The Christchurch Botanic Gardens
- About the Gardens
- Daily Hours amd other general information
- Historic Walk
- Friends of the CHCH Botanic Gardens
When the first settlers from England arrived at Lyttleton in 1850, they brought with them the gardening traditions of that country. It was just thirteen years after the arrival that the initial plans were made to form the present Botanic Gardens.
On 9 July 1863, the first tree was planted in the grounds to commemorate the marriage of Prince Albert to Princess Alexandra of Denmark. This tree, an English Oak, is regarded as the foundation date of the Government Domain, later to become the Botanic Gardens.
Control of the Botanic Gardens was until 1946 vested in the Christchurch Domains Board, but due to financial difficulties the government dissolved the Board and placed control and funding under the jurisdiction of the Christchurch City Council. Today responsibility for the management of the gardens is with the Botanical Services section of the Parks Unit.
The grounds of the Botanic Gardens encompass an area of 30 hectares, the majority of this being within the loop of the Avon River. Contained within this area is undoubtedly the finest collection of exotic and indigeous plants to be found anywhere in New Zealand. There are numerous large majestic trees, many of which are in excess of 100 years, and form an interesting background to the various sections of the Gardens.
Throughout Summer and Autumn, the herbaceous border provides a continuous display as the multitude of perennials produce their blooms. Nearby the Herb Garden, constructed in 1986, has an extensive range of plants used for culinary and medicinal purposes.
The ever popular Rose Garden, central in the Botanic Gardens layout, contains more than 250 different roses. Old and new varieties are grown and these are displayed in such a way that visitors can see examples of those most suitable for their own requirements.
The Southern aspect of the Gardens features the Heather Garden and Rock Garden. the Primula Garden is centred around a small stream where Primulas and associated plants are cultivated. The Heather Garden contains many Ericas and Callunas which provide a succession of flowers and colourful foliage throughout the year and are set out in large informal groups to give a natural appearance.
Spring is the best time to visit the Rock Garden, where blooms change daily. From Spring through Summer to Autumn, many plants continue to flower, bringing life and colour to this part of the Gardens.
Adjacent to the Rock Garden are many Rhododendron species and hybrids with their associate plants of Hostas, Helleborus and Liliums. These together with other Rhododendron collections in the Gardens provide a special focus for the genus.
During the 1920's, excavation of shingle for pathways in the gardens formed the basis of ponds which were later developed into a water garden. This cool, peaceful area is enclosed by large trees and shrubs, providing a focus where the reflections of the trees and waterside plants create a unique atmosphere.
New Zealand plants feature prominently within the native section of the Gardens. Divided into two main parts - the Cockayne Memorial Garden opened in 1938 as a living memorial to one of New Zealand's greatest botanists, and the 'bush area' where plants have been established to grow naturally. The Cockayne Garden also has two sections - an alpine garden featuring plants collected from the mountain regions of New Zealand and a more formal section containing beds of shrubs and small trees in a lawn setting. Plants of particular interest include Hebe, Sophora, and carmichaelia species and Leptospermum cultivars.
In addition to the permanent plantings, over 30 000 annuals are planted aut each year as formal bedding for spring and summer displays. Principle displays are on the Armstrong Lawn where examples of the latest cultivars including begonias, geraniums, petunias, salvias, marigolds, wallflowers, polyanthus and myosotis in conjunction with spring bulbs may be seen.
Daily Hours and General Information
Open daily from 7.00am to 1 hour before sunset.
- The Grounds
- The Conservatories
- Open daily from 10.15am to 4.00pm.
- The Information Centre
- September to April- Open daily from 10.15am to 4.00pm.
May to August - Open daily from 11.00am to 3.00pm.
- Dining Facilities
- The Gardens Restaurant and Kiosk. Seating capacity 10-80.
- Shopping Facilities
- The Information Centre has an excellent selection of posters, books, cards, prints, and souvenirs with a plant theme.
- Education Programmes
- A full-time education officer can present education programmes for all ages. Contact Richard Doyle.
- Postal Address
- PO Box 237, Christchurch, New Zealand
- Phone Number
- (03) 366 1701
- Fax Number
- (03) 366 6836
A brochure is available from the Information Centre in the Gardens describing the background of various points of interest visited in a 'Historic Walk'. This self guiding walk covers a selection of important sites and buildings around the Christchurch Botanic Gardens and Hagley Park. The walk is a circuit which takes a lesiurely one and a half hours. The notes are designed to start and finish at the Information Centre. However, you may begin at any convenient point.
Information is provided on the origins of many familiar landmarks. The Gardens Restaurant, for example, first known as the Tea Kiosk, suffered several serious fires after it was built in 1910.
Few Cantabrians would contemplate swimming in the Avon now, however in the 1870's public bathing in the Avon River had become a popular pastime for the men and youth of the settlement. Surrounded by a thick belt of trees, the official bathing place was upstream of the footbridge, behind the present nursery. In 1881 The Canterbury Public Domains Board thinned trees and undergrowth in this area to form a footpath along the riverbank. This caused a storm of protest for the would be bathers. The walk also visits Settlers Corner where a memorial encloses the natural spring used by many of the pioneer settlers.
Surprisingly the Daffodil Woodland was once inhabited by a menagerie which included silk worms, deer, ferrets, kangaroos, angora and cashmere goats, oppossums monkeys, wallabies, llamas, a lemur, a tortoise, a Californian bear and an emu called Jack.
