We woke up to a brief glimpse of sunlight before the fog decided to obscure our view of the harbor. Preparing for a rainy day, we drove down the castle hill, and to our delight, the town below was dry and cool.
After strolling through the ornate Chinese gate, Malcolm Wong, Chair of the Garden Trust, greeted us and showed us around the Dunedin Chinese Garden. Because of the architectural and landscape elements found in a traditional Chinese garden, we learned a lot about Chinese history and culture as well as their auspicious gardening style, which was new to most of us.
The garden is modeled after the understated elegance of a scholar’s garden from the 1600s, between the Ming and Ching dynasties. Every piece of every element- brick, wood, stone, water, and plants- was installed with purpose. The concept of opposites pervades, such as mountain vs. water, and movement vs. stillness. It is a small garden, but feels large due to the winding paths and contemplative landscapes.
We then went on to the Dunedin Botanic Garden (DBG), the entrance of which is at the center of the steep, sloping lower garden.
The colorful Mediterranean, xeric, and succulent plants are welcoming bursts of color among the terraced rocks. After lunch in the cafe, we met with the knowledgeable Barbara McConnell, a former international intern at Longwood Gardens, who now oversees operations at DBG. She was joined by Alan Matchett, Director of DBG, and Tom Myers, Botanical Services Officer.
We then walked up the hill to the upper garden, through the geographical collections which included plants from South Africa, Mexico, and North America. Also in the upper garden was an aviary, which houses many birds, one of which is the colorful golden pheasant.
Throughout our entire trip, probably the most valuable item has been conversation with the directors, curators, and other administrators in the gardens. Their willingness to share and openness into the inner workings of New Zealand gardens has been tremendous in our education.
Blog by Sara Helm Wallace, photos by Felicia Chua