In the 1960s, Hamilton Gardens was a bleak city rubbish dump covered in blackberries with seagulls circling above. Remnants of the Gardens’ earlier history as a pre-European Pa, British military post, Victorian rifle-range and dog-dosing station lay scattered across the site. Four acres had been part of the Hamilton East Town Belt and was passed over to Hamilton City Council for the purposes of a public garden; an opening ceremony for Hamilton Gardens was held on 24th July 1960. The site now extends over 54 hectares.
Today, more than 40 years later, these humble beginnings have been overshadowed by the development of the Gardens’ internationally unique concept: The History, Context and Meaning of Gardens. 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. This concept was conceived in the early 1980s by Hamilton Gardens director Dr Peter Sergel and met with significant enthusiasm from city councillors. Some of its inspiration came from the Bundesgartenschau of Germany and other international garden shows, where many differing approaches to gardening and garden design are brought together on one site. 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. More than 30 years later, Sergel’s sketchbook designs are almost identical to the themed gardens existing today.
Assistance from the community, and trusts formed to support specific garden developments, has been invaluable to the Gardens development. For 20 years the Gardens benefitted from the labour provided by Taskforce Green and Pre-Employment Programmes which subsidised the wages of young workers while they developed skills on the job.
For more than 4,000 years garden design has been a serious art form reflecting different: lifestyles, religious beliefs, contemporary arts, social structures, philosophies and the changing attitudes to nature. The collection of gardens being developed at Hamilton Gardens won’t just address the context, meaning and history of gardens. When complete it will also reflect the evolution of civilisation.
Today, the gardens are an internationally award winning destination.
International Garden of the Year 2014
Hamilton Gardens was awarded the prestigious ‘International Garden Tourism Award’ at the International Garden Tourism Network (IGTN) conference in France in October 2014. This annual award is presented to gardens that have distinguished themselves in the development and promotion of the garden experience as a destination tourism attraction. Previous winners have included Singapore Botanic Gardens and the Gardens of Trauttmansdorff Castle in Merano, Italy.
The award juror, IGTN member, Michael Gauthier said the award indicated that Hamilton Gardens was ‘a leading example of integrating quality garden experiences to the tourism industry’.
Hamilton Gardens was nominated by World Garden Tourism Council committee member Dr Richard W Benfield (Central Connecticut State University/world authority on garden tourism). Following his visit to Hamilton Gardens in 2013 he said ‘The concept is, by far, the most exciting I have seen in my twenty year career as a researcher in the field of garden tourism. Hamilton could join the ranks of the five international destination gardens … this is because the vision, as stated, is indeed unique in the world and visually spectacular’.
Hamilton Gardens claimed the ‘Outstanding Park Award 2016’ at the New Zealand Recreation Association conference held in Queenstown.
The judges described Hamilton Gardens as “an eye-catching and fascinating themed garden that has taken this facility from a local asset to both a national and international tourist attraction with positive economic flow-on for the whole community”.
Supreme Award Winner McGredy Winder SOLGM Local Government Excellence ® 2016
We won the supreme award at the the SOLGM Local Government Excellence Awards ® for our development project 'Hamilton City Council: Council Transforms A City Dump – the Hamilton Gardens Project.'
This entry also won the Innovation in Council Community Relations category.
Hamilton Gardens is committed to a range of sustainable management practices including:
- Supporting the conservation of native wildlife, such as native long-tailed bats and bellbirds through planting, habitat protection and predator control.
- Ongoing planting programmes and the propagation and distribution of locally environmentally sourced New Zealand plants for restoration work.
- Sourcing all irrigation and most of the Gardens’ water features from the Waikato River and conserving water through night time irrigation, mulching, monitoring and recycling.
- Recycling glass, paper, tin, aluminium, food waste, office supplies and garden compost and making our own mulch on-site.
- Improving energy efficiency through monitoring, insulation and energy efficient technologies.
- Promoting sustainable practices through the Sustainable Backyard Garden.
- Reducing chemical controls through integrated management and good husbandry.