Wellington Botanic Garden
Dates Of Note


1839........ Directors of the New Zealand Company make provision for a Town Belt during the planning and establishment of Wellington.
1840........Main Garden area of 13 acres shown on early city plan.
1844........ Land for Botanic Garden (12 acres, 1 rood, 19 perches) appropriated from the land set aside for Public Reserves part of the Town Belt Reserve vested in the Crown)
1848........ Crown grant of land to the New Zealand Company did not include the Botanic Garden that remained with the Crown.
The map attached to the Grant clearly shows location of the Garden, the first map to specifically show this.
1865........Government authorises the Superintendent to purchase adjacent Wesleyan Reserve land as a recreation park.
1867........ Dr. James Hector, Government consultant on all matters of scientific interest asked by the Government to examine the botanic reserve.
Wesleyan Reserve land recorded as still covered with native forest in a "tolerable state of preservation" unlike. the Botanic Garden Reserve which had virtually been cleared of native forest by this time.
1868........ Reserve declared a Government Domain.
Superintendent appoints Dr. James Hector as Manager of the Garden.
1869........Alfred Ludlam, Member of the House of Representatives introduces the 'Botanic Garden Bill' to Parliament. The act is passed and the Botanic Garden is entrusted to the Governors of New Zealand Institute, the forerunner of the present Royal Society of New Zealand. Under the name of the Botanic Garden Board, the New Zealand Institute Governors administer the Garden. James Hector, Manager for both Boards.
The Act provides for use of the Garden for acclimatisation purposes. This causes problems.
Hector's position as Director of the New Zealand Geological Survey and the Colonial Museum means that the work in the Garden is closely related to these institutions as well as to the direction of the Botanic Garden Board.
During the period of administration by the New Zealand Institute the Garden were to meet three identifiable but overlapping needs.

1. For Government - a trial ground examining the economic potential of plants, particularly forestry species.
2. For scientists - a garden for the study and collection of indigenous flora and establishment of exotic plants.
3. For the public - a place .of recreation and enjoyment.

Amongst the first Monterey Pines brought into NZ are these in the Botanic Garden dating from seed imported in 1869. Alfred Ludlam, who was involved with the garden from the earliest days, is recorded as having had Pinus radiata in his possession from around 1865. Plants may well have been planted in the Garden from around that time, although documentary evidence for this is not available. Certainly records show (P. radiata, as P. insignis) were field planted in June 1871 (24, plus 48 shortly after) with seed regularly purchased from 1870. From 1871 to 1872 361 P. radiata were planted.
The Acland family at Mount Peel Station had made the first NZ introduction of British seedlings in 1859 in Canterbury only some 30 years after its discovery by European collectors in 1830. Their family property in Devon had been used to trial the plants, and thus they had the ability to obtain seed at a very early stage. In the early days they were referred to as Pinus insignis. Further importations of plants from Britain and Australia into the Canterbury area in particular showed the value of these trees, and Hector was probably aware of their performance in that area when he arrived in Wellington in 1865. He commenced importing seed from California in comparatively large quantities, and he would not have done this if he had not had some understanding of their potential value and suitability to local conditions.


