George Glen

Served  1901 to 1918

George Glen became the Head Gardener in 1901. In 1904 he was made Superintendent of the Baths and Reserves Department, a position in which he was to remain until his retirement in 1918. The huge task of filling and developing the Anderson Park Gully as a Recreation Ground was carried out. Many of the earlier plantings of trees in the Main Garden were removed and the area was extensively replanted, including magnolias along the Bamboo Path. A ti tree arch spanned the entrance path in Hector’s Teaching Garden. The Teaching Garden, with parterre plantings dating from 1880, was retained until 1910, after which it was gradually replaced by a rose garden. This area is now the Sound Shell lawn.

Glen directed many changes and development of the Garden, most of which are still visible today. The changes were not always popular with the public, but overall changed the face of the Garden for the better. The significant ones are discussed below.

J G Glen family

Garden access

Cable Car area c 1901 - top
Cable Car and tea rooms c. 1911 - below

Local access to the Garden improved and at times posed a threat to the integrity of the Garden. The construction of the Cable Car and Tea Kiosk meant that the removal of trees growing  adjacent to the site was necessary. In 1907 the entrance from Mariri Road and the Mariri Road Lawn was formed, involving quite extensive tree felling and earth works. The basic structure of the landscape was left intact and has ultimately integrated with later developments in those parts of the Garden. More dangerous was a proposal in 1925 to connect Kelburn and Thorndon with a road that would have passed along the Glen. In 1929 another proposal linking Upland and Salamanca Roads along the ridge behind the observatories was also planned. This would have had an unfortunate impact on access to one of the most spectacular viewing points of the Garden and was also opposed by the Dominion Astronomer on the grounds that the function of the observatories would be adversely affected. Fortunately the Crown as owner of the Observatory Reserve rejected this Council initiative.

At other times residents have had to push for the right to use this route called the Battery Road, between Kelburn and Salamanca Road. The problem came from the bylaw prohibiting entry to the Garden after dusk. In 1903 in order to prevent people coming into the Garden after closing time, Superintendent Glen was in favour of fencing in one of the two entrances through the Cable Car land, and providing the remaining one with a gate which could be closed each evening. He felt that "if something (was) not done in the matter the Gardens (would) soon be getting a bad character and respectable people (would) not care to visit them ". Respectable people, however, were all for retaining this right of way and lobbied the Council directly on the matter. While this was going on Glen changed his mind in 1904 and reported to the Town Clerk that closing access to the Battery Road would be inconvenient as it was "much used in the evenings by respectable people" . In August 1929 access was closed by the Cable Car Company, because it had been sued by someone injured while crossing the Cable Car tracks. For some months access to the Garden was from Rawhiti Terrace and thence up the bank to the Scout House. As a result of this the Council explored the possibility of alternative access routes into the Garden, one of which was the road referred to above. An alternative was not finally provided until 1934 when the Council formed the path into the Garden which runs from Upland Road behind the machinery building, and the Cable Car Company paid for a pedestrian path across its property available for use at all times.

Loiterers with evil intent

Glen's concern for the reputation of the Garden among 'respectable people' came from the perennial problem of 'loiterers with evil intent.' The observatory area and the northern paths through the scrub down to Tinakori Road were dangerous during the day let alone at night. There were also the more humdrum problems of vandalism and keeping the public out of plantations and off grass verges. In 1893 the Reserves Committee recommended that the Custodian and his assistant be appointed as special constables. This was not the first time that this had been suggested, and under the Botanic Garden Board in the 1870s, Bramley, as well as being Head Gardener was also special constable. It was because it was impossible for him to execute these dual functions adequately that the Board installed a resident policeman in 1880.

By the 1890's even with a resident policeman, it was impossible for a small staff to supervise such a large area, much of it covered in forest and scrub. Because of this in 1894 the Council requested the Inspector of Police to place a constable on duty in uniform in the Garden during the daytime. In view of this persistent need the Council's action in dismissing the resident policeman in 1898 and handing his cottage over to the Custodian's assistant is surprising. It must have been some benefit even greater than the maintenance of law and order, such as avoiding spending money, that persuaded them to do this. There is plenty of evidence that they lived to regret their action.

