from demolished local theatres created the arched piazza above. One of the folks instrumental in creating the gardens was also a brick mason. In exchange for labor from young local inmates, he taught them bricklaying skills. Upon their release, many of them continued in the trade.
The Paradise Gardens evoke different cultures’ conceptions of the ideal garden at one time in their histories. An Egyptian falcon and crocodile oversee the central Paradise courtyard.
The English Garden incorporates themes of the Arts & Crafts Movement of the late 19th & early 20th Centuries. It includes a “long garden” with a riot of variety.
In contrast, the formal, “white garden” limits its color palate to plants that only have white blooms or white foliage. This one even includes a white dove cote.
The Japanese Garden uses grey and green tones to encourage contemplation rather than excitement. Experts from Hamilton’s Japanese sister city advised how to place the stone elements and prune the trees. A single king stone suggests stability, while the raked sand encourages a visitor to imagine a river flowing to the sea.
In contrast, the Chinese Garden incorporates color and intricate stonework.
Floor patterns commonly include one flawed or different element to illustrate that we can’t achieve perfection. Here, one of the flower patterns is filled with dark, instead of light, stones. School children have fun trying to tind the flawed element.
Transitions appear throughout the gardens to ease the shift to a new mindset for each section. For example, a visitor walks through a moon door to emerge upon a lilly pond with a wisteria-covered bridge behind.
The court of the frozen cloud peeks from behind jade pillars from Hamilton’s Chinese sister city.
Celestial Yuan in the Chinese Garden belongs near water, so here overlooks the Waikato River.
Modeled on a hunting lodge outside of New Delhi, the Indian Garden’s four canals represent the Tigris, Euphrates, Nile and Ganges Rivers. Thousands of potted annual flowers, changed seasonally, capture traditional rug patterns.
Elegant arches set the mood for a formal Italian Garden.
Next door, an amphitheater provides a venue for outdoor performances. Imagine Juliet on the balcony.
A third Italian Garden honors Rome’s founding. Here reside Romulus & Remus with their life-saving she-wolf.
Maori Gardens focus on production yet incorporate spiritual art. Kumara, a Polynesian sweet potato, grow in mounds around a decorated storage shed on stilts to protect against animals.
Hand-lashed with flax fibre, fences protect the field from human enemies.
Follwing the productive-garden theme, the Herb Garden has multiple sections, including European culinary, Asian culinary, cosmetic, medicinal, and perfumed.
The Kitchen Garden serves as a training space for horticulture students at a local university.
Fantasy Gardens inspire creative approaches for the future. Whimsical recycling spices up a footpath in the Sustainable Garden.
The “chicken tractor” concept could be adopted by anyone who raises both vegitables and chickens. It works by building uniform-sized garden plots and a mobile chicken shed that can fit above them. Move the chicks above a harvested plot to complete the clearing and to fertilize and till for the next planting.
We’ve been seeing boxes like these sitting on the ground in fields all around the country and wondering what farmers were storing there. Turns out, they provide homes for bees to pollinate the fields.
Finally, here’s a detail from a huge hand-carved mural created by two artists to celebrate Hamilton Gardens.