In the 1960s, Hamilton Gardens was a bleak city rubbish dump covered in blackberries with seagulls circling above. Remnants of the Gardens’ earlier history as a pre-European Pa, British military post, Victorian rifle-range and dog-dosing station lay scattered across the site. Four acres had been part of the Hamilton East Town Belt and was passed over to Hamilton City Council for the purposes of a public garden; an opening ceremony for Hamilton Gardens was held on 24th July 1960. The site now extends more than 54 hectares.
Today, more than 40 years later, these humble beginnings have been overshadowed by the development of the Gardens’ internationally unique concept: The History, Context and Meaning of Gardens. Hamilton Gardens is not a botanical garden. Instead, its concept acknowledges there is a story to tell about gardens, their development over time and across cultures, and their use. This concept was conceived in the early 1980s by Hamilton Gardens director Dr Peter Sergel and met with significant enthusiasm from city councillors. Some of its inspiration came from the Bundesgartenschau of Germany and other international garden shows, where many differing approaches to gardening and garden design are brought together on one site. The concept has also been compared to a museum, where each garden collection has historic integrity and provides a window into the story of civilisations, their arts, beliefs and lifestyles. More than 30 years later, Sergel’s sketchbook designs are almost identical to the themed gardens existing today.
Assistance from the community, and trusts formed to support specific garden developments, has been invaluable to the Gardens development.