Sunday, 3 July 2016

Hamilton Gardens

On Wednesday 8 June, after having biked the Hamilton to Horotiu section of Te Awa River Ride, we visited the themed gardens of the Hamilton Gardens

It’s hard to believe that in the 1960s, the site was the local rubbish tip. Now it is a 54-hectare garden park, which won the Garden of the Year award at the International Garden Tourism Awards in France in 2014. The gardens are open to everyone, there is no entry charge.

We were particularly interested in visiting some of the themed gardens. On the website it states “Hamilton Gardens is not a botanical garden. Instead, its concept acknowledges there is a story to tell about gardens, their development over time and across cultures, and their use. […] The concept has also been compared to a museum, where each garden collection has historic integrity and provides a window into the story of civilisations, their arts, beliefs and lifestyles.”

There are several “collections”. We first visited gardens in the “Paradise Collection”: the Japanese Garden of Contemplation, the Chinese Scholar’s Garden, the Indian Char Bagh Garden, and the Italian Renaissance Garden.

The gardens are walled off around a bricked courtyard. The first we entered was the Japanese Garden of Contemplation. On one side of a traditional pavilion was a rock garden featuring rocks, carefully shaped bushes and raked gravel.

The entrance to the Japanese Garden

The rock garden (photo by John)

On the other side of the pavilion was a pond, with mossy, rocky islands, and surrounded by beautifully shaped pine trees and maples in their glorious autumn colours.

The pond (photo by John)

Another view of the pond (photo by John)

Gorgeous autumn colours

Next we looked at the Chinese Scholar’s Garden. You enter through a red door with stone lions on either side of the steps. Then there is a courtyard where the shape of the entrance to the garden is repeated in the paving. I wondered whether it is meant to be a lotus flower shape, but can’t find any evidence to suggest that.

The entrance to the Chinese Scholar’s Garden

The shape of the entranceway is repeated in the paving (photo by John)

The path through the garden leads over a bridge which has a wisteria growing over it. I imagine that it would look glorious in the spring when it is dripping with trusses of mauve flowers, but now it just looks a bit sad and forlorn. The pond too, would have wonderful reflections, if it weren’t for all the autumn leaves floating on the surface.

In the spring, there would be wisteria blooming over the bridge …

… and the pond would be clear of autumn leaves

A path flanked by tall bamboo (you’d swear you were deep in a bamboo forest), leads you up the hill towards a pavilion overlooking the garden. Turn around and you see a dragon-turtle which looks out over the Waikato River. He must have been touched by many hands, judging by the beautiful patina on his head and shell.

A bamboo forest walk (photo by John)

A pavilion overlooks the garden (photo by John)

The dragon-turtle watches the river (photo by John)

The next garden was the Indian Char Bagh Garden, or ‘enclosed four part’ garden. According to the website, this garden has “a plan similar to the Taj Mahal, but on a very much smaller scale”. I imagine the floral quadrants would be a riot of colour in the spring and summer. Now it looked a little subdued.

The floral quadrants looked a little subdued (photo by John)

The pavilion had a couple of stone benches just like the one featured in that famous photograph of Princess Diana at the Taj Mahal. So I got John to take a “Lady Di” photo of me, just for fun. 

The “Lady Di” shot … (photo by John)

Water gently bubbled out from the top of this lovely water feature (photo by John)

The last garden in this “Paradise Collection” was the Italian Renaissance Garden. The first view of it is looking down from the top of twin stone stairs, wrapped around a water feature and sculpture of the she-wolf suckling Romulus and Remus.

Looking down in to the Italian Renaissance Garden

Lionhead fountains dribble water from the wall below the stairs

Despite there not being an abundance of colourful flowers, the garden looked very lush, with its box hedges and orange trees in large terracotta pots.

Box hedges and orange trees in pots (photo by John)

As you stepped into the pavilion, it gave onto a colonnaded terrace overlooking the river (photo by John)

We walked through two of the “Fantasy Collection” gardens. First the Tropical Garden. It is quite amazing how the designers managed to isolate the gardens, giving no hint of the other gardens, in completely different styles, so close by. 

The Tropical Garden

On a boardwalk amongst the palm trees (photo by John)

The wonderful lushness of tropical plants

The next garden was the Tudor Garden. I think this was the one I liked best. We certainly spent the most time here, taking photos of the wonderful beasts on top of the green and white striped poles. 

When we entered the garden, we were delighted to see more than a dozen quail on a stone wall below a statue. They started to walk away when we arrived, but did not seem to be too alarmed. They are so attractive, with their little plumes curving forward on their heads (click on the photo to enlarge). From what I can work out these were Californian quail Callipepla californica, as the NZ brown quail does not have the head plume. 

Our arrival disturbed a bevy of quail …

… but they were in no hurry to run away (photo by John)

The four square knot gardens with intricately shaped hedges are punctuated with mythical beasts atop striped poles. These are modeled on reconstructions from Hampton Court.

The shaped hedges of the knot gardens give the impression of being intricately interwoven (photo by John)

Knot gardens and mythical beasts (photo by John)

The dragon

The griffin and the satyr

The phoenix

At one entrance to the garden was a sculpture of Alice in Wonderland with the Mad Hatter and the White Rabbit – to illustrate the “Fantasy” nature of this garden. At the other end there was a door, that led nowhere – there was no path behind it. Presumably also a reference to Alice’s doors.

Alice in Wonderland

The door that leads nowhere (photo by John)

Finally, we looked into one of the gardens of the “Productive Collection” – the Te Parapara Garden.  It “showcases traditional practices, materials and ceremonies relating to food production and storage, drawn from the knowledge of local Māori which has been passed down the generations”.

There is a palisaded cultivated garden – kūmara presumably – in the middle of which is a pataka (storehouse).

The pataka inside the kūmara garden (photo by John)

There was a smaller pataka on the outside of the palisade too (photo by John)

Detail of the larger pataka, and the smaller pataka in the background on the left

Detail of the smaller pataka

Beautifully symmetrically laid out mounds awaiting kūmara plants

The palisade is lashed with supplejack

A carving alongside the walkway around the cultivated garden

It was by now quite late in the afternoon, and though we would have liked to see more, we decided to call it a day. We very much enjoyed the gardens but we will have to come back some time in the spring or early summer to see them in their full flowering glory.

1 comment:

  1. Well written,and great photos.Yes these gardens are beautiful when all the flowers are out. More gardens being built every year.