This year, the Sustainable Backyard of Hamilton Gardens, will be celebrating its 10 year anniversary. It is the longest established permaculture demonstration in a public garden, and the primary reason for my visit to New Zealand.
After working with the Hamilton Permaculture Trust and Hamilton Gardens for 2 months, there is much to share. Previous posts feature interviews and stories shared by people who have been inspired by the Sustainable Backyard, and upcoming posts will feature additional insights from historic and contemporary perspectives. However, for now I want to introduce the Sustainable Backyard from the perspective of a first time visitor. Because the topic warrants multiple blog posts, this one will be devoted to the experience of getting to the Sustainable Backyard once you’ve arrived at Hamilton Gardens. (If you want the short version, skip to the slideshow below.)
First, if you are visiting Hamilton Gardens, you’ll want to stop at the visitor’s center and pick up a map for good measure. If left to your own devices, you may wander through the bulk of the garden and miss it completely. This is largely due to the current construction that has resulted in the removal of some key way-finding signage, however not entirely. The Sustainable Backyard is tucked at the back of Hamilton Gardens and at the back of the Productive Collection to which it belongs (which also includes an herb garden, time court and kitchen garden).
Once you leave the visitor’s center you will pass through the piazza with fountain and curve through and around the recently opened Te Parapara garden, which is the first traditional Maori garden in existence. (I had the fortune to meet with Wiremu, the chief coordinator of the Te Parapara garden, which is entirely based on his Maori ancestor’s cultural traditions, and was pleased to be able to assist in the planting of the kumara (sweet potato) crop. However, I will save details for a future post.)
On the perimeter fence of the Te Parapara garden, the visitor has the benefit of a small placard with arrows pointing toward the remainder of the productive gardens. It’s a comfort at this point to know you are heading in the right direction. Next, walk through an archway. This is where the tricky part begins. You will arrive in the time courtyard, with a beautiful and extremely complex sundial, with 6 doorways to choose from (well only two, as four are blocked off during construction). Take your pick, and if you pick the one on the left, you will pass the perfume garden on the right and a spanse of land under development on the left. (If you choose the other open door, you will wind your way through the herb garden and kitchen garden, and if you show fortitude and persistence, you will spot an unmarked door (and hopefully it will be open) at the back of the kitchen garden, through which you will wander directly into the Sustainable Backyard.)
Continue along the path past the hedge. When you arrive at the lawn court on the left, (which had the sign warning visitors of chemical sprays the entire duration of my 2 months there), you will see an archway before you, and you will know you have arrived. Congratulations! You made it to the Sustainable Backyard!
And though your efforts, dear reader, will not be rewarded today, your efforts as a visitor most certainly would be. (Check back shortly for your reward of a virtual tour of the Sustainable Backyard!)