Hamilton Gardens – Paradise

I am always on the lookout for beautiful gardens to visit on our travels and was very excited to discover Hamilton Gardens is only an hour drive from Matamata, perfect for a day trip. The world class gardens are situated alongside the Waikato River, an area that was once a thriving Maori settlement and home to Ngaati Wairere chief Haanui. Sadly, after European settlement, the land was used for other purposes including a rifle range, sand quarry, go-cart track and finally the city’s main rubbish dump. In the 1950s, the Hamilton Beautifying Society lobbied for a public garden and, with most development occurring since 1980, the gardens now occupy 54 hectares.

Passing by the Events Centre, we were drawn to a huge wood carving depicting real and imagined life in the gardens. The intricate carving was created from a single camphor laurel tree which grew on the river bank, far too big to capture in one photograph.

At Hamilton Gardens, the emphasis is on different types of garden design rather than plant collections, exploring the history, context and meaning of gardens. The individual gardens are presented in three separate themes – Paradise Gardens, Fantasy Gardens and Productive Gardens – too much to cover in one post so I will start with the Paradise Collection. Each garden radiates from a central court, in this case it is Cloud Court featuring statues of Egyptian gods Horus, the falcon-headed god of the sky and Sobek, the crocodilian ‘Lord of the Waters’.

We started in the Japanese Contemplation Garden, entering into a karesansui, or dry landscape garden, of the Muromachi era from the 14th to 16th century. Often called ‘Zen gardens’ because they are found in Zen temple complexes in Japan, these are designed for quiet contemplation and study.

Beyond the pavilion, a pool surrounded by Japanese Maple trees infuses a serenity felt by even the smallest inhabitants.

The traditional gardens of the Arts and Crafts period in the late 19th and early 20th centuries are the inspiration behind the English Flower Garden. Walls and hedges create a series of outdoor rooms, each with a different planting theme, that are linked by pathways terminating at an arbor, fountain or seat.  

It is easy to see why the gardens of this era are often referred to as ‘the gardens of a golden afternoon’.

The art of Chinese gardening dates back to the Han period, at least 2,000 years ago and this influential art form has been called the ‘mother of gardens’. The Chinese Scholars’ Garden represents a traditional Chinese garden from the Sung Dynasty, 10th to 12th century, when a social class of mandarins, scholars and the landed gentry created and maintained these distinctive gardens.

The winding path led to a blooming Wisteria bridge and would eventually reach a pavilion with views of the Waikato River.

Instead, we retraced our steps, past the giant bronze half turtle-half dragon, the Celestial Yuan of Taihu, symbolically protecting the garden from floods.

The 20th century brought the minimalist design of the Modernist Garden, particularly on the U.S. western seaboard and northern Europe in the 1930s. Elements such as swimming pools, barbecues and outdoor eating areas dominated with little ornamentation or formality. Not really my idea of a garden.

In stark contrast, the colourful Indian Char Bagh Garden was stunning. The symbolic four-quartered garden was designed for the Mughal aristocracy and spread throughout the Muslim world between the 8th and 18th centuries. The Mughal emperors, descendants of Genghis Khan, expanded their empire eastwards from Persia into northern India from the 13th century onwards. The design was adapted to local conditions but the basics of geometric layout and a focus on water and irrigation remained integral. In harsh climates, the subtle trickle of water combined with floral perfumes made for a sumptuous living Persian carpet.

Beyond the pavilion, some were making the most of this glorious day on the Waikato River.

We retreated through the decorative entranceway

and made our way to the Italian Renaissance Garden. Many of the elements of earlier Medieval gardens have been retained such as high surrounding walls, square beds and arched trellis work.

The Renaissance designers introduced a strong central axis linking different compartments of the garden and included antique sculptures. A perfect example is the copy of the original 5th century Capitoline wolf with Romulus and Remus, the founders of Rome who, as babies, were thrown into the Tiber River, which carried them to Platine where they were suckled by a she-wolf and then raised by a shepherd.

I could imagine enjoying a beverage on the vine covered terrace but there was much more to see.

spring has sprung

One of the best things about living in Tasmania is the four distinct seasons. As winter comes to an end, the stark beauty of the garden changes with the appearance of the first green shoots of spring bulbs.

The daffodils were culled last year and hundreds of bulbs were given to a friend to enjoy the splendour in her own garden. There were plenty left to put on an impressive show.

The delicate hyacinths briefly add colour to the rosemary hedge.

Iris Florentina never disappoints, they seem to appear in a new spot each year but I’m not sure I can bring myself to cull them.

Snowbells and Spanish bluebells commingle with the daffodils and irises

while the elegant arum lilies would monopolise the entire garden if not kept in check.

Blossoms are appearing on the fruit trees, hopefully the Roaring Forties won’t come too soon and blow them away, it would be nice to have some fruit this year.

The grevilleas are ready for the birds and bees

and the clivia are managing to withstand the wildlife.

New leaves on the Pieris are a wonderful shade of red, soon to turn green and await the pendulous white “Lily-of-the-Valley” flowers.

The Waratah is in full bloom

with the magnolia

and rhododendrons not far behind.