This occurred in 1864 when the Canterbury Horticultural and Acclimatisation Society leased the use of 1.5 hectares of ground in this area. During the years the Society leased the grounds the public were able to view these unusual birds and animals which were bred for liberation throughout Canterbury or imported for public enjoyment. To many people, this popular area became known as "The Zoo".
The Historic Walk brings a new dimension to enjoyment of the gardens by providing a glimpse of the way our predecessors experienced them and of how they have changed over time.
For any further inquiries contact the Information Centre in the Gardens
Since the earliest days of the Botanic Gardens, the Glasshouses and Conservatories have played an important part in the display and growing of botanical collections of plants.
Some fifteen hundred different plants are on show at any one time. Each conservatory provides distinct environments to cater for the varied collections.
Apart from displaying beautiful beautiful flowers and foliage, the Conservatories serve as a conservational and educational facility.
The tropical plant collections are housed in Cunningham House. This house was built as a result of a bequest by Mr G.Cunningham and opened in 1923.
The central ground floor area, known as "The Jungle" allows for the growth of taller dominant broadleaved trees and other plants that could not otherwise be displayed in containers. Beneath these, many small shrubs and herbaceous plants flourish, all showing great diversity and colour. Because the tree conopy blocks out much of the light, this allows the ground floor area to accomodate plant groups which require low light conditions. Often plants grow on one another in their struggle to reach the light. Many can be seen here clinging onto the trunks of trees by means of aerial and twining roots, stems or tendrils. Epiphtic plants grow high on the branches of trees where they can enjoy maximum light without producing extensive root systems. The upper level of Cunningham House displays the high intensity tropical collections.
The original house, bequeathed by Mrs A. Townend, was replaced in 1955 by the present structure. This house is essentially a conservatory where flowering plants are displayed.
Keeping the house furnished with flowering plants throughout the year requires careful planning. The thousands of plants needed are raised and grown to the flowering stage in the nursery. There are approximately 25-30 different displays featured each year.
Completed in 1957 this house is named after Mr M. Garick who donated a large collection of cacti and succulents to the Gardens. The current collection consists of almost 900 species of cacti which makes it one of the most extensive public displays in New Zealand. While many caxti are grown in pots, the main feature of the house is the fine desert panorama. The large specimens of cacti have been planted here, surrounded by red volcanic rock and soil brought form Banks Peninsula to fit with the overall concept. Cacti for both North and South America are grown here, some of the principal genera being Cereus, Cleistocactus, Echinocereus, Ferocactus Mammarillaria, Notocactus, Opuntia Oreocereus and the alpine Tephrocactus .
Contrary to most people's belief, not all cacti come from hot dry desert areas. Cacti can be found growing in tropical rainforests, in sandy beach areas and some may be covered with snow for many months of the year.
Gilpin House was built in 1964 to mark the bi-centenary of Kew Gardens. It originally housed the bromeliad, carnivorous and orchid collections but now contains some 200-300 species of succulent.
The Afican continent is rich in succulent plants and most of the characteristic genera of this country are represented here. Aloe, Crassula, Haworhtia, Kalanchoe and succulent species of Senecio all show great variation in shape, size and colour.
Although no cacti grow naturally on the African continent, their place is taken by the succulent species of Euphorbia, many species of whichassume a cactus-like form.
One of the most interesting groups of plants displayed are the "living stones" which exhibit remarkable adaptations for resisting the intense heat of their native regions.
New Zealand Ferns
Constructed in 1955 from bequests made by Mary Rothney Orr and James Foster, the Fern House enables the cultivation of a number of New Zealand ferns which would be difficult to grow outdfoors in Christchurch.
Prominent in the fern house are the punga or "Tree Ferns". These species of Cyathea and Disksonia provide shelter for the more delicate species of Adiantum, Asplenium, Blechmun, Polystichum and Pteris.
The walls around the inside of the house are clad in punga logs on which many species of epiphytic fern grow.
The fern house is also an excellent habitat for some species of indigenous orchids which are usually found in damp shady bush.
Opened in 1967 as the "Apline House", this was renamed in 1980 after Jean Foweraker in acknowledgment of the many alpine plants donated by her. The house is designed to display native and exotic alpine plants to their best advantage.
It is impossible to name more than a few plants from the Alpine House and its surrounds as the display is constantly changing. During the spring some of the more noteworthy flowering plants include Fritillaria, Narcissus and Tulipa.
Autumn brings its share of flowering plants including a wide selection of Cyclamen, Narcissus and Oxalis. .Always on display is a collection of dwarf conifers in addition to Saxifraga which are displayed over a long period.
Friends of the Christchurch Botanic Gardens
The Friends group was formed in November 1989 to help promote, support and develop the Botanic Gardens.
They now have over 350 members and enjoy a variety of activities:
The Friends have the use of a glasshouse in the Botanic Gardens where members prepare plants for Friends' funds and for their own gardens. Plant material form the Botanic Gardens is also potted up for the annual plant sale each October (this year it is being held on October 7.)
- Regular guided walks in the Gardens
- Monthly meetings, with a programme of educational talks and social gatherings.
Another opportunity for help, is in the work for the International seed exchange
Members receive discounts on plant sales, are sent a regular newsletter about coming events, plants, and personalities, and have access to lectures, demonstrations and the expertise of the gardens' staff and fellow members.
New members are always welcome, application forms are available at the information Centre.
For enquiries telephone: