Explore the mapped legends of the Concept Garden – a top spot for visitors to Hamilton Gardens.

Style abounds in a garden of ideas that explores our relationship with the land we live on. The most modern of our gardens, it is inspired by maps from 1960s school atlases and two Maaori whakataukii that ask questions about nature and our attempts to control it.

Concept Gardens are a very recent style of garden and draw inspiration from an idea or central theme. Ours explores New Zealand’s relationship with the land in the past, present, and future. The planted grid is inspired by map legends from old school atlases while two whakatauki (Maaori proverbs) ask deeper questions about nature and our attempts to control it.

He peke tangata, apa he peke titoki - The human family lives on while the branch of the titoki falls and decays.

Whatungarongaro te tangata toitu te whenua - As man disappears, the land remains.



Free entry

Best viewed: all seasons

9.00am - 5.00pm, last entry 4.30pm

Easily accessible

NZ native flora

Colourful blooms

What you'll find in the Concept Garden

  • Clean lines and geometric shapes
  • A miraculous floating steampunk-inspired blimp close by
  • Abstract artwork by English artist Michael B. White.

Background of the Concept Garden

Concept gardens aren’t necessarily practical, natural or even attractive but are usually based on a central idea or message. That idea or concept often makes reference to the site in which the garden is placed, and the designs usually have a strong, obvious form. The ‘conceptual garden’ movement is an extension of ‘Conceptual Art’.

At Hamilton Gardens, the Concept Garden looks at maps in their simplest form, with a legend of square boxes each with a different colour or texture denoting the different land uses. This garden features nine square panels, each representing one of the land uses on the legend in old school atlases:

  • Pasture is represented by the grass
  • Native bush represented by Muehlenbeckia astonii
  • Urban areas represented by White Carpet roses
  • Horticultural represented by citrus trees
  • Tussock grassland represented by Carex buchananii
  • Coniferous forest represented by Pinus mugo
  • Scrubland represented by Leptospermum scoparium
  • Wetland represented by Apodasmia
  • Water bodies represented by the central pool.

Abstract artwork 

The abstract artwork called ‘The Artist Furtively Hunting Taupo Trout, Under a Gloriously Fishy Sky' featured in the Concept Garden was intended by world-travelling English artist Michael B. White to have an ‘Abstract Expressionist’ or ‘Fauvist’ image to contrast to the very rigid form of the Concept Garden.

Often painting in tropical exotic locations, White’s work has been displayed in galleries around the world including the British Royal Academy. When Hamilton Gardens' former director Dr Peter Sergel contacted White, Sergel was surprised to find the artist was already a big fan of Hamilton Gardens and very enthusiastic to have his work displayed here.

Embark on a journey of discovery, prompting reflection on our relationship with the land, at the Concept Garden.

A hand holding their phone with the Gardens map on the screen

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