As the weather warms up, the garden will become an ever changing palette until winter slumber and the cycle will begin again.

Domain Wintergardens

Lunch time was approaching as we hopped off the Hop On Hop Off bus at Parnell. Auckland’s oldest suburb, dating back to 1841, is also one of New Zealand’s most affluent. Parnell Road is lined with enticing shops, galleries and cafes

1.Parnell Road

and after an explorative stroll we had worked up a thirst.

2.Non Solo Pizza

There were a few options of dining areas

but we decided to stay roadside and enjoy a pizza before joining the bus once again.

The Domain Wintergardens was our next stop, built in the early 1900s so that the gardens could be appreciated all year round.

9.Wintergardens

We passed under shady pergolas

and entered the central courtyard which separates the two Victorian style glasshouses.

12.courtyard

Each glasshouse contains distinctly different plants. The Cool House was built first in 1921, we started in the Tropical House which was added in the late 1920s.

13.tropical house

Heated to 28°C, lush tropical plants thrive. Above the enormous lily pads

carnivorous pitcher plants are suspended, awaiting their next meal.

Foliage, intricately designed by nature,

19.tropical house

mingles with spectacular flowers only the tropics can sustain.

Neoclassical marble statues were added to the courtyard in the 1930s

and beautiful water lilies float in the sunken pond.

The temperate climate of the unheated Cool House affords a magnificent display of flowering plants that change with the seasons.

51.cool house

Once again, the foliage is as colourful as the flowers.

Some are less vibrant but equally impressive

and a few edible varieties complement the mix.

We noticed the crowd multiply significantly in the time we were at the gardens, the reason became obvious as we stepped outside.

62.tourists

Acquapendente

The nearest town to Montepozzo was a pleasant 4km drive away. Acquapendente, in northern Lazio, sits right at the borders of Tuscany to the west and Umbria to the east. First settled by the Etruscans, then Romans, it was established in the Middle Ages as a village and monastery by the Benedictine order. The name means “falling water” because of its vicinity to numerous small waterfalls flowing into the river Paglia. Our exploration of the town started at the Cathedral of San Sepolcro.  As far as Italian cathedrals go, it wasn’t particularly impressive from the outside. Built between 890 and 968, it was originally the church of a former Benedictine monastery, became a Romanesque church in the 12th century and eventually made it to cathedral status in 1649. Apparently, the crypt contains a blood-stained stone from the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem.

1.Cattedrale del Santo Sepolcro

We crossed the road for a look in the tourist information centre and found a range of local products and interesting artefacts.

We continued down Via Roma

10.Via Roma

past the City Museum

11.Museo della Città

and ventured into the Church of Saints Anthony and Catherine. The 19th century façade was easy to miss but the detail inside was lovely.

12.Chiesa dei Santi Antonio e Caterina

There was no shortage of colour in the streets

16.houses

as we made our way to the Church of Saint Agostino. Yet another unassuming façade belied a fascinating interior. Founded in 1290 by the Augustinian convent, it was rebuilt in 1747 after being completely destroyed by fire a year earlier.

We passed the 19th century Boni Theatre

30.Teatro Boni

and around the corner, arrived at a beautiful piazza. The waters of Fonte del Rigombo flow from a natural spring, providing refreshment for both traveller and mount on their journey in medieval times. The fountain also became known as Mascheroni in the 19th century when the waters were framed architecturally with pilasters, cornices and grotesque masks around the water spouts.

31.Fonte del Rigombo

Cobblestoned side streets beckoned

36.Acquapendente

but we were on a mission as we reached Piazza Girolamo Fabrizio and the magnificent Town Hall.

37.Town Hall

Time for coffee & pastries,

38.pastries

the perfect setting to relax and watch the world go by.

Suitably replenished, we ambled further, enjoying the sights, sounds and sunshine.

66.strolling

Throughout our rambling, we had noticed huge portrait paintings that appeared randomly on walls where least expected. They are entries in the Street Art section of The Urban Vision Festival, a two day festival each July that began in 2015.

82.Urban Vision

Just past the hospital,

at the end of the town, we were rewarded with a spectacular vista across verdant countryside.

86.view87.view

resplendent roses

There is no better place to stop and smell the roses than Victoria State Rose Garden.

1.main entrance

Developed in stages from 1986 to 2001, over 5,000 rose bushes flourish in the 5 hectare garden and are all tended by volunteers. The main part of the garden is set out in the shape of a Tudor Rose, wide paths separate the five petals and a gazebo marks the centre.

2.gazebo

We wandered amongst the blooms, boggled by the variety and colours.

13.gazebo

Beyond the Tudor Rose, there is an area shaped as a leaf and one as a bud. The leaf celebrates horticultural achievements of Australian rose growers since 1900 and comprises 50 bushes especially bred for Australia’s sunny conditions.

The bud-shape highlights over 60 cultivars of David Austin roses.

22.roses

A 400 metre long Heritage Rose Border contains 250 types of old and species roses.

31.roses

The best time to see the roses is during the summer months but we weren’t disappointed with the splendour on offer in the middle of June.

32.rose garden