Children's Play Area

Children's Playground 1936

There are many parts of the Garden that children have used probably ever since the first houses were built in the Thorndon area in the 1850's and 1860's. Forts among the pines on the Glenmore hills and in the bush below the Weather Office where common up to the 1980's. Once there were more streams to dam and they were rich in fresh water crayfish. Many of these streams are now piped, and water run-off and effluent from the miles of surrounding city roads have put paid to the crayfish.

During the dry summers of the 1960's sliding down the grass banks around the Rose Garden and Salamanca Road lawns on sheets of cardboard left tracks of bare earth which niggled the horticultural sensitivities of the staff. With the craze for skate boarding the sealed roadways in the Garden were wonderful places to develop and practice the skills of this sport. Today grass skaters use the lawns above the Rose Garden and the fountain pools are not wasted as swimming holes during the summer.

 One of Glen's first installations was the Children's Play Area authorised in 1904, and built in 1905. In June it was in working order except for the provision of drinking water. Glen requested that this be laid on "as it was needed especially during the summer months for picnic parties and children playing. There was no drinking water available except from a dirty creek." The Engineer's Department supplied the new playground with four swings, two horizontal bars and two seasaws. The space in which these stood was much smaller than that provided today. This came to be enlarged after 1968 as a result of clearances made possible by the Wahine Storm. Though there are a greater variety of things to play on, the character of what is offered now is much the same as in 1905 although the provision of flush toilet provides a superior service today. A rest room for women was built in the 1920's or early 1930's, but this was only provided with chemical toilets in 1948. These served the Play Area until the present facilities were built in 1966.

Public toilets

The provision of public toilets did not occur until 1905. In March Glen reported "that conveniences for ladies were urgently needed . . . owing to the large number of visitors who frequent (the Garden) now". Because of the expense involved in connecting the proposed "conveniences with the sewerage system, the City Engineer advised "that two earth closets be erected back from one of the main footways in such a possitsion that they would be effectively screened from public view. Men were not provided with pub lic toilets until 1915.   Brick conveniences were built at a cost of £144 0 0. situated by the Lower Yard which would have been strategically placed in relation to the Band Rotunda nearby. This lack must have caused many regrettable infringements of the bylaw against entering the plantations and undermined a proper respect for the law. By 1915 the gardener's had also been provided with flush toilets as work on the new stables and mess room started in late 1914. New toilets were built again in 1929, the brick restroom and toilet on the Main Drive, a considerable improvement on the old wooden building that it replaced. During the same year building was also in progress on the new street frontage following the widening of Tinakori Road. including the wall and waiting shed north of the Main Gates including the public toilet at the entrance to Anderson Park. Toilets -were eventually provided wherever large numbers of people went. Today the Rose Garden, Begonia House, Tea House, and Dell Lawn are the most popular focal points of the Garden.

Tea Kiosk

margin:20px;font-family:"Courier New", Tahoma, Verdana, Arial; font-size: 13px; color: #000066; } a:link { color: #8a3e00; } a:visited { color: #8a3e00; } a:hover { color: #cf7b05; } .txt {font-size:13px;margin:0px} .txt2 {font-size:13px} In the summer of 1905 the popularity of the Garden was noted by a lady approached the Council with a proposition. "She was struck with the large number of visitors and the entire absence of provision in the way of a Tea Kiosk, cordial, hot water, and solid refreshments tor visitors. She suggests that it might suit your Council to erect suitable accommodation for such a business inside the Garden gates. Should this be the case, Mrs Gibbins would be prepared to lease the same , binding herself to provide a fresh daily supply of refreshments solid and liquid and (of a) temperance nature, including hot water if desired and would run the shop in a respectable practical and up to date manner “ In the light of the absence of a sewerage system, this did not suit the Council, which probably felt that this need was adequately provided for by the Skyline Kiosk and shops in Tinakori Road. Cups of tea should not be the first purpose of a Botanic Garden. Even as a pleasure ground people should come to see the plants and be informed. Glen recommended that in keeping with the educational nature of horticulture and botany information should be provided.

Plant labels

Glen's report of November 1904 suggested "that now we are getting the Botanical Gardens into a little better order it would be a good time to get a better class of plant label. I consider it would be more interesting to the visitors ". The Reserves Committee gave Glen their permission to buy ten pounds worth of new labels.

