Finding the Hidden Gardens of Wellington

We followed the riddles all across Wellington, from sea level in Kilbirnie and Central Park in Brooklyn to a couple of hidden gardens in Wellington city and Mount Victoria. We visited the Botanical Gardens and the dizzy heights of Te Ahumairangi Hill, on a mission of discovery. The apprentice gardeners of Wellington City Council have been busy creating and developing gardens for people to seek out and find – or stumble upon in surprise.

The first four gardens we found were on a rainy Monday afternoon. We’d spent the morning indoors and I was keen to get out in the fresh air, regardless of the weather – besides, it was only a bit of light drizzle!

The first one we sought out had this riddle…

Aerial Gardens of Aotearoa

By Tara Heeran-Harris

We have our own version of New York’s famous park
The historic lamps guide you (not just in the dark)
This gardens’ quite special, as it hangs at great heights
And is planted with Aotearoa’s native epiphytes

On the way up to Brooklyn, below where kids play
Take the path in the middle and from it don’t stray
Look up to the branches for balls hanging like stars
If you get to the stream, you’ve gone a bit far

Which led us to these delightful hanging arrangements …


We used the App made by ScimitAR, a fun reality education game for Hidden Gardens. When we discovered the garden, we pointed the camera on my phone to the sign, which revealed a question, with a number of answers to choose from. The app also hinted at how far or near we were from the gardens (which came in handy with more of the less obvious riddles!) You can download the app from Google Play or iTunes .


Hidden Gardens Virtual Reality Education Game

We then went on to discover two more gardens, within the city.

One with this riddle…

Fertile Crescent garden

By Peter Bellam

Where Torrens Terrace meets Arlington Street
Across from a store selling quality meat
There’s a park with a garden that will teach you a lot
About plants you can pickle or cook in a pot

Discover where pomegranates grew first
How rivers were tamed to quench a plant’s thirst
The birthplace of foods the world loves to eat
Like olives and lentils, barley and wheat


And the other with this riddle…

Dry wall

By Sian Marsh-Jerebine

In the middle of town is a succulent treat
Adorning a new laneway just off Manners Street
You’re looking for plants that grow even when dry
In-between great coffee and deli-made pie

It’s not on the grass so you’ll have to look high
Lift your eyes from the ground and up to the sky
These plants have been framed so they cannot fall
From a canny construction that’s fixed to the wall

Sophie finds the succulents!

Sophie finds the succulents!

After a break for lunch we headed to the Botanical Gardens, where we followed this lovely riddle…

The Fairy Garden

By Jayne Goldsworthy

Deep in the gardens
Past where the ducks play
Fairies have settled
From far, far away

Look beyond the gazebo
In the shade of a tree
For magical houses
As sweet as can be

To find these delightful fairy houses nestled in the most beautiful surroundings…


The last three gardens we discovered a week later, on a much sunnier day.


By Rosa Green & Rachel Gee

This garden is wet – the wettest around!
(Compared to the ones we grow in the ground)
It’s underwater yet somehow inside
Found near a field on the city’s east side

Look for a garden filled with plants and with fish
It’s growing where you like to splash and to splish
For a nice dip, please, bring your togs and a towel
It’s a great place to visit when the weather is foul


Wanshi in Welly

By Louis Waters

Take a steep hike up Ellice
(it’s worth it, you’ll see)
To where once we dug rocks
from the Mt Vic Quarry

This garden combines
Chinese styles and traditions
With native plants grown
for local conditions


And finally, the last of the seven, up high on a hill above the city…

Te Ahumairangi Māra Kai

By Tom Mayo

Once upon a hill known as Tinakori
Were traditional plants grown – like tī pore
If you want to learn more about māra kai
Start at the bottom and head up to the sky

From the lookout keep walking towards the mast
It’s over the brow so keep going past
With a fence made of scrub protecting the mound
You can learn from the past with what you have found.



Voting has now closed on the favourite gardens. We found it hard to choose, but loved the hanging epiphytes in Central Park for their originality. The succulents were gorgeously framed and brought life to the central city, the fairy garden was magical and the ‘Wanshi in Welly’ an original setting that was quite spectacular – set in the old quarry. My youngest, aged 8, really liked the H2Orticulture – as she thought the plant life looked so lush and rich for the fish. She thought they were lucky fish to have such a nice home. The other two were great educationally – teaching us about plants, food and their origins.

Thanks to Wellington City Council apprentice gardens for your creativity! We loved finding your wonderful gardens!