Hamilton Gardens is located alongside an attractive stretch of the Waikato River, merging old landscape features with creative development and design.
In its earlier history, the area was home to Ngati Wairere chief Haanui. After European settlement it was variously used as a rifle range, a dog dosing strip, sand quarry and go-cart track. The central gully section served as the city’s main rubbish dump at a time when no one could have imagined that such a barren mess could one day become an award-winning public garden and the Waikato’s most popular visitor attraction.
The Gardens are owned and managed by Hamilton City Council and strongly supported by the local community. In the 1950s the Hamilton Beautifying Society lobbied for a public garden on this part of the town belt and initially it occupied a modest 52 hectares. The design of that top area was and still is planted in the gardenesque tradition with specimen trees and flower beds set in flat lawns. Most development of Hamilton Gardens has occurred since 1980, growing in scope and vision to become a unique showcase for the story of gardens.
Telling the story of gardens
Rather than focusing on plant collections, at Hamilton Gardens the emphasis is on the gardens themselves. While botanic gardens concentrate on classified plant collections, Hamilton Gardens concentrates on the cultural meaning and context that gardens have historically had. Throughout history gardens have been a way of expressing the important philosophical ideas of their time. In some respects the story of gardens reflects the story of civilisation and attitudes to the natural world.
The five garden collections - Paradise, Productive, Fantasy, Cultivar and Landscape – explore the history, context and meaning of gardens. Each tells a story and offers an insight into a different civilisation. It could be likened to visiting a museum where there are carefully curated exhibitions reflecting garden history.
Supporting our community
Over the past forty years Hamilton Gardens has been transformed into a world class garden, not through a massive Council budget but through a sustained community effort. Our community is essential to our existence so we give back in a number of ways.
All New Zealand Charitable organisations receive a 66% discount on the venue hire rates at Hamilton Gardens and local gardening groups or other local specialist groups receive a generous discount on Guided Tours. We provide the Friends of Hamilton Gardens with a special Christmas shopping day once a year when they receive additional discount off their purchases in our Gift Shop. Hamilton Gardens is a major sponsor of the annual Hamilton Gardens Arts Festival.
We are active members of Botanic Gardens of New Zealand (BGANZ) and Hamilton and Waikato Tourism. All our staff receive one paid day each year to volunteer at a community organisation. We also provide work experience opportunities to local students at Wintec and The Unversity of Waikato.
All surplus produce from the Kitchen Garden is given to Kaivolution, a local charity that provides fresh food to local people in need.
"Hamilton Gardens has very kindly donated beautiful fresh produce from the gardens to Kaivolution Food Rescue. Since we started in 2014, this produce has been given out to literally thousands of very grateful people and families throughout the Waikato. We are extremely grateful for Hamilton Gardens support, in both helping people in need and in the very important task of minimising food waste."
Simon Gascoigne, Co-ordinator, Kaivolution Food Rescue