Anderson Park when completed c 1910

Anderson Park (foreground) and gully before filled in for rose garden

Anderson Park development

formation of  Anderson Park profoundly affected the appearance of the northern and north western parts of the Garden.

In the 1870's the Botanic Garden Board received permission from the Trustees of the cemetery reserves on which the Park now stands, to fence and plant these reserves. By the late 1880's this had resulted in an integrated landscape stretching from the present Peace Garden ridge, northwards down the valley to where it was crossed by the wall of the the Glenbervie Road embankment.; Plantations sprouted from the native forest along the valley and covered the western ridge above Tinakori Road.

In November 1906 development commenced with the removal of trees and clearing the valley in preparation to forming the new recreation ground. This operation was still in progress in December 1907 when The Evening Post reported Glen's description of a serious fire that occurred on the 16th.

"The irrepressible small boy was apparently responsible for a conflagration yesterday which at one stage  it was thought would result in serious damage to Wellington's most attractive resort, the Botanical Garden. The contractor who is engaged in clearing the timber and small scrub in the Sydney Street gully preparatory to the leveling operations has made excellent progress and there was an immense accumulation of inflammable material ready for firing. Just before lunch time yesterday it was noticed that a fire had been started at the bottom of the gully and before it could be extinguished the flames had spread to the large mass oi dry stuff lining the ridges on each side. In a very few minutes a tremendous blaze was in progress and seriously threatening not only the bush but the foreman's house which is situated on the crest overlooking the gully"

The report goes on to quote Glen as stating that it would "take years for the bush to recover. " In his report to the Town Clerk on the fire, Glen writes that "it started in the gully at the head of Sydney Street and passed through some acres of bush (chiefly manuka) along the eastern side of the gardens up to Botanical Road.  It has also damaged the appearance oi the native bush very much indeed ".

This fire demonstrated the difficulties of maintaining a thinly staffed forest reserve on the edge of a city.  Though the possibility of such damage was an unavoidable concomitant to public use, at least it was not supported by the community.  However, building the recreation ground was, and this caused so much physical and visual damage to the landscape that its scars have never been completly camouflaged By the summer of 1910 Anderson Park  Park was ready for use.  Instead of a long wooded valley, there was now a large dark gully ending abrujptly in the wall of fill making up the park.  It was not long before this gully became a rubbish tip, which was not cleared up until the early 1930s.  The blunt and amputated remains of the western ridge can still be seen today.

A children's play area was also established in part of Anderson Park in 1927 during the construction of that area as a recreation ground. Its exact location is uncertain as little information is available.   In 1934 it was removed/shifted back to the existing play area at the bottom of Grass Way which had been established in 1904. Shepherd and Cook (p. 243) comment on the duplication of slides at the play area after equipment was shifted from Anderson Park. 

Outdoor entertainment - Band Rotunda

Band Rotunda    built 1907, used to 1953. c 1926

During the 19th Century bands as well as tea kiosks became indissolubly linked with public places and popular outdoor entertainment. They flourished in Wellington at the time that the Botanic Garden was being developed as a public pleasure ground. Before the mid 1900's bands were not a regular feature of the Garden, but as better access began to provide guaranteed audiences, especially on Sundays, this changed.  Band concerts in the Botanic Garden followed the opening of the Skyline Tea Kiosk. Applications from the Wellington Garrison Band to perform in the Botanic Garden during the summer of 1904-05 were approved, and in October 1905 the Council gave permission to the Kelburn and Karori Tramway Company to hold a series of band concerts near the Battery Reserve over the summer. A Band Rotunda had been an item on the Council estimates for 1895, but only now, as a result of the new role of the Botanic Garden as a place of public entertainment, did Council move to provide this facility.  In 1907 the lawn at the entrance to the Glen and Glenmore tracks was selected as a site and an octagonal, wooden Band Rotunda built. This building remained in use until it was replaced by the present Sound Shell in 1953.

