Go Gardening - - Greenlife Matters - Find out more about Hamilton gar­dens at hamil­ton­gar­

in cities. Not just be­cause we need to take care of the unique bio­di­ver­sity that re­mains in our built up ar­eas, but also to re­con­nect peo­ple to the en­vi­ron­ment.

Hamilton Gar­dens works closely with Waikato Re­gional Coun­cil and oth­ers in sus­tain­ing the wildlife cor­ri­dors that run through the city - home to many na­tive birds, glow worms, but­ter­flies and a cher­ished lo­cal bat pop­u­la­tion.

Plant­ing schemes at Hamilton Gar­dens are de­signed to ex­tend the menu for na­tive birds and also but­ter­flies. Gus and his team are cur­rently try­ing to en­cour­age 4 species of na­tive but­ter­flies into the gar­dens. “For the cater­pil­lars of the Red and Yel­low Ad­mi­rals we’ve planted net­tles in out­ly­ing ar­eas not used by the pub­lic,” he says. Clover sus­tains the cater­pil­lars of the Com­mon Blue, while na­tive Meuh­len­beckia is the favourite food source for the Com­mon Cop­per but­ter­fly lar­vae.

Tui now nest all year round in the gar­dens. “Land­care Re­search sur­veys have shown a mas­sive in­crease in Tui num­bers,” re­ports Gus. Na­tive plant­ing is sup­ported by strin­gent ac­tion against pest preda­tors - wild cats, mustelids, rats, mag­pies and pos­sums - as well as en­vi­ron­men­tal weeds.

Gar­den es­capees cause ma­jor prob­lems in pock­ets of na­tive bush within a city en­vi­ron­ment. Gus is proud to re­port that huge strides have been made in this area, most no­tably via the in­creased use of com­post mulch, which is all made on site from gar­den waste. Hamilton Gar­dens pro­duces be­tween 700 and 800 cu­bic me­tres of mulch each year. “The qual­ity of our com­post is guar­an­teed, be­cause we know ex­actly what is go­ing into it,” he ex­plains. The use of thick mulch has sig­nif­i­cantly re­duced the need for weed sprays.

In an­other project to tackle weeds Hamilton Gar­dens has teamed up with Waikato Re­gional Coun­cil and Land­care Re­search to trial the three species of bee­tles that feed on Trades­cantia (aka wan­der­ing wil­lie).

Tak­ing care of na­ture in cities en­hances hu­man well-be­ing and bio­di­ver­sity.

The hope is that plant­ings of the na­tive ground­cover, paratani­wha (Elatostema) will one day out num­ber this ma­jor in­vader of the na­tive for­est floor.


Gus reck­ons that the stu­dents of Win­tec have “the best class­room go­ing” with the hor­ti­cul­ture school lo­cated inside Hamilton Gar­dens right next to the huge Vic­to­rian vegetable gar­den and per­ma­cul­ture gar­den. Stu­dents get to buddy up with Hamilton Gar­dens’ staff whose pas­sion for gar­den­ing can be in­fec­tious.

Hamilton Gar­dens is also a well used re­source for lo­cal school chil­dren, who visit the gar­dens for hands on lessons with staff. The broad scope of Hamilton Gar­dens is such that school visit top­ics ex­tend be­yond gar­den­ing to arts, cul­ture and sci­ences. Chil­dren love the chick­ens in the sus­tain­able vegetable gar­den while their par­ents find in­spi­ra­tion and take home ideas for their own back­yard.


As well as ex­plor­ing the gar­dens of the world, vis­i­tors can trip back in time to pre-Euro­pean Waikato. The strik­ing Te Para­para Gar­den, a joint project be­tween Nga Mana Toopu and Hamilton City Coun­cil, show­cases how food was grown and stored when the Waikato River was lined with many Māori gar­dens. The fo­cus of this gar­den is a tra­di­tional kumara patch with stun­ning sym­me­try. Each year in­vited mem­bers of the pub­lic get to en­joy a spe­cial kumara har­vest in the gar­den. Te Para­para was orig­i­nally the name of the pre-Euro­pean Māori set­tle­ment in what is now the cen­tre of Hamilton Gar­dens.


Gus says that be­cause Hamilton Gar­dens is not a botan­i­cal gar­den they are able to keep sig­nage to a min­i­mum so peo­ple can just re­lax and soak in the sur­round­ings. If you want to find some­thing out, such as the name of

a plant, there is al­ways a gar­dener to ask. His gar­den­ers are trained in cus­tomer ser­vice, and happy to chat. “Gar­den­ers love to talk about their gar­dens,” says Gus, adding that each dis­tinct gar­den has its own gar­dener, so there is a real sense of own­er­ship. “We all learn from each other, with lots of dif­fer­ent points of view within the team!”

Gus be­lieves that Hamilton Gar­dens fa­cil­i­tates learn­ing at a very ac­ces­si­ble, al­most sub­con­scious, level. For visit­ing tourists and lo­cals, and gar­den­ing staff too there is al­ways some­thing new to learn about the his­tory of gar­dens and about our re­la­tion­ship with plants in an easy re­laxed way.

Heuchera ‘Fire Alarm’ Heuchera ‘Ob­sid­ian’ Heuchera ‘Lime Mar­malade’ Heucherella ‘Stop­light’

TOP: Sil­ver­eye flock to lily of the val­ley shrubsABOVE: A grove of Nikau Palms on the Val­ley WalkLEFT: Clever de­sign is found in ev­ery part of Hamilton Gar­dens

Te Para­para Gar­den with Kumara mounds ready for plant­ing.

The large Kitchen Gar­den dou­bles as an out­door class­room for Win­tec’s hor­ti­cul­ture stu­dents.

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