Celebrating the Friends of Auckland Botanic Gardens
The Friends of Auckland Botanic Garden began on a summer evening in 1983. A group of plants people gathered in the courtyard of the then almost brand-new Botanic Gardens to form a group that has been of immeasurable help and support to the Botanic Gardens ever since.
Botanic Gardens manager Jack Hobbs says the Gardens would not be what they are without the Friends.
“Our status as a successful botanic gardens and visitor destination is inextricably intertwined with this most positive of relationships,” he says, “All the staff appreciate what they do.”
Members of the Friends of the Gardens planting daffodils in the Orchard in 1988.
The list of things that owe all or part of their place in the Gardens to the Friends is long. It includes the library and its books, public artworks, the Huakaiwaka Visitor Centre, two gardens, the Wiri Rambler, small art exhibitions, and large sculpture exhibitions. The Growing Friends also run the weekly plant sales that raise funds and provide Botanic Garden visitors with the chance to get quality plants at a good price.
The Friends have paid for professional development for staff, giving them opportunities to explore gardens here and abroad, extend their skills, and make global connections.
President of the Friends Liz Powell says the strong relationship between the Friends and the Botanic Gardens team is the secret to its success.
“We always work in harmony. I think it helps that the Friends committee has been made up of horticulturalists, gardeners, and plants people who can see the benefits of the Botanic Gardens and want to see it flourishing.”
“One of our roles is to provide the stuff that is nice to have that the Council can’t or won’t provide, so the cream, but also at times, some of the basics,” she says.
“And the Friends are a lovely group of people, and very supportive. It is one of the reasons why we stick with it. Also, it is a wonderful place to be, to wander around the Botanic Gardens.”
Thanks to the Friends
The library began life as a collection of donated books on shelves behind the enquiry desk of the original visitor information centre. A new, purpose-built library building was proposed in 1990 and the Friends set about fundraising. Only two years later the library was built and has been co-managed with the Friends ever since.
The library under construction in 1992.
The Friends Building
Fresh from the library success the Friends moved on to building the Friends and volunteers building in a partnership with the regional parks committee of the Auckland Regional Council. Since opening in 1994 it has been used not just by volunteers but is a bookable facility for the public that has hosted everything from strategy meetings to baby showers.
The Friends Building.
The Threatened Native Plant Garden
The Friend’s raised funds to support the construction of a new garden to host rare and threatened plants. Money was given to build the entrance way followed by further fundraising to finish the work. Included in the final garden was the sculpture ‘Waka’ by Virginia King – the first public sculpture in the Gardens.
The Potter Children’s Garden
A garden specifically for children was discussed in the late 1990s. The garden was to assist with the delivery of the Garden’s curriculum-based environmental education programs as well as catering for the needs of families. The Friends set about raising funds, with $177,000 coming from an application to thePotter Mason Trust. The garden was formally opened by the Prince of Wales on March 10, 2005
The Huakaiwaka visitor centre
The Friends were involved from the beginning of the plans for a new visitor centre. Their offer to provide $150,000 gave the project impetus and the momentum that saw it become a reality.
Entrance to the Huakaiwaka visitor centre lit up at night.
Sculpture in the Gardens
Sculpture in the Gardens was born from an idea to hold an Art in the Gardens programme in 2003/4. An art purchasing policy was drawn up. But it wasn’t until 2006 that a Friends ‘Sculpture Project Team’ convened and began developing plans for a major sculpture exhibition. With wholehearted support from the Friends, the exhibition was born, running every two years and attracting top-class sculptures from across the country. The Friends also agreed to purchase one work from each exhibition. The first exhibition launched in 2007 and has become a much-loved fixture on the Auckland cultural calendar.
Visiting Artist programme
Since 2007, the Friend’s Visiting Artist programme has run over the alternate summers to Sculpture in the Gardens with the aim of bringing people into the Gardens as well as promoting botanical art.