Be transported into a dreamworld where nothing is quite what it should be with the Surrealist Garden.

Feel your perspective shift as you walk among giant tools, moving trees, strange shapes, and a lawn that appears to have fluttered down from the sky like a discarded sheet of paper.

Enter one of our most iconic gardens. Step into a dream world full of strange shifts in perspective. As you walk through the entrance tunnel you will feel as if you have been shrunk and everything is five times its normal size. Inside, peculiar sights abound, with strange shapes and unexpected objects. Even the trees seem to move. This is a garden like no other.



Free entry

Best viewed: all seasons

9.00am - 5.00pm, last entry 4.30pm

Easily accessible

NZ native flora

Popular with kids

What you'll find in the Surrealist Garden

  • A roaring thirties garden and passageway but everything in the garden itself is five times the normal scale
  • A lawn that curves up at the corners like a sheet of paper and instead of a dozen white roses there are a dozen white noses.
  • Shaped trees - ‘Trons’ - that appear to have moved….or have they?

Background of the Surrealist Garden

Step into a strange world where mysterious dreams have come to life...

In the 1920s and 30s, many artists and writers became fascinated with irrational, strange, and provocative ideology. Inspired by the work of Sigmund Freud, they often sought to interpret the mysterious world of dreams and the subconscious mind.

While there wasn’t a surrealist garden movement, as there was in other arts, there have long been surrealist elements found in gardens and they’ve played an important role in the story of gardens.

Generally, surrealism in gardens is showcased as distorted shapes, sculptures, strange and animalistic elements, or extremely large or small scale, with materials used in an unexpected way.

In the Surrealist Garden, a 1930s garden and passageway with extreme scale distortions, there are lawns that curve up like a sheet of paper and a dozen white noses instead of roses.

Traditionally, Chinese were the masters of surrealist gardens. Their gardens often represented vast mythical landscapes at a miniature scale. They often featured strangely shaped, contorted rocks that have been compared to clouds, known as Taihu – a great example of this can be seen in the Chinese Scholars’ Garden.

There has also been a tradition of using topiary to shape bushes into strange surrealist objects. A hint of some of best-known examples from Packwood House and Levens Hall in Britain can be seen in the pictures along the passage into this garden.

The strange moving hedge shapes in this Surrealist Garden have become known as the Trons. Originally inspired by primitive early life forms (Pre-Cambrian) and paintings of English artist, David Inshaw, the Trons take on a simpler form intended to look slightly sinister. You may notice out of the corner of your eye that they’ve moved…

Ready to unlock your imagination? Step into a dreamworld at the Surrealist Garden.

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