Fifty years ago, the site of Hamilton Gardens was a bleak landscape with no indication of its past as a centre of Maaori settlement and horticulture.
The area had been used as a rifle range by Victorian era residents, and in the 20th century became a sand quarry and then the city's rubbish dump. Covered in weeds and blackberry bushes with seagulls circling above, it would've been hard to imagine the transformation ahead. With minimal budgets, volunteers and community groups have dedicated thousands of hours and resources to develop the barren 54 hectare site into a free public park.
Today, the award-winning Hamilton Gardens has five garden collections with more than 20 themed gardens and is the Waikato's most popular attraction with over a million visitors every year.
What's next at Hamilton Gardens
Imagine exploring the strange world of a Surrealist garden or meandering among Gothic ruins in an 18th Century Picturesque Garden... We are close to completing Hamilton Garden's two newest additions!
The popular 18th Century picturesque garden movement was inspired by painting and a new appreciation for wild romantic landscapes. While these gardens usually respected the site and local flora, they often introduced an artificial site history such as Arcadian ruins and hermit’s caves set in a natural landscape. The garden will border the Waikato River providing visitors with occasional views down to the river.
Opening: late 2019
This garden will include many conventional garden features, however everything will be five times the normal size. The large lawn of this garden will also be suitable for concerts and special events. However what will really set this garden apart are the giant topiary figures that have become known as the ‘Trons’. These mysterious, surrealist figures will range in height from five to eight metres and occasionally, just out of the corner of your eye, you might even see them move.
Opening: early 2020
Under development at Hamilton Gardens
Our 2018-2022 Development Programme also includes four new gardens: the Ancient Egyptian Garden, Pasifika Garden, Medieval Garden, the Baroque Garden, and a linking courtyard and paths. There will also be a new toilet block in the western area of the enclosed gardens.
Ancient Egyptian Garden
This will represent one of the very first known decorative garden traditions from around 2000BCE. In larger domestic Egyptian gardens, symmetrical courtyards were surrounded by mud brick walls featuring vine-covered pergolas for summer shade. Vegetables were grown in beds alongside a central rectangular step pool.
While we know what these gardens looked like, no one appears to have recreated one. So for the first time in 4,000 years you'll be able to step into this very ancient and sophisticated world.
A tall glasshouse will feature important productive plants from the South Pacific such as: yam, talo, ta’amu, sweet potato, arrowroot, sugar cane, ti, paper mulberry, pandanus, taro, banana, breadfruit and possibly the kava and coconut.
The main viewing area will be from beneath a Samoan Fale Afalau or shelter. Interpretation in the entrance foyer will explain the use and cultivation of these plants and their place in South Pacific cultures.
Most European medieval and early renaissance gardens were inspired by a very influential French poem called 'Roman de la Rose'. This recreation of a 13th-century courtyard garden would typically include reference to the poem and various Christian symbols. A high stone wall would enclose a court with fruit trees, turf benches, a collection of herbs, a 'flower mead' and the central fountain. In the far corner, a window will provide a glimpse of the contrasting form of the minimalist cloister garden.
During the 18th and 19th centuries, European royalty developed dramatic theatrical gardens that included the elements of stage set design. These gardens weren’t just used for theatrical events, they provided a setting for important people to dress up in expensive cloths and powdered wigs and be seen. This German or Austrian form would feature a Rococo / Baroque façade, large reflecting pool and two sculptural groups. Of all the gardens this possibly has the most direct association with classical music.
Read more about the Hamilton Gardens Management Plan.
We need your support
Hamilton Gardens has been built on a long tradition of community support. For more than 40 years community groups and local trusts have worked alongside Hamilton City Council to transform the former rubbish dump into award winning gardens.
You can support the development of Hamilton Gardens through donating online and sponsorship. All donations to the Hamilton Gardens Development Trust are eligible for a tax rebate.
"The potential for this place is so exciting. I think this is the best-kept secret in New Zealand."
Sir Michael Hill, Patron Hamilton Gardens Development Trust
“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.”
Professor Richard Benfield, Central Connecticut State University, World authority on Garden Tourism
“It’s unlike anywhere else in New Zealand or in the world. I have not been to a garden as good anywhere, and I mean anywhere. Immaculately presented. Just stunning. They’ve quietly created a revolutionary new garden under everyone’s noses.”
Lynda Hallinan, New Zealand’s leading garden writer
Thank you to our sponsors and supporters
We are also grateful for the donations we have received from:
- Hamilton Club
- Vibrant Hamilton Trust
- E.B Firth Charitable Trust
- Sir Miles Warren
- David and Rae Braithwaite
- Jon and Sue Tanner via Momentum Waikato Community Foundation
- Bernie and Kaye Crosby via Momentum Waikato Community Foundation
- Bernice and Jenny Screech
- The Maber Family
- Julie, Kate, and Ken Williamson via Momentum Waikato Community Foundation
- Glenn and Catherine Holmes
- Richard and Jan Seabrook
- Richard and Sheryl Trench