Having a dream to travel the world can be a bit of a daunting task. I mean…have you seen a globe? The world is HUGE! How can you ever see it all in one lifetime? Well, pay a visit to Hamilton Gardens in Hamilton, New Zealand and you can spend the afternoon being transported all across the world in just one afternoon.
What once was just a city garbage heap has turned into award winning public gardens used to teach us about the history, context, and meaning of gardens. With a $0.00 entry fee and recommendations from locals, I figured I had to give Hamilton Gardens a try.
I enjoyed walking through the herb gardens, the vegetable gardens, and the garden set up to exemplify an at-home sustainable garden. But my favorites were the ones that took me to other parts of the world. Through these gardens I was able to get a sense of what that place was like, and the role that gardens play in that particular area.
English Tudor Gardens
As soon as you enter the tudor gardens, you are instantly transported to 16th century England. The geometric patterns in the gardens as well as the iconic green and white poles make the atmosphere clear. On top of the poles, you’ll find various mythical creatures – a nod to the tudor gardens from the past. As you walk through, you’ll find yourself wishing you were wearing a puffier skirt and sipping on a cup of tea.
Indian Char Bagh Garden
Here you are in India, exploring the gardens common to the 8th-18th centuries. Because of India’s hot, dry climate, you’ll find a large water feature at the center of this garden. This particular garden was inspired by the design of Lal Mahal- a small hunting palace not too far from Agra. Unfortunately during my visit, this garden was being replanted so it was empty. That didn’t made the view any less lovely though!
English Flower Garden
The English Flower Garden will make you feel like Alice, before she falls into Wonderland. Gardens such as this were popular in England from around 1880 to 1910, and are often referred to as “the gardens of golden afternoons.” I can understand why! How lovely would it be to spend a summer afternoon here, among the flowers with a good book? Just stay away from any white rabbits that may appear…
The Modernist Garden is meant to represent Western gardens in the 20th century. It is suggested that the design of modern gardens like this will mainly feature swimming pools and outdoor eating areas. As an American, I was totally transported to the backyards of some of my friends. Minus the giant print of Marilyn Monroe in this garden (not pictured), I’d say this is a fairly accurate representation of many modern western gardens.
Japanese Garden of Contemplation
When you enter this garden, there is absolutely no mistaking where you’ve landed. As you walk through, you will find two major parts within this zen garden. First, you will find a dry garden where circular patterns have been raked into the sand to represent “water without water and movement without movement.” Then, as you move inside the pavilion, you will find yourself entranced by the tranquility of the scroll garden. Here is where monks would traditionally practice their deep meditations. Feel free to try out your own deep meditation, or…you know…try and spot all the turtles. Same thing, right?
Chinese Scholar’s Garden
How about a little jaunt in China? Traditional Chinese gardens like this date back over 2,000 years. The entrance to the garden leads you across the Wistera Bridge, through a small patch of Bamboo forest, and ends at Ting Pavilion. As opposed to many modern gardens, where plants and flowers are the main focus, Chinese gardens have been designed in relationship with their art, music, and poetry.
Te Parapara Garden
Now let’s wander back to New Zealand and wander through a traditional Maori productive garden. This garden will give you a unique glance into the native culture of New Zealand, with the iconic red and black carvings and traditional gardening techniques. Within this garden, you will see small dirt mounds in neat rows. Planted here are kumara tubers. These tubers will rot is they are grown in soil that is too wet, so they are planted within these mounds so the water will distribute evenly around the tuber. You’ll also find two large storehouses in the Te Parapara garden. These are typically used to store items like gardening tools.
Italian Renaissance Garden
And of course I’ve saved my favorite part of Hamilton Gardens for the end. Our last stop on our trip around the world is to Renaissance Era Italy. The major feature of gardens in the Renaissance era was a strong central point, and this garden’s unmistakable central point is the gorgeous fountain surrounded by crystal blue waters. During the Renaissance era, geometry was related to a divine order. From the squared sections of garden space to the swooping high arches, you will see many geometric features within this garden. But the best part of this garden is that there are a few picnic tables tucked away. Therefore, this garden the best place to stop for your very own garden lunch.
Who would have thought you could feel completely transported and grasp a sense of culture just by spending an afternoon at some public gardens? After my visit, I completely understand how Hamilton Gardens was named International Garden of the Year in 2014.
If you’re exploring North Island and are looking for a picturesque way to spend a morning or afternoon, don’t hesitate to check out Hamilton Gardens!