Rose Garden

"The Rosary" or first rose garden in what had cbeen called the Enclosed Garden .  1924

The old Rose Garden  was on the site of the Sound Shell Lawn. Its transformation from Hector's Teaching Garden of 1886 was a gradual process. Under the City Council it became "the Enclosed Garden." The original long rectangular beds were divided up by new paths running at angles to them. Seasonal formal bedding became a feature, though this was always mixed with other plants, many retained from the original plantings. Hector's cabbage trees and some of the other native trees stayed there for many years. One old lancewood, its wounds loaded with concrete, finally fell on the Sound Shell Lawn during the Wahine Storm in 1968. The development of the Enclosed Garden into a rose garden occurred during Glen's period in office 1901 to 1918. There is no direct record of roses being planted at any one time, only a gradual, increasing dominance until the Garden was ready for another name change. In April 1912, while reporting on someone breaking into the Enclosed Garden, Glen stated that they had "wandered about cutting roses and other good flowers, and had strewn them about."

By 1917, when the Australian Automatic Weighing Machine Co. applied for permission to place one of their machines in the Garden, it is evident from the plan supplied with the Town Clerk's letter of permission, that "the Enclosed Garden" was now called "The Rosary", and that it was still fenced. The transformation continued under MacKenzie, but as late as 1928 other plants were still being taken out.

"Some cabbage trees which stood in the middle of the rosery were removed . . . and a clump of rhododendrons shifted elsewhere, making room for several new beds and giving a finer and broader effect."

The rose beds were edged with box, remembered by those who had to weed them as being riddled with oxalis. Also bedding plants were used with the roses. In the summer of 1928 pansies and violas were the associated plants.

Garden Fete

Fete on Main Garden 1910

The one event held in the Garden before the First World War that drew on and used the whole potential of Wellington's new pleasure ground, occurred in March 1910. On the afternoon of Saturday the 12th a fete was held in the Garden for the purpose of raising money to build a swimming pool for the Boy's Institute. The worthiness of this cause moved to charitable enthusiasm many of the city's influential society ladies who organised themselves into committees and promoted the fete arousing an "extraordinary amount of interest" which resulted in a rush on tickets. The project was supported by the newspapers as well, which kept people informed about it through regular reports. Expectations were also high because of the "tremendous success" of a similar fete held earlier in the Christchurch gardens. The afternoon of March the 12th was a tremendous success in every way. The weather was brilliant. The Prime Minister, Sir Joseph Ward was out of Wellington, but telegrammed his "hearty wishes" for the success of the fete. His wife, Lady Ward and two other ladies played hostesses at the Mam Gates for the first hour welcoming some of the five thousand people who attended From three marquees afternoon teas were served to two thousand five hundred people in the first two hours . Three bands marched to the Garden accompanied by the cadets of the Boy's Institute and two hundred scouts. The bands provided music at the Play Area in conjunction with a Punch and Judy show for the children. Stalls in the Main Garden sold flowers, sweets, ice cream, cool drinks, and postcards which could be sent to absent friends from a special post office set up just for the occasion. From the Main Gates to the Thorndon Esplanade a train of nine motor cars gave people, especially children, an opportunity to experience a still relatively novel form of transport. Treasure hunts, lucky dips, and a concert were some of the other distractions that helped "part people from their rrtoney" and raise £400.0.0. for the Boy's Institute. By all accounts Wellington excelled and surprised itself. In retrospect it struck an Evening Post reporter that:

"The people's gardens should never be locked up against their owners for private gam, (but citizens would) suffer a small charge . . . for public or philanthropic causes . . . the gardens' might be used once or twice a year to raise funds to promote the beautifying of other portions of the people's estate. A fee . . . might help to buy some decent covering for the Cinderella of the Town Belt."

Sadly this event was to be a one-off affair. It was not until the 1950s that the building of the Sound Shell marked the beginning of the use of the Botanic Garden as a venue for public entertainment, on occasion approaching the scale and variety of the fete of 1910. The present Summer City programmes of subsidised holiday entertainment represent the climax of this trend. But before any of this was possible a lot of basic work had to be done reshaping parts of the land to provide for potential recreational developments.

