Hamilton's new dream-like garden

From Waikato Times reported by Ruby Nyika and images by Kelly Hodel

From giant gardening tools to disembodied noses "growing" in the garden, everything in the Surrealist Garden is puzzling and difficult to explain. 

It's the newest addition to Hamilton Gardens' fantasy collection and it's set to open at 3.30pm on Monday. 

The garden is inspired by Surrealism, an artistic movement which thrived throughout the 1920s and 30s. It explores the mystery behind dreams and the subconscious mind, largely inspired by Sigmund Freud. 

While surrealism thrived in the 20th century, surrealism elements to gardens isn't new, said Hamilton Gardens director Dr Peter Sergel, who designs the gardens. 

"There have been surrealist elements in gardens for thousands of year, particularly in Chinese gardens.

"We were trying to represent a lot of those features in this one garden. So distortion of scale, biomorphic shapes, things doing strange things like the lawn curling up at the corners. Any relevant sort of detail, strange detail." 

The peculiar garden begins with a passage and a black-and-white patterned floor and sepia-tinged paintings hanging from from the walls. The mantelpiece above a fireplace is empty apart from a pair of small egg shaped ornaments. 

The passage disappears into the forest of looming ivy-covered "trons", with finger-like tendrils that move, thanks to carefully designed hydrolics. 

Those shapes were inspired by pre-cambrian life forms and the paintings of David Inshaw, but they've evolved, Sergel said. It's designed to make you feel like you've walked into "a different world".

"You do feel a bit like that, as if you've suddenly shrunk." 

It doesn't end when you reach the lawn, either. At the end of the lawn is a giant white door, which some staff say may be destined to become the next "selfie" spot.

A decorative spade, wheelbarrow and tap - the latter of which was bought through Waikato University crowd funding - are about five times their usual sizes. The lawn is bordered by thick, tropical foliage, with a dozen white noses - not roses - dotted throughout the leafy greens.

The garden has been a long time in the making, says leading hand and gardener Alice Gwilliam, who remembers when the garden was little more than a paddock. 

"We used to call it the greenie lawn and it was just to get to one place or the other." 

Gwilliam and Shaun Allen have been strategically planting and tending to the abundance of plants for about five years. But the hedge alone was planted about 15 years ago. It was hard to imagine what the end result would look like, but Gwilliam likens it to a "giant's garden".

Getting the ivy, hedera helix and hedera canariensis, to grow up to the tips of the moving tendrils had been "trial and error", but they're not far off. The ivy is fed seaweed or blood and bone fertiliser once a month, to keep the weed-like plant plentiful and lush. 

"The ivy won't disappoint, it will take over."

And the leafy gardens, which no-one can see beyond, creates a "mysterious" feel, Gwilliam said. 

Gardens never turn out exactly the way you think they will, but this one is "more or less" how Sergel imagined it. But his favourite garden will be "always the next one". 


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