Forty years ago Hamilton Gardens was a bleak landscape. It was the site of a former Victorian rifle range and dog dosing station, covered in blackberries with seagulls circling above. It was the city’s rubbish dump.
The site has been remarkable transformed since those days. Today, the Gardens has 21 themed gardens on 54 hectares alongside the Waikato River and was awarded International Garden of the Year 2014 (previous winners including Singapore Botanic Gardens).
One of our much-loved established gardens is the Paradise Garden Collection, which we would love to share with you here.
The Paradise Collection was the first of Hamilton Gardens’ five garden collections to be completed and has six gardens that illustrate the gardener’s desire to create paradise on Earth.
Chinese Scholar’s Garden
A traditional Chinese garden from the Sung Dynasty (10th – 12th centuries).
Dating back 2,000 years, Chinese gardening is one of the world’s oldest arts. Traditionally scholars’ gardens represented an imaginative world of allegory, fantasy, mystery and surprise and were rich in evocative symbolism, ambiguity and thought-provoking artiface. Wandering through the Chinese Scholar’s Garden is a journey of discovery. A winding journey takes visitors over the seasonally blooming Wisteria Bridge, across the Island of Whispering Birds, past the elusive Hidden Philosopher and through lush bamboo to finally reach the Pavilion and its breathtaking views of the Waikato River.
Japanese Garden of Contemplation
A garden from the Muromachi period (14th – 16th centuries).
This is a garden that embraces contradiction in all its forms; contradictory pairs such as movement/stillness, complexity/simplicity, vastness/smallness, and even wet/dry. The karesansui (dry landscape) gardens of the Muromachi era of Japanese history are amongst the most austere garden designs ever created. Within tightly-bound compositions of gravel, rocks, and only the minimum of vegetation, they evoke vast landscapes of mountains, oceans, and forests – although the final interpretation of the arrangement is always up to the individual viewer. The scroll garden, on the other side of the Abbott’s Quarters, shares some features with the karesansui. Both gardens are designed to be enjoyed from a single perspective.
English Flower Garden
An arts and crafts-style garden, based on the garden design of Gertrude Jekyll and the architecture of Edwin Lutyens.
During the 19th century Arts and Crafts movement’s heyday, these gardens were commonly referred to as ‘gardens of a golden afternoon’. You’ll find this romantic charm brought to life in the English Flower Garden. Walls and hedges create ‘outdoor rooms’ that have different planting themes and are linked by axis lines that terminate at an arbour, fountain, urn or seat. The spaces are also linked with recurrent groups and drifts of good foliage plants that reinforce the sense of unity between garden compartments.
A 20th century garden in the West Coast style of Thomas Church.
The Modernist Garden brings West Coast American style to Hamilton Gardens. Modernist style was an international phenomenon, not just a 20th century American tradition. Its gardens are focused on relaxed outdoor living, a perfect match to sun-soaked, upwardly mobile California.
Sunny yellow outdoor chairs, raised deck-like forms, water features and popular culture murals set the scene at Hamilton Gardens. Design of modernist gardens is usually related to the use of the garden and they are often dominated by elements like swimming pools, barbecues and outdoor eating areas. There is usually a strong visual and practical relationship between house and garden.
Italian Renaissance Garden
Based on 15th-16th century gardens of the flowering of modern European culture.
Italian Renaissance gardens are soaked in myth, tradition and history. You can see your first hint of it in the impressive bronze wolf at the entranceway to the Italian Renaissance Garden that is testament to the ancient fable of Romulus and Remus.
Italian Renaissance Gardens evolved from many sources, in particular the Arab garden traditions, although Islamic symbolism was given a Christian interpretation.
Renaissance gardens were also an evolution of the Medieval garden and many of the elements from that earlier era were retained, such as the high surrounding walls, flat square beds with plant-lined edges and arched trellis work.
Indian Char Bagh Garden
A ‘Kursi-cum-char-bagh’ (riverside garden) based on the 15 – 16th century gardens of the Mughal Emperors.
A rainbow-coloured Persian carpet of flowers spreading out from a distinctive chalk-coloured Pavilion – this is the image of the Char Bagh that has become an iconic image of Hamilton Gardens. The ‘Char Bagh’ or ‘enclosed four part’ garden was the original Paradise Garden and was sometimes known as the Universal Garden. It was regarded as an icon for the universe itself. This type of garden had a focus on water and irrigation because of its origin in the hot and dry climate of present-day Iran. A small hunting palace near Agra, called Lal Mahal, has inspired the Hamilton Garden’s Char Bagh garden.
See more incredible images and learn more about the gardens here: www.hamiltongardens.co.nz
About Hamilton Gardens
Hamilton Gardens is based in the Waikato, approximately one and a half hours south of Auckland, New Zealand. It is located on State Highway One and only five minutes drive from Hamilton’s CBD. The Gardens is open seven days a week during daylight hours and entry and parking is free. Mobility scooters, wheelchairs and pushchairs are available to hire and guided tours are available.
Images: Hamilton Gardens
About the Author – Ceana Priest
Ceana worked in remote back-country huts before travelling the world to explore UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Now settled in New Zealand, her ‘office’ is the award-winning Hamilton Gardens.