Main Garden fence
By 1904 Glen had other things to think of besides the Botanic Garden. That year Council had decided to reorganise the management of the city's reserves which until then were the responsibility of the City Engineer. A separate reserves department was created with Glen as its new manager holding the title of Superintendent of Reserves. His new job took him out of the Botanic Garden for long periods

William Bramley Drive showing Glen's fences  (1912)

Comparison with Main Garden William Bramley Drive 2014

Before building the fence in 1904 Glen had begun to alter the grade of the Main Drive to give it an even fall from the bridge to the entrance. This eliminated a dip in the middle of the Drive which collected water and was often muddy, and ensured that the new fence would end up with a straight fence line. On September 9th the carpenters started to build the fence following the old grade so that the top had a corresponding drop in the centre. Reporting this 'blunder' Glen explained that “Having to start away early on Saturday morning for Karori Cemetery I left a message with the Custodian to inform the carpenters that they would require to alter their level to suit the new grade but they took no notice of the order only continued to work. May I suggest that the portion which has been erected may be lifted up so as to correspond with the main grade of the walk."

This fence is also illustrative of the barriers recorded as being characteristic of the Garden under Glen. At the time of MacKenzie' s retirement in 1947, the Evening Post reminisced that in Glen's day "the Gardens were fairly strewn with locked gates and barbed fences that kept visitors off every thing but a small area inside the main gates and a few paths." The concept of the horticultural zoo was adhered to by Glen in many of his renovations and the visitor viewed the seasonal features through lattice bars and the criss-cross of wire-netting.

It would be easy to emphasise these eccentric aspects of Glen's work in the Garden at the expense of his very great abilities as a practical gardener. The enclosure mentality in fact predates Glen's period of office, and reflects as much the attitudes of those who employed him as it does of Glen himself. During Glen's time, more of the Garden was opened up to general access, and he initiated most of the more popular seasonal events such as begonia and bedding displays, that the Garden is so well known for today.

Garden renovations

Glen's renovations within the Botanic Garden proved very popular, and from the early 1900's there began a thirty year period during which they were a favourite place of recreation and a Wellington showplace celebrated on countless postcards. Public interest in the process of transformation in the Main Garden is reflected in comprehensive articles like that from the Evening Post of September the 16th 1904. What the Garden had been is commented on one was once accustomed to recommend overseas visitors to take a stroll through the Gardens because if they loved solitude or cool shade in the summertime they would find it there. There was no money to spend on cultivation beyond the raising of occasional shrubberies, and the preservation of some specimens of English and other trees planted there in still earlier days.

Tram terminus outside main entrance, 1904   Shelter remains in use 

The article goes on to note the retreat of the pines from the Main Drive and the establishment of colourful bedding displays.  Schemes in the pipeline such as an alpine rockery and an artificial lake are mentioned.  This thirty year period lies between the extension of city transport to include the Botanic Garden, during an age of relative affluence, and the Great Depression.  After the Second World War, mass ownership of motorcars, and other social changes reduced the importance of the Botanic Garden as a recreational facility.  This was reflected in feature articles during Hutt's administration which were concerned with reporting developments within the Reserves Department as a whole, rather than concentrating on detailed accounts of horticultural events within the Botanic Garden.  These latter were practically reduced to biennial announcements of the flowering of the Magnolia campbellii and Tulip Sunday.

Not everybody viewed the changes begun by Glen with equanimity. The acquisition of the Botanic Garden by the City Council in 1891 involved much public debate about its proper function. What should a botanic garden be? Would not the Council devalue the reserve by turning it into a place of popular recreation7 This conflict was enshrined in the Vesting Act itself Clause six states as a proviso that the original thirteen acres of the Garden must "at all times hereafter be kept and maintained by the Corporation as and for the purposes of a
Botanic Garden." Glen's initial renovations roused controversy in the newspaper letter columns. This letter to the Editor of the New Zealand Times voiced attitudes that have been reiterated down the years.

"I am glad to see some interest being taken in the (so called) Botanical Gardens. A visitor entering from theTinakon Road main entrance, and seeing a residence in such a conspicuous position (this is the superintendent's residence) would naturally suppose that it was the entrance to a private garden as all the beautifying has been done immediately around it. If (he were then told) that he was in the Botanical Gardens (he) no doubt would express his astonishment at their being called such"

Bedding display 1919 in Sunken Garden

Later in the letter the writer fires this accusation at the Council....

