Wellington’s Botanic Garden to bloom in 150th year

3 September 2018

Today marks the start of the Wellington Botanic Garden’s 150th anniversary.

Botanic Garden 1915

The celebrations will run through to November 2019, with a range of family friendly events - and it all started today with school children, iwi, local dignitaries and Wellington Mayor Justin Lester sowed flower seeds on Glenmore Lawn.

The seeds will grow into a wild flower meadow representing the past, present and future of the history-rich garden – which is a much-loved part of the capital.

The 25-hectare Botanic Garden – a short walk from the central city – is visited by 1.2 million people each year, making it the third most visited attraction in Wellington after Te Papa and the Cable Car.

The Botanic Garden is classified as a Garden of National Significance by the Royal New Zealand Institute of Horticulture is an Historic Places Trust Heritage Area.

Planned since 1844, it was entrusted to the New Zealand Institute, the forerunner of the Royal Society of New Zealand, in an Act of Parliament in 1869. 

A year from now, Tuesday 3 September 2019, will mark the anniversary. “We have a year of events leading up to that date which will celebrate all the wonderful things that make the Wellington Botanic Garden much more than a garden,” Wellington Mayor Justin Lester says.

“The seeds sown here today will germinate into flowers that will appear again and again, and will be a legacy for future generations to enjoy. 

"Our capital will continue to grow - embracing a new future, a more complex digital age and a more diverse culture,” the Mayor says. “It raises some interesting questions. How will this affect the role of our botanic garden? What will a botanic garden of the future look like?”

Today the Botanic Garden contains protected native forest, conifers, specialised plant collections, colourful floral displays, and space for a range of activities.

Gardens Manager David Sole says the area was once an essential food basket for Māori and is steeped in local history. 

“Its founders recognised the importance of the Botanic Gardens in the capital. They were the only ones in New Zealand to have an economic mandate. In the 1800s they researched the viability of the Monterey Pine, or Pinus radiata, for New Zealand conditions. 

“Initially it was for shelter belts and firewood, but it wasn’t until the 1920s that the country began to appreciate its timber qualities and today the species is a major economic contributor.

“Today the Botanic Garden plays an important role as a living collection, it is home to the many significant species of flora and fauna that have shaped the early economies of Aotearoa.”

It also has a small part to play in popular culture. In 2010 it was mentioned in an episode of The Simpsons, which featured the Flight of the Conchords.

The 150th celebration events will involve four themes that highlight key aspects of the garden: history and heritage, family and community, science behind the collections, and will finish the year by exploring the future.