Wellington gardens are dominated by public parks and gardens meaning they are free to visit. The best time to visit gardens in the lower North Island is Spring to late Autumn (October – April). Winter can be very chilly with wind whipped bare branches and a lack of shelter while wandering around the hilltop parks and gardens of Wellington. Public gardens are open throughout the year, however remember to check for up to date details and public notifications.
Wellington Botanic Gardens (Thorndon) are doyenne of public parks with hillsides smothered in flowering shrubs, both native and exotic, an arboretum of early twentieth century trees, a cafe located in the picturesque rose garden with is adjoining grassy dell and a maze of walks designed to link the various garden rooms. The gardens stretch from the top of Wellington hills to entrances off Bolton street. For ease of walking (avoiding the constant trudge up the hills) catch the Wellington cable car and spend an afternoon wandering your way down past mature garden elements. The garden has excellent signage, toilets and seating placed in strategic positions. For more details click here, Botanic Garden, Thorndon.
A favourite for native plant buffs and fans of all things green, Otari-Wilton’s Bush Domain is a must go destination. The canopy walk is a great place for kids to let off steam and it leads to the innovative information centre. As the site is steep the canopy walk gives disability access to viewing platforms. The garden is designed to showcase the various climate zones of Aoteaoroa NZ with educational plaques describing the plant species, climate zone and whether the plant is on the endangered list. This public botanic garden is the only one in the country that is dedicated to New Zealand native plants. There are over 100 hectares of native forest, five hectares of plants, and some of the city’s oldest trees. Find the park’s 800-year-old rimu for a photo moment. There are picnic areas, seating and toilets making Otari-Wilton’s Bush, Wilton a perfect day trip destination.
Truby King Park is often overlooked due to vehicle access being the busy Southern Motorway. It is a hidden gem and Wellington Council have aptly described the park as, ‘A hidden house and garden worth a visit… a 1.9 hectare slice of history tucked into a beautiful corner of Wellington. This heritage-listed estate includes a unique house and garden nestled in Wellington’s Melrose hills along the Southern Walkway. Though one of Wellington’s lesser known gardens, this estate offers a special look at Wellington’s past, as well as the ocean below.’ For further information click here Truby King Park, Melrose.
Bolton Street Cemetery has numerous notable figures from the nineteenth century through to the twentieth century buried here. The cemetery is just minutes away from from the centre of town and is often frequented by lunchtime office workers taking a quick nature escape. The heritage rose collection which weaves its way through the tombstones makes November to December the best time to visit. For more information click here Bolton Street Cemetery.
Government House, the home of the Governor General has 12 hectares of land on a hilly site with prevailing winds making for a challenging garden location. In the 1990’s an redevelopment plan focused on native plants interspersed with exotic plants reflecting the links between formal state English garden and the landscape of New Zealand bush and forest. The garden represents the link between the constitutional governance of the United Kingdom and the independence of Aotearoa NZ today. The house is framed by large expanses of lawn which make for an ideal setting for functions where hundreds of people can be catered for surrounded by perennial and native borders. Every tree planted by a dignitary is marked with a plaque and it is favourite occupation of guests to stroll the gardens identifying who planted what. There are a network of gravel and bark paths linking the various garden elements together.
A recreated nineteenth century garden colonial garden has been established. The garden design deliberately reflects the plants available during Keatherine Mansfield’s life. There is an emphasis on plants described in her literature.
The late Victorian favourites of mignonette, violas, lavender, wallflowers, heliotrope, aquilegia, dianthus, geraniums, campanula, foxgloves, verbenas, hellebore, hydrangea are also found in many New Zealand gardens provoking nostalgia for profusion of summer colour. The roses are nineteenth century with yellow Banksia making a splendid late spring statement. The back garden has native plants reflecting the style of early colonial gardens with a lawn running into a native gully. The garden is completely fenced.
Over 3.2 hectares in Lower Hutt provides visitors and residents with areas to skateboard, walk the dogs, picnic among spring blossom, enjoy the childrens playground and wander through the early twentieth century conservatory. The public space was created in 1923.
Riddiford Garden is one of the oldest horticultural parks in Lower Hutt, coming into existence in 1923. It is one of the most significant areas of green space in the city centre, containing a large open lawn and established trees, a children’s playground and caregivers be prepared with a change of clothes as there is a popular play water feature, a war monument and a conservatory.
The park is a venue for numerous public events and it is not uncommon to spy wedding photographers.
The reserve is not a cultivated public area and not a park yet it is included in this list as it is close to Riddiford Park as well as offering opportunity to introduce kids and visitors to the Aoteoroa NZ forest experience complete with bush walks, a waterfall and caves that demand you take a closer look. There is signage explaining what visitors are observing. There are picnic grassed area and shaded areas for warm summer days. And, naturally there is a duck pond however visitors are now encouraged not to feed ducks due the poor dietary impact on ducks. For more information click here Percy Scenic Reserve.
Chapman Taylor cottage (arts and crafts) has strongly influenced the garden’s landscape. An outstanding feature are the narrow paths framed with clipped hedges. Topiary makes a strong presence in the garden with native and exotic plants offering a mulitple layered effect behind the structured paths and strategically placed topiary. There are distinct garden rooms with a water garden, courtyard space and paterre vegetable garden as well as a small rose garden.
Ohariu Valley with its rolling farmland provides a great setting for Pepped Warbeck private garden. The original bog garden has been expanded to embrace the rural views with hilltops providing vantage points for native and exotic plantings. The garden was remodelled in 1976 to compliment the architecturally designed house. The new garden has been created to complement the new house and bog garden. Lawn is used to separate garden rooms and the water features of the original bog garden now include primulas, bog irises, hostas and gunnera. There are hydrangeas and rhododendrons taking advantage of the shaded damp corners on the hillsides. The Japanese anemones and numerous deciduous trees provide colour in autumn.
The journey is worth it.