Over the period 1869 to 1879 over 25 kg (56 pounds) of seed was imported from a number of American suppliers in particular Professor Kellog of San Francisco., which was distributed around NZ, with many plants raised in nurseries in the Garden. Seed from Matamata was used for initial planting of the pine forests in the central North Island establishing our forestry industry, and it is likely seed for those plants was from Wellington importations. From 1870 to 1885 some 500,000 Pinus radiata seedlings were distributed throughout the country from the Wellington Botanic Garden.
Monterey Pine has a rather shallow rooting and inclined to blow over in very strong winds. During the Wahine storm in April 1968, many of the Botanic Garden's Monterey Pines were blown down.
Monterey Pine comes from three distinct unconnected areas of central coastal California, named from one locality, the Monterey Peninsula. It is now rare in its natural habitat because of fungal disease and the encroachment of towns and cities. In recent years genetically improved trees have been imported back into California from New Zealand, and these are now cross hybridising with the native stock, raising questions of the status of the native genotype in its natural habitat. .
The pines in the Wellington Botanic Garden are from wild seed collections of unselected stock, and therefore represent a very historic and important genetic resource of the original wild population, which is being gradually lost in its natural habitat. It is for this reason why the genetic material of this tress is so valuable with preservation of the natural genotype of increasing concern.
The natural variation in the trees can be seen from plants in the garden; some excellent timber specimens and some where you would be lucky to obtain a straight matchstick. With our trees now some 130 years old and reaching toward their usual maximum age of around 150 years, the preservation of this genetic heritage is becoming a matter of urgency. In a production forest trees are usually harvested between 20-40 years old.
Pinus radiata was originally brought into the country as a shelter and firewood tree although by the end of the 19th century its timber capabilities were becoming recognised. It was not until shortly after the First World War that significant timber planting occurred. Due to many years of selection for the best trees for rapid growth rate and quality of timber, the trees seen in the pine plantations today do not resemble these trees in the Garden. These trees are the progeny of unselected natural stock, and contain a wide range of genetic variation, which is why is has been such a successful tree from which to select the desired characteristics for our timber industry.
1870........ William Bramley appointed first Superintendent.
1871........ Wesleyan land brought under the City Reserves Act of 1871 amended to provide money for the development of the Garden.
1873........ First plan of the Garden Shows extent of native forest including kanuka.
Wesleyan Reserves land of 54 acres 1 rood 24 perches conveyed under Wellington City Reserves Act to bring the total area of the gardens to 68 acres 1 rood 20 perches.
1875........ Two reserve areas intended for the cemetery totaling 8 acres 3 roods 30 perches included under the supervision of the Botanic Garden Board.
First map of the Garden. It shows much of the layout as it is today. Paths are named, Main Drive is formed, native forest and other features illustrated.
1876........ Abolition of the Provinces denies provincial funding of the Garden.
During the 1870's and 1880's the major source of revenue (£300 per annum) came from central Government for testing the economic potential of plants they introduced. During this period most of the conifer introductions occurred. Only other income comes from the Town Belt rents.
. Two cases of 'immorality' occurred. One couple entered the new pine plantations and damaged a tree. Charged, they were sentenced to one month's hard labour, subsequently reduced to 1 week after a public outcry. The other couple also charged fled the colony.
Cottage built. This is now the Caretaker's house.
1880........ The Botanic Garden constabulary established and the cottage occupied by a constable
1885........ No Government financial Grant given this year. (A nationwide downturn in the economy in the 1880's reflected in a progressive reduction in funds for the Garden).
1886........ Hector establishes the Teaching. Garden on the site of the present Sound Shell Lawn. It is the first such development in the Garden.


The European settlers found the glowworms when they arrived in the country and were immediately fascinated with them. The earliest published reports were of insects found in drives in the Thames Goldfields.
The true nature of these insects was first described by a young 18 year old English man George Vernon Hudson, living in Karori Wellington, only a short distance from the Garden. On arrival in Wellington he commenced studying them, and in 1886 said they were the larva's of a two-winged fly, a 'fungus gnat'. He had studied them along the Garden's Puketea Stream since arriving to Wellington in 1883. In conjunction with Albert Norris they were able to unravel the life history over the next 10 years. Hudson spent in total some 60 years studying and writing about them and other insects in this country while working for the Post Office.
1887........ Wellington City Council recognises the problem with funding and although it is able to increase the City's contribution they are unwilling to do so through another authority.
1889........ A deputation from the Wellington City Council goes to he Premier with a proposal to transfer management of the garden to the council. The Botanic Garden records unanimous opposition to this proposal.
1891........ The Botanic Garden Vesting Bill introduced into the House of Representatives proposing a change in management to the Wellington City Council. The Botanic Garden Board argues the importance of the original 13 acres and the need to safeguard this area for the purposes of botany for all time. The need for an observatory site was also pressed for at this time.
The Wellington Botanic Garden Vesting Act passed with the provision made, for a 6 acre site for a future observatory and the requirement that the original 13 acres he maintained as a Botanic Garden in perpetuity.
At the time of the Vesting Act three major issues were facing the Garden:

1 The spread of gorse in the Garden.
2. Broken fences and consequently problems with wandering stock causing damage.
3. Lack of funds.

1895........ Demand grows for the Garden to be developed as a "pleasure ground" rather than a "scientific reserve".
1896........ Gun Battery on Observatory Reserve site constructed. It involves 4.5 acres enclosed by barbed wire and is regarded as a significant physical and visual intrusion on the Garden.
1901........ George Glen becomes Head Gardener.
1902........ Cable Car opens and thus provides a new and important access to the Garden. In the first year of operation 425,000 people used the Cable Car.
Main Garden from Main Gates to the first ridge cleared of pines and replanted (between 1902 - 06).
1904........ George Glen appointed Superintendent of Baths and Reserves.
Tea Kiosk at the top of the Cable Car opens on land leased to the Kelburn and Karori Tramway Company.
The City's trams electrified and extended up to the Main Gate of the Garden in Glenmore Street.
Gun Battery dismantled.
Nucleus of alpine rockery established. Position unknown.
1905........ Children's play area established.
Provision for women's public toilets.
1906........ Hector Observatory started on Observatory site.
Work starts on the clearing and earthworks for the recreation around (which later becomes Anderson Park). The scale of the earthworks causes considerable physical and visual damage. A large dark gully results that ends abruptly in a wall of fill making up the Park. This gully becomes a rubbish tip until the 1930's.
Newtown Park Zoo established and the small zoo at the Garden closed down.
1907........ Band rotunda built near Duck Pond.
Hector observatory finished.
Entrance to Garden from Mariri Road and Mariri Road lawn formed.
1910........ Anderson Park ready for use.
1911........ Fernery completed and opened to the public for viewing.
1912........ An extension to the alpine garden opposite the band rotunda built. Other rockeries developed later.
1913........ Pines removed from lower slopes of Druid Hill.
1914 Stables and mess room built. Potting shed and nursery built soon after.

