A howling wolf, a bronze washing line with metal gloves dangling from it, half buried Grecian vases, a bird boy carrying fish and a writhing skeleton of wood and galvanised steel - they're not the type of things you ordinarily expect to see in a garden.

Unless that garden is the Auckland Botanic Gardens in Manurewa during its biennial Sculpture in the Gardens. Organised by the friends group which supports the 64 hectare regional park, the summer sculpture show opens today featuring 20 outdoor works and an indoor show with some 60-plus pieces.

Now in its 10th year and sixth outing, Sculpture in the Gardens continues to attract New Zealand's leading sculptors including Louise Purvis, the winner of this year's McConnell Property Supreme Award, and John Edgar whose basalt Font will join the gardens' permanent sculpture collection.

Purvis' Gravid is a carefully planned and constructed series of intricately connected twists and turns made from wood from fallen native trees held together by the type of galvanised steel cages used to support river banks and roadsides.


She says the most difficult element was collecting the wood, which was hauled from sites like riverbanks and bush, then cutting it all to the correct shapes and sizes. Purvis says sculpture plays with ideas about containment and invasion.

"Are the forms protecting their content or do the surroundings need protecting from that content?"

She won the supreme award in 2013 and says to be named a repeat winner is humbling and exciting.

Other art works include traditional stone carvings and bronze castings by Jim Wheeler, Phil Neary, Christine Massey and Samantha Lissette; a vividly-coloured pom-pom orb by Lang Ea and quirky figures by Ramon Robertson, Sam Duckor-Jones, Bryn Jones, Lucy Bucknall and Jamie Pickernell.

Corrugated iron sculptor Jeff Thomson looks to have had a change of direction, creating, with Bev Goodwin, bright pond sculptures which float on one of the gardens' ponds.
Donna Turtle Sarten's Strange Fruits is perhaps one of the most poignant works. While the Billie Holiday song Strange Fruit alluded to the lynching of African Americans, Sarten's work features hundreds of aluminium discs and serves as a memorial to those New Zealanders who died, served in and were forever affected by the Vietnam War.

Event manager Kim Stretton says what makes the show unique is that it's open to everyone and free to attend.

Most of the sculptures can be viewed from paths or flat ground while mobility scooters and wheelchairs can be borrowed (free) from the visitor centre. There are also free guided tours that can be specifically tailored to the elderly, those who require a slower pace, and visitors with impaired vision.

Sculpture in the Gardens opens today and runs until February 25. The Auckland Botanic Gardens are open 8am - 8pm every day.