Explore the Gardens
The original Homestead and additional uniquely designed architectural features of conservatories, lookouts, BBQs, walls and buildings, many designed by landscape architect Tony Jackman and featuring bricks from two demolished Wanganui picture theatres, provide a unique heritage attraction to the Gardens. The 1900s Bason Homestead, with little alteration, has until recently been in use as a home for the Custodian and his family.
Strategically placed architectural structures and sculptures provide interest and balance to the prolific plantings. The brick Conservatory Complex reflects the Bason heritage of brickmaking and Stanley's requested tribute to his wife Blanche. Swirling brick BBQ's take this feature to other areas of the Garden. More recent metal sculptures at the top and base of the Millennium Hill Lookout, the Homestead Entrance Archway and the light and airy pair of BBQs below add a more modern touch to the landscape design.
The Gardens are, for descriptive purposes, divided into six main areas, the:
- Exotic Conifer Arboretum,
- Dress Circle,
- Millennium Hill,
- Native Bush and Wetlands,
- Lakeside Flats
- Woodlands area.
Exotic Conifer Arboretum
The Exotic Conifer Arboretum lines the main road boundary of the Gardens. Its Norfolk Pines, which like the James Cook Pine is not actually a pine, greet visitors at the main gate and feature in the BBG logo. Also featuring are Arauceria araucana (Monkey Puzzle tree) and Araucena columnaris (Captain Cook's Pine).
The Dress Circle features the sheltered Homestead and English Garden, Blanche Bason Conservatory Complex (of Orchid, Begonia and Tropical Houses) and the mainly subtropical garden featuring palms, aloes and Canary Island Dragon tree, surrounding the conservatories. The tulip beds under the pergola leading to the Conservatory Complex and the circular Iris bed give a most spectacular display in spring. To the right of the pergola is a Jubaea chilensis (Chilean Coconut Palm), which is renown for having the largest diameter palm trunk This specimen is only ten years old (in 2005) and the beginnings of the trunk will not be seen for about another ten years. The sheltered Homestead English Garden, a popular wedding spot, also includes a Herb Garden featuring medicinal, culinary and scented herbs and a very extensive Succulent Garden, a speciality of the BBGT Patron Vonnie Cave. The Succulent Garden is a wonderful place to sit and view the lakeside areas below. Stanley Bason's favourite flower, Haemanthus coccineus, (Blood Lily or Elephant Ear) can also be seen in this garden. Blanche's 150 plus roses are one of the few features which no longer exist but the delphiniums in December are breathtaking. On a clear day the Homestead fence 'window' frames Mt Egmont/Taranaki in the distance.
The conservatories' subtropical garden leads on through the Scented Friendship Garden to the top of the Millennium Hill. This area was fenced for deer until its first developments in 2000. It is now under development as an area of Mediterranean, Sth African, Asian and Australian plantings well suited to its east facing escarpments. They include the Brachychiton ruprestris (Queensland Bottle Tree) Gordonia axillaris and the Phellodendron amurense, (Amur Cork Tree) with their tactile bark provide a cool area to sit in summer and view the vistas of stunning Echium, Echinacea, Eryngium, Aloe bainsii and Aeonium suratica.
Native Bush and Wetlands
The Native Bush and Wetlands area stretches the length of the eastern boundary from the Fern House at the rear, past the Kowhai Bank, through the cool bush plantings of large trees like Rimu and Kauri under-planted with colonising shrubs, over the bridge built by Australian soldiers, through the fascinating wetlands with the bright green tufts of Carex looking like a pond of green wigs, along the boardwalk near the Pukateas and swamp loving Taxodium mucencartum, one of the rare deciduous conifers, and up the hill past the Rotary Gazebo, Eucalypts, undercarpeted with bluebells in Spring, to the NZ Native Tree arboretum. A cool walk and a popular place to 'watch and listen' for birdlife.
The Lakeside Flats and Alexander Terraces are a popular area for picnics and recreation and this greensward beside the lake is offset by many exotic trees and conifers which provide shade in summer and breathtaking colour in autumn. Unique BBQ features and seating are dotted around the area. The Rotary lookout gazebo provides shade and views to watch the participants playing Frisbee/Disc Golf.
The Woodlands at the rear of the Gardens, dip and dive over the hills and provide pockets of colour and surprise and many trails to ramble. The Daffodil Hill in spring is a mass of gold best viewed from the Dovey gazebo lookout or from a prunus lined walk from the Fern House at the rear of the Gardens, The Camellia Grove shows many varieties and species and, unlike many camellia gardens is planted in species beds. The Californian Pinuscoulteri , which have the biggest cone of all the pines, weighing about 1-2kg, overlook the lake and picnic area. The very tall and narrow Picea omorika (Serbian Spruce) resembling a church spire, are beautiful and rare specimen which grow well in this climate. At the edge of the Woodlands the Rhododendron and Azalea Walk is a short and colourful place in October. The Harry Cave Kowhai Bank was replanted in 2005 with plant specimen which better tolerate the dry conditions and which attract nectar loving birds.