"Some years ago attention was called to the destruction of the native vegetation (in the Botanic Garden), and the
spoiling of the more ornamental trees, but nothing has been done to check this, and apparently nothing will be done
so long as the Council submits to the dictation of those who now advise it

The voice of public disapproval at the wholesale dismantling of the established environment has always acted as a moderating influence on those who control the men who wield the axes. The letter concludes '

"Since the City Council has had charge of the Botanical Gardens (an undisclosed) amount of money has been spent
on them, and for what' A few ornamental flower beds When this reserve was under the control of the gentlemen (whom) the city has to thank for the gardens , and had those gentlemen the same lavish funds as have been recently provided, the gardens would have been what they were meant to be - Botanical Gardens "

Botanical science was never a reason given by the Wellington City Council for its interest in the Garden. It wanted to secure an asset for popular recreational use which it believed belonged to the public anyway. The development of ornamental horticulture in its view was simply improving the Garden by providing for this use.


Almost every aspect of the Main Garden and the horticultural service areas were renewed or modified by Glen. Money was plentiful, but only in relation to what had been available before. He was directed by a Council committee to whom he had to refer through the Town Clerk, every action and every item of expenditure, that fell outside his annual allocation which only covered the basic cost of running the Reserves. If the Reserves Committee approved, many items then had to go before Council for full approval before Glen could act on them. An example of what this could mean relates to the purchase of alpine plants from Mr Travers in 1913. Glen wrote his required letter to the Town Clerk in May asking for permission to purchase the plants.  The Town Clerk then sent a memo to the Reserves Committee, as well as a copy each, to three other people who were probably the Finance Committee.  These memos then had to be returned to the Town Clerk signed with indications consenting to the purchase,  Even then there was no immediate action on the matter,  This was only forthcoming when in September Mr Travers wrote that as he was on the point of leaving for the mountains of Nelson, he would be obliged if the Committee would decide whether they wanted the plants or not.  In reply the Town Clerk informed him that the Council at their last meeting had authorised the purchase/  This rigmarole surrounded the expenditure of £10, not a vast sum even then.  Though this process left behind a rich archive, it must often have left Glen gnashing his teeth with frustration.

When Directors replaced Council committees in the management of the Reserves after 1918, the need to refer to Council declined with the provision of more adequate allocations of money.  As a result, the period from 1918 to the present becomes more and more devoid of records relating to details of the day to day running of the Department.

Water supply

The changes in the Main Garden between 1901 and 1914 meant that services had to be improved and extended to maintain them.  With the increase in shrub borders and bedding displays a better water supply was needed to keep them going over the summer months.  Between 1900 and 1909, the water supply was extended, though in part this was done to provide taps and drinking fountains for people using the Garden.  In spite of these improvements, the position was still inadequate. In 1909 as Glen explained to the Town Clerk..."The Botanic Gardens and adjoining nursery is growing in extent every year, but the small water supply which is dealt out to us in periodical dribblets throughout the day is of little use towards keeping the grass green or the cultivated plants alive and growing. I may state that water is cut off before seven o clock am , and is not on again with any force until atter five o clock in the evening.  I am obliged to have two or three men back in the evenings to water"

As low water pressure was a problem for everyone living in the higher parts of the city, and because the daily needs of the Garden interfered with the supply to the local residents, the City Engineer recommended that a storage tank should be constructed for the needs of the Garden. This would fill during the night when demands on the water supply were low, and provide the Garden with a good water pressure during the day.  He recommended a 10,000 gallon tank which could be installed for the cost of £150.  Glen was still waiting for this in January 1912 when the Reserves Committee told him that the City Engineer was proceeding with the matter.  The solution was probably the old brick water tank built in the nursery, and in use at least until the late 1940s. Dribbling water supplies were still a characteristic of the Garden during the 1950's and 60's, though internal corrosion and the build up of sediment in old galvanised iron pipes were responsible this time. This problem was removed when copper piping was installed during the 1970's.


Stables - modern and 1925

The old lower nursery was closed in 1906 and the area opened to the public. As a result of this the Reserves Committee recommended "the removal of the stable and shed ... to a more suitable spot", but this was never carried out. The horses used in the Garden were housed here as before, and the tools were stored in the shed. There is no reference to a staff mess room but it is probable that the workers assembled here, and may have shared accommodation with the horses or the tools.

Part of the reason for the stable not being moved was to save money. The job with repairs to the tool shed was estimated to cost £40.0.0. Again there was difficulty finding an alternative site. Objections from adjoining residential areas played their part as well. In 1911 when the Council recommended that all these facilities be rebuilt, there was some discussion about siting the new stable somewhere opposite Glenmore Street. This was opposed as unsightly by the Northland Municipal Electors Association. For all these reasons the stables stayed where they were.

