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Oliver Cromwell’s Roundheads destroyed many of the world’s original Tudor Gardens, with neglect ruining those that remained. However, this beautiful form of fantasy garden has been recreated by Hamilton Gardens in the heart of the Waikato.
Positioned alongside the Waikato River, this traditional garden reflects the fascination sixteenth century English aristocracy had with geometric patterns and symbolism with double meanings.
The intricate knot garden is based upon the drawings by Didymus Mountain – the pen-name of sixteenth century writer Thomas Hill – and has been under construction since 2011. It is surrounded by mythical beasts, an arbour, Elizabethan wall and a stone pavilion based on the pudding house at Montacute House in England.
Traditionally the gardens provided an outdoor setting for fantasy plays or ‘masques’ while the pudding house hosted favoured dinner guests who retired in the evening for a third course of fruits, quince and sweet spiced wine.
Carved mythical beasts perch on green and white striped poles throughout the Garden; a griffin, dragon, centaur, phoenix, unicorn, satyr, sea serpent and Bottom – one of the primary characters from William Shakespeare’s comedy A Midsummer Night’s Dream. They hold sculptural crests of some of the ‘rock stars’ of Tudor times including privateer and slaver Sir Francis Drake, who was notorious for his many plunderous journeys sanctioned by Elizabeth I.
The Garden will form part of Hamilton Gardens’ Fantasy Collection.
Hamilton Gardens has an internationally unique concept. It is not a botanical garden. Instead, its concept has been compared to a museum with each garden collection having historic integrity and providing a window into the story of civilisations, their arts, beliefs and life styles. In October, 2014 Hamilton Gardens was awarded International Garden of the Year by the International Garden Tourism Network for this concept.
Visitors are guided on a journey of discovery along paths leading to mysterious surprises: step from a peaceful Sung Dynasty Chinese Scholar’s garden into an Italian Renaissance Garden, before being enthralled by the grandeur of the Indian Char Bagh Garden. Hamilton Gardens has 21 themed garden areas with more being developed.
The Gardens is currently constructing four new gardens within four years. The future gardens include: the Concept Garden which will be an extension of conceptual art and will refer to the New Zealand landscape, the Surrealist Garden with giant robotic mysterious, surrealist moving topiary figures, the Mansfield Garden will recreate the early 20th Century New Zealand garden described in Katherine Mansfield’s famous short story ‘The Garden Party’ and the Picturesque Garden which will reflect the popular 18th Century picturesque garden movement that was inspired by painting and a new appreciation for wild romantic landscapes.
Admission to the Gardens is free. The Gardens is closed on Christmas Day and Good Friday.
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