It's currently putting on a summer show but every season brings something new to enjoy at Whanganui's Bason Botanic Gardens.

And if plants aren't your thing, chances are the Bason, recognised by the New Zealand Gardens Trust as a Garden of Significance, can still turn on something to charm, entertain or challenge you.

Surrounded by farmland, Bason Botanic Gardens in Rapanui Rd has been developed over the years since Stanley Bason gifted his 25ha farm and homestead garden to the city in 1966.

Bason thought deeply about the future of the environment and believed that we are all individually responsible.

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The Homestead Garden was created by Stanley and Blanche Bason.
The Homestead Garden was created by Stanley and Blanche Bason.

Bason and his wife Blanche had developed the garden into a display of rare and beautiful plants, covering over 4046sq m. Their plantings included more than 140 named camellia specimens and 500 roses as well as a diverse range of plants from all over the world.

Looking into the Homestead Garden.
Looking into the Homestead Garden.

Their dream was for the whole property to be developed into a botanical reserve and that was Bason's vision when he gifted it to the city.

"It should be a botanic garden focusing on collection, conservation and preservation of rare plants while providing a peaceful and beautiful place for people to enjoy and relax."

Although Blanche Bason's roses have gone, the Bason's homestead garden has been maintained and developed for visitors to enjoy and the rest of the property now provides opportunities for fun, education and entertainment.

There are indoor and outdoor gardens, bush walks and areas where people can relax or play games or sport. Head to the Bason on a sunny day and you'll usually find families, friends and groups using the free gas barbecues.

Plantings around the reserve include native and introduced species and there is an extensive orchid collection as well as bromeliads, begonias and tropical plants in the conservatories.

The Larsen Orchid House has beautiful blooms on display.
The Larsen Orchid House has beautiful blooms on display.

Visitors can enjoy watching and listening to birds around the lake and in the native bush and wetlands area.

Lose yourself gazing at the patterns on the lake.
Lose yourself gazing at the patterns on the lake.

With a network of roads around the reserve, you can drive around and stop at lookout points if you don't want to, or are unable to, walk.

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Sculpture and architectural features have become attractions in the reserve.

The conservatories are part of the Bason's architectural features.
The conservatories are part of the Bason's architectural features.

The reserve is run by the Whanganui District Council in partnership with the Bason Botanic Gardens Trust.

Trust chairman Terry Dowdeswell said the Bason attracted a range of people who used the reserve for different reasons.

"It's been very busy out there this summer," Dowdeswell said.

"It's a great time to go around and see the summer flowers.

"I want to say how pleased we are to see such a diverse range of people using it very responsibly and appreciating what we have there.

"It always attracts a lot of interest as a wedding venue. Now it's becoming a destination for tour groups to have a look around. We get regular visits by rest homes because it's so convenient to be able to drive around. Schools visit regularly and it's used for regional athletics events."

There's plenty of space to run around.
There's plenty of space to run around.

The trust is continuing to develop the reserve and find different ways to encourage people to visit.

In 2016 the Bason was the venue for the Shakespeare in the Park production of Macbeth and the Elizabethan-themed Great Bason Fair. Shakespeare came to the Bason again in 2018 when The Tempest was staged.

The Tempest swept through Bason Botanic Gardens in February 2018.
The Tempest swept through Bason Botanic Gardens in February 2018.

Those events have prompted the installation of some new equipment, Dowdeswell said.

"People will notice stainless steel power boxes around Picnic Flat. They have been installed to make productions like Shakespeare and the fair, and possibly concerts, a much easier proposition, being able to isolate the transformer away from where we have the event so it will be much quieter."

The trust is continuing to develop the plantings.

"We are periodically offered collections of plants, the latest being part of Dr Keith Hammett's clivia collection," Dowdeswell said.

Auckland-based Hammett is New Zealand's leading professional breeder of ornamental plants.

Bason Botanic Gardens has no lighting so its closing times vary, according to sunset hours. People must leave the gardens before it gets dark when the gates are shut.

From December until the end of February, it is open from 8am to 8.30pm or until dusk.

Hours throughout the rest of the year are:

March–April: 8am to 7.30pm
April to end of daylight saving: 8am to 6.30pm
Outside of daylight saving: 8am to 5.30pm
First month of daylight saving: 8am to 6.30pm
Labour Weekend to December: 8am to 8pm

Sculpture and architectural features provide focal points around the reserve.
Sculpture and architectural features provide focal points around the reserve.