The directive in 1911 was that the City Engineer should prepare plans for a "stable, tool house, room for workmen, toilets etc" at an estimated cost of £500. As usual action on this matter was deferred for several years until things began to get desperate. In July 1914 Glen complained that the staff lavatory was in a bad condition "and should be replaced with a water supply (a flush toilet). The tool shed was also on its last legs: "the present hovel is absolutely rotten . . . (and) I am not able to keep any tools under present conditions. They are always disappearing. "  As a result of this, tenders for building the stables and messroom were called. That of Messrs French and Hampton was accepted, and they were authorised to start work in October. The resulting buildings are among the most successful in the Botanic Garden. Built in a version of the English Arts and Crafts style which was popular in Wellington at that time, they serve their intended purposes, and contribute to the character and quality of their setting. With the removal of the Fernery in 1972 they have become the focal point to any southerly view of the Sunken Garden. The Potting Shed at the Nursery must have been built at the same time, or soon after as it is identical in style and materials, except for the windows which are many paned, iron framed casements.

Batten House for ferns

In 1905  Director George Glenn recommended the erection of a 'lattice or batten house' for "the growing of palms, tree ferns, bamboos etc in tubs and pots" at a cost of twenty five pounds, although 4 years later he was still having it erected.  It was finally in use in 1911, and it was open to the public on Wednesday afternoons.   Erected with hardwood slats, these often loosened in the wind.  Eventually lined with punga logs from the 1939/40 Colonial exhibition from Rongotai to strengthen the structure, it remained in use until 1969 when it was demolished for safety reasons.  It was never as popular with the public as the begonia house or other features in the garden.

Pine clearance

Pinus radiata on Remembrance Ridge

After 1904 there was not another large scale clearance of pine plantations in the Main Garden until 1913. That year Glen wrote to the Town Clerk drawing attention "to the very unattractive and dirty appearance of the trees, shrubs and ground upon the eastern side of the principle entrance . . . " The area referred to is on the lower slopes of Druid Hill from the Main Gates to the rockery above the Sunken Garden. He suggested that some of the big pine trees be removed, and that the grounds in this area be generally improved. At first the Reserves Committee were not impressed with his recommendation but later they must have changed their minds.  They visited the Garden at the beginning of March to view the proposal and consider a course of action.  Glen recommended that the trees be cut back to a width of about a chain from the path, that the path be widened and the ground sown with grass and planted in shrubs. The Committee agreed to his proposals, and on March the 6th Council gave permission for the work to go ahead starting from the point farthest from the Main Gates.  Today the line of Pines  above the Main Gates and Sound Shell mark the extent of this clearance. Most of the trees and shrubs planted by Glen were removed in the late 1970s and early 1980s to make way for an extension of the present Dwarf Conifer Garden

This clearance stopped at the Main Gates.  Pines still grew along the Tinakon Road frontage to the entrance of Anderson Park.  In 1915 the Northland District Municipal Electors Association wrote a letter to the Council on this matter.  They wanted to see these pines removed from the lower slopes above Tinakori Road, which could then be terraced, grassed, and planted with small trees and native shrubs.  Nothing came of this suggestion until 1919, when J G MacKenzie made it his first major work done in the Botanic Garden.



Rockeries formed a part of Glen's plans for the Main Garden right from the beginning of his remodelling work.  The building of an alpine garden was reported as being projected in 1904 "the nucleus of which has been laid down ".   The first record of a rock garden being constructed occurs in 1912.  In October Glen wanted to get rocks from Island Bay "to extend the alpine garden at the Botanic Gardens". This was situated opposite the Band Rotunda on the point where the Glen and the Glenmore Tracks meet.  The rockwork is still there today, though the situation is no longer suitable for growing alpine plants.  These rockeries were not structural masterpieces, but they were furnished with lavish collections of plants.  In relation to the extension of the alpine garden in 1912, the Council, on Glen's advice, bought 1,000 native alpine plants from Mr H H Travers for the sum of £10.   In 1914 another £10 was spent on 285 alpine and sub alpine plants from the same source. Evidence that European alpine seed was brought in comes from letters referring to the seed order from Barr and Sons for 1910. Usually items are indicated by catalogue numbers only, except on odd occasions when something could not be supplied, or would be arriving later. Three plants mentioned that year in this connection are Dianthus alpinus, Dianthus caesius, and Androsace villosa. The work of building rock gardens in the Main Garden was continued by MacKenzie. One of these is beside the Top Drive above the Sunken Garden. Another is on the slopes above the tool sheds and Mess Room. Most of this work was done during the 1920s and early 1930s before the full effect of the slump slowed things down. That they had become a conspicuous feature of the Garden by 1930 is recorded by the "Dominion" that year. A long article on the Garden included a section on the rockeries, which were described as being "full of colour."

