The climate of Oamaru and of North Otago in general is quite mild, despite its location south of the 45th parallel. With the South Pacific Ocean moderating the coastal temperatures, and the Southern Alps and Kakanui ranges providing protection from the westerly and southerly winds, this part of New Zealand generally enjoys moderate temperatures that make it an ideal setting for some of the country’s most magnificent gardens.
The Oamaru Public Garden was established way back in 1876, making it one of the oldest in the country. Like everything else in Oamaru, it has been beautifully maintained over the years, and today the mature plantings make for a beautiful setting for a day out. The garden’s 13 hectares are divided into “rooms” that are linked by shaded walkways, and include a Japanese bridge, a glass house, and a statue inspired by Lewis Carroll’s Wonderland. Every February the garden acts as the setting for the Oamaru Wine & Food Festival, and throughout the year it hosts wedding ceremonies, picnics, and other activities.
On a much smaller scale, Oamaru is also home to a small remembrance garden and a lovely small public garden on the corner of Itchen and Thames Streets under the shadow of the beautiful St Luke’s Church.
In addition to Oamaru’s public gardens, Oamaru is also home to some magnificent private gardens. Many of Oamaru’s older houses are surrounded by stunning plantings that are occasionally open for public viewing. One of the most beautiful gardens in Oamaru surrounds the five-star Pen-y-bryn Lodge, a member of the prestigious Lodges of New Zealand and other exclusive lodging groups. These gardens, which originally extended over eight acres, today are just over an acre in extent, but they still show the hallmarks of Alfred Buxton, the 19th Century landscape architect who designed them. These gardens are blessed with old plantings of roses, rhododendrons, and camellias that provide year-round blooms, and, like the Oamaru Public Gardens, can be said to be divided into distinct rooms, each with a feel and mood of its own. These gardens were recently featured in the November 3-16, 2011, issue of Weekend Gardener, in an article by Gillian Vine, which is linked below with their approval.