Main Garden tulips with Summerhouse Gazebo in background

Summerhouse/gazebo on Main Drive erected.. It was originally built by the Carpenters' Union for their float in the Labor Day procession.
1915........ Provision of men's public toilets and also for staff in the new stables and mess room
1918........ J G Mackenzie appointed the first Director of Parks and Reserves.
Start of many new plantings, particularly flowering trees.
More pines removed from Druid Hill slope.
1925 ........Brick piers and iron gates (ex Hospital Board) erected, a project that had languished since 1905.
Mackenzie proposes the idea of a Winter Garden, forerunner of the Begonia House.
Cockayne writes of the importance of native forest in the Garden.
Moves by Cockayne and Mackenzie to establish Otari.
1927........ Start of remodeling of entire frontage of Garden as a result of the widening of Glenmore Street and Tinakori Road.
Formation of Magpie Lawn above Glenmore Street started. This involves cutting part of the ridge and filling the Glenmore Gully below.
1930........ Remodeling of frontage of Garden completed.
1931........ Anderson Park extension started. This involves filling in the remains of the valley left over from the formation of Anderson Park.
1934........ Anderson Park extension completed.
1938........ Carter Observatory Act passed.
1941........ Carter Observatory opened.
1947........ Mackenzie retires and Edward Hutt appointed Director.
1948........ Berhampore Nursery opened as central propagating area for the Parks and Reserves Department but the nursery in the Garden continues to produce plants.
Suggestion for a rose garden made (on the present site).
1950........ Work starts on Lady Norwood Rose Garden.
1953........ Lady Norwood Rose Garden opened. (photo below)

Modern view of Rose Garden, Begonia House and Anderson Park

1956........ Lady Norwood donates fountain to the Rose Garden. (This was replaced by the Norwood family in 1977).
1960........ Begonia House built.
Peace Garden established.
1965........ Ian Galloway appointed Director of Parks and -Reserves.
1968........ Wahine Storm in April and a great deal old growth felled.
Period of redevelopment of the Garden begins subsequent to the storm under the supervision of Ray Mole curator of Otari Native Plant Museum who is also appointed Curator of the Botanic Garden.
1970........ Herb Garden established with support from the Wellington Herb Society.
1979........ Annual Summer Festival begins.

by Rose Garden

1981........ Tea House built.
First Management Plan for the Garden is produced by Parks and Reserves Department.
1983........ Interpretive Centre established in the shed that housed the engine for the Cable Car.
1985........ First part of the additions to the Herb Garden completed.
1986........ Ian Galloway dies suddenly. Richard Nanson appointed Director of Parks and Reserves and Recreation.
1987........ Interpretive Centre closed. Now used for Polytechnic.
1988 ........Comprehensive Draft Management Plan for the Garden produced.
History of the Botanic Garden 1840-1987 by Winsome Shepherd and Walter Cook published.
1989........ The Lily House added to the Tea and Begonia complex in he Rose Garden.
1990........ Friends Organisation established in May 1990.
Mike Oates appointed Curator.
Opening of the Tree House and WWF Headquarters.
1991........Centennial celebrations of WCC garden management.
1992........ First planting - James Hector Pinetum.
1994........ Peace Flame installed.
1996........ Duck Pond was redesigned and the old macrocarpa removed
1998........ Convenor of Guides Rob Bos commences meet and greet service at Cable Car entrance on days when visiting cruise ships are in port. Becomes a significant feature of guides activities.
2000........ The Cable Car Museum was opened
2001........ The Children's Playground redesigned. Tony Williams appointed curator
2003........ Redevelopment of Begonia House, shop and facilities.
Williams resigns. David Sole appointed Manager (Curator).
Krupp gun installed by Battery.
2004........ Centennial entrance walkway
Bush remnants study
Propagation of historic trees commenced.
Registration by Historic Places Trust as historic garden
2005........ Bolton walkway completed
2006........ Removal of old pines and redevelopment of children's playground
Modernisation of Founders Gate precinct.
Completion of Anderson Park walkway
2008........ Hosts introduced by Friends to assist guides in meet and greet service during cruise ship visit days
2009        Completon of Guide Shelter at Cable Car entrance
Refurbishment of Joy fountain completed, part funded by Friends
Amoris exhibition in Treehosse
Monet exhibtion features in Garden, including 'haystack'
2010        Register of Memorials and Plaques live on Friends website.
Replacement of nursery glasshouses completed