A garden is a living work of art if it is carefully designed and maintained.

Some of the finest gardens in the world are found in New Zealand.

In this blog, I will take you to four of the top gardens in the country. Each has been recognized for its beauty, landscaping and plant varieties. Even if you’re not a gardener, I’m confident you’ll find what follows of casual interest.

In a world where living space in many cities is becoming smaller, having a garden is nothing more than a dream. Many people have no access to one and have never experienced the special magic that can be found in any decent sized garden.


Arylies Pond

Located close to Auckland, Ayrlies has been ranked a garden of International Significance by the New Zealand Gardens Trust. This top ranking is awarded to gardens that achieve and maintain the highest standards in presentation, plant varieties and design. Arylies recently featured in America’s Wall Street Journal in a feature article calling it a place that ranks among the finest in the world. “The lush garden along the idyllic coast of New Zealand, Ayrlies, reflects a half-century of taming the landscape with an impeccable eye – and more than a touch of savage beauty.”


Bev McConnell, started to create the garden in 1964 from a 1.2 hectare bare paddock of heavy coastal clay, not the ideal base to establish plants. In 1980, Bev expanded her garden to 4.8 hectares by adding three large ponds with further expansion in 2000 when 14 hectares of swamp flats were transformed into a wetland area with a lake. The area also joins the waters of the Hauraki Gulf . Bev has planted 15.000 native seedlings to provide a habitat for the many wading birds that are found in that part of the coast.

Ayrlies Garden

With 50 years of growth, the plants and trees have become well established and provide the magnificent nooks and crannies that have made the garden so popular with day trippers. Bev has told various reporters over the years that  good gardeners have to use their eyes. They have to be like artists as they carefully observe the play of light on leaves and blooms at various times of the day. Because Bev is aware that green is a relaxing colour, she has made sure there is plenty of it at Arylies.

The planted garden now covers 4 hectares (12 acres) of rolling terrain, with large, gently sloping lawns, water lily ponds and sparkling little waterfalls. Informal borders combine plant textures with colour as they flow into each other. There are areas with roses, clematis and perennials while others contain lush, sub-tropical plants, such as Petrea, Alocasia, bromeliads, rhododendrons and Ficus dammaropsis. The garden also includes many large trees which add a dramatic backdrop to the whole place.

“Your garden becomes part of you. I never take it for granted. I love the peace here and there’s nowhere else I would want to be. I love the creativeness of putting plants together.” Bev McConnell.

Have an amble around Ayrlies Garden in this short video:


The second garden on this blog tour is located on the Otago Peninsula and is just a few minutes drive from the centre of Dunedin, the South Island’s second largest city. Established way back in 1871, Glenfalloch, meaning “hidden valley” in Gaelic, is New Zealand’s oldest garden.


This popular woodland retreat is nestled in a sheltered part of Otago Peninsula and borders the road to the internationally famous Royal Albatross Colony at Taiaroa Head. Spread over 12 hectares (30 acres), Glenfalloch is noted for the rhododendrons, magnolias, fuchsias and flowering cherries that flower in dramatic profusion over the spring and summer months. In autumn, the leaves on the Japanese maples turn spectacular reds and yellows and contract beautifully with white hydrangeas. Adding to the flora splendour, elms, ashes, walnuts, horse chestnuts, birches and English beeches thrive all around Glenfalloch. The stream that gently flows through the gardens is bordered by bluebells and primroses, giving the whole place the look of a garden in a child’s storybook.  A variety of birds flutter about in the trees. while doves coo and peacocks wander around,  often spreading their tails to delight the visitors.

Another noted attraction at Glenfalloch is a 1000 year old Matai tree. This ancient tree is the third oldest in New Zealand, so it’s no surprise that this magnificent attraction is on the Notable Tree Register. I’ve been to Glenfalloch and have stood at the base of this towering tree and marveled at its majesty and size.

Built in 1872, the Glenfalloch Homestead is one of the most beautiful houses in the country. In the spring, the gently sloping lawn in front of the mansion turns a brilliant yellow when thousands of daffodils bloom. This spectacular display is often used as a backdrop for wedding photos because Glenfalloch is one of the South Island’s most popular urban locations for weddings.

Glenfalloch Homestead

The maker of this video used a drone to travel around Glenfalloch. It will give you an idea of the gardens, especially the second part of the clip:


Covering 52 hectares, Pukekura Park is a world renowned park in the west coast city of New Plymouth. This popular location has a diverse range of landscapes including many plant collections, exotic specimen trees, formal gardens, lakes, children’s play areas, a sports field and walking trails through native bush.

Pukekura Park

The park has an international Green Flag award and is also a garden of national significance. Guides are available to escort visitors on tours of some of the must- see plant specimens and the delightful hidden corners of the park.

Dating from 1884, the Poet’s Bridge is a local landmark. Nearby, a manmade waterfall cascades sparkling water into a beautiful lake. Glimpses of the perfect cone of Mt. Egmont/Taranaki, always draw cameras from pockets. The iconic volcano is just another eye catcher to be seen from Pukekura Park.

The Fernery and Display House is one of the most popular attractions in Pukekura Park. Opened in 1928, the fernery consists of 4 houses connected by stone tunnels.

House one is dedicated to the country’s greatest collection of native ferns. Houses two and three contain some of the most colourful indoor gardens in Australasia and the fourth house is home to an impressive collection of tropical plants. This complex of display houses is open all year round. However, although these attractions are popular, it’s the spectacular, multi award winning, summer Festival of Lights, that grabs the headlines. Well over 1000 lights are placed in the park and the colourful magic attracts over 100,000 visitors. There are also live acts and outdoor movies to add to the excitement.


In 2014, Hamilton Gardens was voted Garden of the Year at the International Garden Tourism Awards in Metz, France. The award is significant because it was given by an international jury of garden experts who praised the garden’s plantings, compartmentalised design, educational value and visual impact. They described the gardens as “visually spectacular and unique in the world”. Other accolades include the one from Lonely Planet when its Editor said Hamilton Gardens was “extravagant themed”.

Hamilton Gardens

Developed from a waste area, Hamilton Gardens opened in 1960 with major improvements in the 1980s. This garden complex is not classed as a botanical garden. Instead, its unique concept has been compared to a museum. The complex has 5 garden collections and a staggering 21 themed gardens. With the careful use of plants and structures, each garden tells the story of the arts, beliefs and life styles of specific civilizations. The Paradise Garden Collection illustrates the gardener’s desire to create paradise on Earth and features Chinese, Japanese, English, Italian, American (modernist) Indian and Ancient Egyptian cultures .

The 6 gardens in the Landscape Garden Collection focus on landscape garden traditions that have been inspired by different beliefs throughout history that are designed to express our relationship with the natural world.

The Productive Garden Collection is a group of 5 gardens that illustrate the relationship between people and productive plants. They include herb and kitchen plants and are designed to demonstrate how gardening can be understood from the perspective of Nature as well as of culture.

The Cultivar Garden Collection tells the story of plants that have been bred for the garden and the Fantasy Garden Collection consists of 9 plantings that illustrate the use of fantasy and imagination in garden design.

This is the best video I could find on the Hamilton Gardens. It will give you some idea although it’s a pity many of the shots are so fleeting.

I hope you found my garden tour interesting. Even if you’re not a gardener, the beauty and tranquility found in a garden are a tonic for the soul.

I’d appreciate your comments.

Ceidrik Heward

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