Hamilton Gardens – Productive

The third collection to explore at Hamilton Gardens was the Productive Gardens, representing different aspects of the relationship between people and plants. The area that is now the centre of Hamilton Gardens was once a Māori settlement known as Te Parapara. The garden of the same name was once home to Haanui, a famous Ngati Wairere chief, and the site was particularly renowned for sacred rituals associated with the harvesting of food crops. Te Parapara Garden is divided into two sections. The first surrounds the path from the main piazza  and comprises wild food plants from the forest and grassland. This is separated from the cultivated garden by an intricately carved waharoa or gateway. The designs are based on ancient carvings from a house called Te Urutomokia, built for Potatau Te Wherowhero who became the first Māori King in 1858.

Beyond the gateway is an area for cultivated food plants, surrounded by a palisade fence with forty carved posts.

Six varieties of Kumara are grown in the garden and produce from the annual harvest is distributed to charities.

The path surrounding the fenced garden is edged with more food plants as well as beautifully adorned traditional Māori storehouses.

With the goal of producing enough to feed a family of four, the Sustainable Backyard Garden shows some of the ways in which the typical suburban backyard can be transformed into a productive and edible landscape.

There are some quirky sculptures to be found; a stone bench with some unusual inlays, a wild wiry scarecrow and a delightfully decorative adobe pizza oven.

Complete with hens, bees and a worm farm, the garden is managed and maintained by volunteers from the Hamilton Permaculture Trust.

The concept of herb gardens is a fairly recent one. In medieval times, all plants were believed to have medicinal value and all were referred to as a ‘herb’. It wasn’t until the 18th century that the word ‘vegetables’ was used to describe food plants and ‘herb’ was the name for practical plants. The Herb Garden at Hamilton follows the formula of early 20th century horticulturalist and garden designer, Gertrude Jekyll, with a framework of paving and four rectangular plots containing herbs defined by purpose – culinary, medicinal, cosmetic and perfume.

Like the herb garden, the adjacent Kitchen Garden is divided into four raised beds, though on a much larger scale.

The features are of a classic 18th/19th century garden used to supply the households of large European estates, with rows of crops mixed with displays of colourful flowers.

The walls of the garden not only create an atmosphere of mystery and security, they also hold the daytime heat. Research has shown that the amount of heat reflected close to a sunny brick wall can equal seven degrees latitude. As in northern Europe, the fruit trees are trained and espaliered against the wall, the result being that these fruits often ripen before others in the region.

There aren’t many gardens with a lovely bronze scarecrow. The Strawman was created by English sculptor, Lloyd le Blanc, and was installed in 2016.

All surplus produce from the Kitchen Garden is donated to Kaivolution, a local food rescue project that aims to stop edible food being thrown away. This is food, good enough to eat but not good enough to sell or is excess to producer requirements, that is diverted to those in need.

Mr. Pickles

After a wonderful morning meandering our way around Hamilton Gardens, we were ready for a spot of lunch. We asked the lovely ladies in the gift shop if they could recommend somewhere, preferably by the river. Without hesitation they suggested Mr. Pickles, a new establishment they hadn’t actually tried but had heard excellent reviews. Despite their detailed directions, we had to ask a couple of locals before finally finding it tucked away off the main thoroughfare.

The interior was light and airy

but on this beautiful day we dined alfresco

overlooking the Waikato River.

The tapas style meal was incredible and we complemented it with a glass of 2018 Seresin Pinot Gris from the Marlborough region.

The first dish, tantalisingly named Saucy Boys, combined fried squid with spring onion, peanuts & house made xo sauce.

Next came baked potato dumplings with crispy bacon, brown butter & chives and beef cheek croquettes with habanero mustard.

Grilled scotch fillet with roast capsicum & zucchini salsa and spiced sticky eggplant with sesame & ginger followed.

With little regard for our cholesterol levels, we couldn’t resist the duck fat crushed potato with parmesan & truffle salt.

Once sated, we wandered along the riverside

for a different perspective of Mr. Pickles

and the magnificent Waikato River.