Experience wild, untamed romance in the 18th century European Picturesque Garden, with masonic symbolism at every turn.

Enter an 18th century European garden that celebrates wild, untamed, romantic nature. Follow a charmed path inhabited by characters and scenes from Mozart’s famous opera 'The Magic Flute', filled with masonic symbolism.

A garden of secret symbols from the age of Enlightenment, the Picturesque Garden celebrates wild, untamed, romantic nature. This is a garden to charm the eyes, lift the heart and engage the mind. The path is filled with masonic symbols as well as characters and scenes from Mozart’s famous opera The Magic Flute.



Free entry

Best viewed: all seasons

9.00am - 5.00pm, last entry 4.30pm

Easily accessible

NZ native flora

What you'll find in the Picturesque Garden

  • Caves and hidden symbolism
  • Three portals representing wisdom, nature, and reason
  • Fantastic storytelling represented through Masonic symbolism.

Background of the Picturesque Garden

The Picturesque Garden design was inspired by the new fashion for paintings of wild, romantic landscapes. With banks of long grass, artificially aged structures, and respect for local flora, the Picturesque Garden movement made a revolutionary statement about the rigors of aristocracy.

Intended to appeal not only to the eyes, but to the heart and mind, Picturesque Gardens were often deliberately kept wild and overgrown.

A rebellion against rigidity, the naturalistic gardens of this era often featured a sequence or reference to a fantasy story or classical legend. A recurrent theme was a ritual journey where an individual’s character is tested.

The Picturesque Garden at Hamilton Gardens takes inspiration of Mozart’s 'The Magic Flute'.

Written by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart in 1791 just months before his death, the fairy tale opera tells of a hero’s journey through trials to enlightenment and love.

Along with many other influential thinkers of the time, Mozart was a Mason. His fantasy-filled opera is laden with Masonic symbols, which were also commonly found in garden designs of that period. Symbolism that can found in our garden varies from lions and sphinxes to Palladian pavilions and the three forms of classical pillar.

The fashion for the Picturesque was at its peak in author Jane Austen’s time. “A prettyish kind of wilderness” (as she put it in her novel 'Pride and Prejudice') was highly sought after. Widely popular outside of England, this landscape architecture style became prevalent across Europe, from Stockholm and Naples to St Petersberg and the Hudson Valley.

Can you spot these Masonic symbols in the Picturesque Garden?

If you’re not familiar with 'The Magic Flute' opera or 18th century Masonic rituals, here are some symbolic features to seek out in The Picturesque Garden:

  • Sphinxes which typically suggest the operatic story is set in Egypt
  • Caves which often signal the start of a journey in stories
  • Tamino, the hero of The Magic Flute, being pursued by a giant serpent and fainting
  • Three mysterious ladies appearing from the Woodland Temple, with the Queen of the Night
  • The curious figure of Papageno the Bird Catcher. Half man and half bird, with a birdcage on his back, Papageno sits on a throne, facing the setting sun which features the symbol of seven stars
  • A magic flute set on a pillar, given to Tamino to help in his quest
  • Three genii or guardian angels to guide Tamino and Papageno to the temple of Sarastro, Priest of the Sun
  • Three portals representing Vernunft (reason), Weisheit (wisdom) or Natur (nature)
  • Sarastro riding a chariot drawn by six lions (who sit on the top of the wall)
  • A dark passage where Tamino and Papageno took their first test ‘to resist in silence the guiles of women'
  • Three rather frisky looking women represented in relief sculpture on the wall
  • A large hall represented by a small meadow, another popular feature of Picturesque gardens
  • A table full of food and wine for Papageno to enjoy
  • The final test, a cave for Tamino’s secret initiation. A test by fire and water, symbolised here by a bowl and a brazier.

Will Tamino pass the test? You’ll have to head to the Picturesque Garden to find out.

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

Explore the world of the gardens and plan your visit now.