" Aubretias cling in vivid mats of purple and lavender, Alyssum saxatile is a golden glow, and Alyssum compactum snows the base of the rocks. Viola gracilis . . . thrives exceedingly in these warm places. One of the most beautiful . . . flowering shrubs among the rocks is Grevillea alpina . . . Amongst the heaths that show up well is Vinnix coccinea. Primula malacoides is everywhere. Perhaps the most assertive of the rock plants is Inopsidium. Mesembrianthemums, variegated and otherwise, enliven the . . . rockeries. "

There is no mention of native alpines in the article, and quite apart from their not competing for attention as far as colour is concerned, Glen's original rock garden by the Band Rotunda could already have become the victim of encroaching shade trees. Again Otari Native Plant Museum had been established in 1927 and it seems logical to have moved this branch of alpine rock gardening out of the Botanic Garden altogether.

Since the 1930's, after Glen's time,  two other rock gardens have been built. In the early 1960's the first part of that along the Tinakori Road frontage was laid out. This was extended in 1968, and from the early 1970's onwards was planted with dwarf conifers. The second one is the succulent rockery and this was built in 1972 with money donated by the Denton Trust. These rockeries form a distinct species of intensive horticultural activity within the Botanic Garden. They occupy steep clay slopes facing the hot afternoon sun. The rocks are founded in the clay and in these circumstances the pockets of soil operate like an elaborate sort of pot culture, very subject to leaching and drying out. For them to be successful as venues for alpine and herbaceous rock plants, they need regular renovation and soil changes which is labour intensive and expensive. For this reason larger tougher shrubs and dwarf trees are more typical features of the rock gardens today. Even so, with time, and the presence of interested staff members, they go through revivals periodically as alpine and herbaceous rockeries.


Begonia House 1936 and 1944

The exact date of the erection  of the first begonia house in the area of the present nursery is not known, but in 1898 it is recorded that a sum of £10 was approved for the provision of gdlass for a glasshouse.  In 1904 a further glasshouse was erected. Used primarily for the raising of cuttings and seeds, but begonia house exhibitions did not occur until after this date.  Further glasshouses were constructed, but the first reference to Glan's begonia collection did not occur until 1913.  The comment is recorded (James Stirling)   that George Glen had the finest collection of begonias in the Southern Hemisphere.  Every year he purchased £5 of seed from the North England nursery of Blackmore and Langdon. The comment is also made that Glen had a magnificent collection of pentstemons propagated from cuttings each year.

Despite this, the  collection  of seasonal begonias were only on display to the public on Sundays and Wednesdays from 2 to 4 pm.  Newspaper reports raised concern about the limited public viewing, and the glasshouse was opened also on Saturdays.

The original begonia house was very small with only one door. and the public had to pass in single file through the glasshouse.  The house was, however, extended in 1915, and again in 1922.  It is noted that "the need for an adequate show house in the garden has been stressed in season and out of season by the Director of Parks and Reserves, so much so that the Begonia House item of the estimates proposals became looked upon as something to be cut our as a regular thing."  The Council did no deny the Begonia Hose was one of the real features of the Garden - if it had, any number of people would have been prepared to argue it out - but simply said the money could not be spared, and there it was!

Right up to the erection of the new Begonia House in 1961 the glass houses were used for propagating during the winter and  as a display house for the tuberous begonias, gloxinias and streptocarpus from September to Easter.  When that season had finished staff had to remove the benches and display pieces to prepare the building for propagating plants for the spring plantings.

The directors, keepers, managers, curators of the garden in order of appointment
Their titles have changed over the years