One of the most incredible gardens I think I have ever visited is Hamilton Gardens in New Zealand. Situated on the North Island, about 1.5 hours South of Auckland, you will find the most incredible, imaginative and creative gardens I have ever seen. One day, I will get back there.
My thoughts turned recently to my neighbors across the ditch with the storms. I have read that Hamilton is in cleanup mode, but I have not found much on the gardens themselves. I hope they were not too severely damaged. Mother Nature can be a force.
The plain entrance hides secret gardens.
At Hamilton Gardens, the focus is on showcasing various types of garden design and their cultural significance, rather than solely collecting plants. Unlike traditional botanic gardens that prioritize plant collections, conservation, research, and education, Hamilton Gardens offers a unique concept of highlighting the historical and cultural context of gardens over the past 4,000 years.
Throughout history, gardens have served as a means of expressing important philosophical ideas of their time. In many ways, the history of gardens reflects the story of civilization and attitudes toward the natural world.
Hamilton Gardens’ collection of gardens delves into the history, context, and significance of different types of gardens. Each garden presents a story and provides insight into a distinct civilization.
A collection of design areas
The gardens are broken up into different areas, the Paradise Collection being just one of them. Of course, there are also more traditional areas, such as the sustainable backyard, the Native gardens, and the herb and kitchen gardens. There are various walks and bushland areas, lawns, rose and camellia gardens and even a cemetery. Honestly, it’s too big to explore all in one day and sadly that’s all we had. So we did the Paradise and the Fantasy sections.
The Paradise Collection
Exploring these gardens is like studying paradise, Italian, Japanese, Chinese, Modernist and Indian Char Bagh gardens. Each section is entirely enclosed and separate from the other. It’s like walking through different countries. Simply beautiful.
The Fantasy Collection
The surrealist Gardens were not quite open when we visited, but I believe they are now, the Tudor Garden (think Alice in Wonderland), the Tropical Gardens, the Chinoiserie Garden, the Mansfield Garden (Think Katherine Masfield’s “The Garden Party”), The Picturesque Garden (Mozart’s “Magic Flute”). Totally incredible and mesmerizing. The details and storytelling are unlike anything I have ever seen in a garden before.
What gear to take
At the time I only had a Sony 18-200mm lens with me, it is an APS-C lens so the images were not full-size (digitally). That’s not a real issue as I didn’t plan on printing these billboard sizes. The 18mm gave me the ability to capture more wide-angled shots and the 200mm gave me zoom capabilities. Given the opportunity again, perhaps my Tamron 28-75mm, my 70-300mm (both full-frame) and my extension rings for some macro are what I would throw in my kit. I didn’t have a tripod either, but as it was such a beautiful day I hand-held all my shots. I am also a little lazy and couldn’t be bothered to carry it all day. But it could have been a plus on a few shots.
Visiting the gardens
The gardens are open every day of the year (9 a.m. — 5 p.m.) and totally free to wander at your leisure. There are parklands, playgrounds and cafes as well as public facilities. It is also dog and smoke-free with disability access to most areas. You can check out more about the gardens on their website. If you are ever in the area, it is definitely worth a visit. I took so many photos, but I don’t want to spoil the surprise if you ever get the chance to visit.
- Take your time in these gardens, perhaps even give thought to coming back a second day.
- Wear good comfortable working shoes, as you will be doing a lot of walking.
- Don’t forget sunscreen and hats too!
- Bringing a tripod can be beneficial, although not 100% necessary; Decide whether it’s worth carrying for a whole day for a few photos.
- Bring your sense of adventure and whimsy.