Editorial Introduction

James Beattie University of Waikato Welcome to the last issue of 2009, one devoted to garden history as well as an obituary to our sadly missed Geoff Park. Walter Cook, well-known through both his work on Wellington garden history and through his employment at The Alexander Turnbull Library, presents a delightful article on Wellington Botanic Garden’s Lady Norwood Rose Garden and Begonia House. His account situates the gardens within their local as well as global history. The second article, by Geoff Doube, continues with the garden history theme, this time presenting a multi-layered reading of the Renaissance Garden at the impressive Hamilton Gardens. Charles Dawson reviews William Beinart and Lotte Hughes’ exciting new book, Environment and Empire. Finally, David Young, contemporary and friend of Geoff Park, presents a beautifully written reflection on the life and contribution of Geoff. In other news, Cath Knight, has begun a blog on environmental topics, one well worth visiting: http://envirohistorynz.wordpress.com All that remains is for me to wish you all a very safe and happy New Year and Festive...

The Lady Norwood Rose Garden and Begonia House

Walter Cook Large architectural statements in a formal classical tradition are rare in New Zealand. In Wellington, when these were planned, they were often left unfinished. There are the Carrillion and the Dominion Museum on Mount Cook. Both were designed in 1929, and built between 1930 and 1936, set in formal terraces planted with pohutukawas and other native trees. Two thirds of the museum building was completed, and the formal ceremonial way connecting the complex to the central city never became more than a pipe dream. Then there is our national Parliament Building. Designed in 1911, only half was built between then and 1928, giving the parliamentary complex its distinctive appearance – a cluster of half finished buildings dating from 1899 to the 1970s. Like fault lines in the Wellington landscape, this group of buildings seems to reflect disjunctions in our cultural and political history when the country took sudden new directions that rendered architectural projects redundant in the middle of construction. In this case the classical baroque style of the Parliament Building was not reflected in the layout of the grounds. On the other hand there are two projects that were completed. One is the Wellington Railway Station that opened in 1936. Its great hall is an architectural experience like no other in the country, except, perhaps, for the interior of the Roman Catholic Cathedral in Christchurch. The entrance hall’s vaulted ceilings refer to the baths of Carriculla in Rome and were designed as a fitting gateway to the city in the days when rail was the main form of public transport. Today its gigantic monumentality, like the...

Some notes on the philosophy of Hamilton Gardens

Geoffrey Doube[1] There is an interesting and on-going philosophical debate that can be traced through the scholarly journals of human geography, landscape architecture, and garden history.[2] The central question with which this debate is concerned is, “are gardens meaningful?” This debate is pertinent in relation to Hamilton Gardens because one of the key messages that visitors to Hamilton Gardens come away with is (hopefully) that gardens are meaningful. Thus the very existence of Hamilton Gardens seems to weigh in on the affirmative side of the debate. In this article I illustrate some ways gardens can be considered meaningful through the example of the Italian Renaissance Garden at Hamilton Gardens. Meaning and Gardens Without straying too far into abstract philosophical issues, it might be helpful to firstly clarify the concept of ‘meaning’ we are using here. While sometimes we use the word ‘meaningful’ to refer to the concept of importance or significance, in this context the word ‘meaning’ refers to semantic meaning. Lots of things are meaningful in this sense – gestures or facial expressions, paintings or pieces of music, sculptures, films and so on. Therefore when we suggest that Hamilton Gardens is meaningful, we are suggesting, amongst other things, that Hamilton Gardens can be ‘read’ in much the same way as can a book or a film. The theme of Hamilton Gardens is ‘The History, Context and Meaning of Gardens’. There is a story to tell about gardens, their development over time and their variation across cultures. There is also a story to tell by using gardens. By looking at gardens in a particular way we can discern some...

Review

William Beinart and Lotte Hughes, Environment and Empire. The Oxford History of the British Empire: Companion Series. Oxford University Press, 2007. 395 pp., ISBN 978019956251. Charles Dawson In 2006, New Zealand conservation department staff and volunteers needed to restore native plants on the inaccessible cliff faces of Mana Island. Their solution was termed a ‘seed bomb’: clusters of various species of packed native seeds were launched from the cliff tops, scattering seeds on the tiny ledges below. The impressive book under review acts as a kind of seeding agent for the discipline of environmental history, dispersing a generous range of scholarship to a wide audience. And it is likely the book will find that audience: it is accessible and of relevance to students of history, geography and environmental studies, and the general reader. Scores of topics are addressed, new avenues for research suggested, and leads for further reading detailed. Readers and teachers looking for a book that introduces — and develops — environmental history in a British imperial context will be well-served by Environment and Empire. Beinart and Hughes acknowledge at the outset that dealing with ‘the British Empire’ as a topic is problematic for environmental historians who often glean the most insights from a trans-national or ecosystems-based approach. The authors are direct about the impossibility of forging a simplistic synthesis of the material at hand. This does not mean certain general lines of inquiry are not isolated and subsequently developed: the themes explored are environmental causation, and impacts, conservationism and Indigenous societies and local knowledges. The book’s short title compresses vast conceptual reach; Beinart and Hughes do justice...

Geoff Park: A Tribute

David Young It should come as no surprise to historians that Geoff Park, whose first love was ecology, could find a soul-mate in history. The wonder of it is that this kind of ‘dualism’ does not occur more often. After all, both are sprawling disciplines preoccupied with understanding the context of relationships and communities (for history, sometimes read ‘nations’), including their establishment, the nature of power, dominance, hegemony, survival and succession – albeit usually on different time scales. In his 1995 treatise, Nga Ururoa: The Groves of Life Geoff busted out of the rigours of his soil science and ecology (his Ph.D. from The Australian National University was on forest nutrient cycling) into what James Belich once described as “an act of the imagination”. Geoff imagined himself into an elegiac ecological and historical account about Aotearoa/New Zealand’s surviving lowland forest communities in a wasteland of depauperate nativism. It is a measure of the work that before its emergence, awareness of the extent of lowland forests up until the devastation of the nineteenth century took place was at best poorly understood by most of us. Geoff also imagined the Maori communities who lived in and near these forests who had largely been displaced and overwhelmed by 150 years of relentless modernism. What did remain were those groves of life, persisting with sometimes astonishing tenacity against human-induced adversity. His was a thesis – as he freely stated – owing much to his former Department of Scientific and Industrial Research colleague and mentor, Geoff Kelly, that was radical in its capacity to jolt receptive New Zealanders. Looking back it helped create a...