International Experience New Zealand Day 8 – Wellington Botanic Garden and Otari-Wilton’s Bush

It was a breezy and sunny morning as we made our way to the Wellington Cable Car Station to catch the ride to the Wellington Botanic Garden (WBG). David Sole, who has been the manager of the WBG for the past ten years, greeted us upon our arrival. WBG has a garden area of about 25 hectares and was established in 1868. It is funded by the City Council and attracts about one million visitors annually. A master tree plan consisting of about 1,800 trees has been in place since 2011, with 40% of the plan dedicated to regeneration of native plants. David explained that native plants would be replanted in place of any deceased exotic plants in order to promote the use of native plants.

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Though there are many themed gardens in WBG, the gardens are inter-connected to weave a seamless design and flow for the visitor experience and education. A new Children’s Garden with an area of about 1,500m2 is under-going development and is scheduled for opening in 2016. The in-house nursery was recently renovated in 2010 and the roofs of the greenhouses were modified to collect rainwater for irrigating the plants. There are free summer concerts six times a week during January to attract more visitors and a display of about 1,200 Begonias in the Begonia House adds to the attraction.

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Rewi Elliot, who has been the curator of Otari-Wilton’s Bush (OWB) since 2005, joined us after lunch. OWB has a natural bush area of about 100 hectares and is divided into two separate themes – the forest (or bush) and the garden. The forest was founded by Job Wilton, a farmer, who decided to protect the site and fence off seven hectares to preserve the native plants. Dr. Leonard Cockayne and J.G. McKenzie founded the garden in 1926 to restore and promote the growth of native plants. OWB is the single largest collection of native plants with over 1,200 species and cultivars growing in the garden. An 800-year old, healthy, Dacrydium cupressium can still be seen growing on the steep mountain across OWB. Before the end of the tour, David gave us his enlightening quote of the day – “At the end of the day, gardens are all about the people.”

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Blog by Felicia and Photos by Bryan

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