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Botanic Gardens and Parks in New Zealand
An Illustrated Record

By Paul Tritenbach
Published by Excellence Press, 1987

Reviewed by Mike Oates

At last we have a book about the parks, gardens and town belts established in New Zealand during the nineteenth and early twentieth century. For too long this important part of our heritage has been neglected. Many of our towns and cities today are immeasurably richer because of the foresight of those settlers who set aside land for open space in the early settlements. Can anyone imagine Auckland without Cornwall Park and One Tree Hill, Wellington without its town belt, or Christchurch without Hagley Park? Paul Tritenbach is to be congratulated for writing a book that sets the record straight, and one written in a form that will appeal to the general reader, and not just the specialist researcher.

The book traces the development of New Zealand's best known parks from their establishment, through to the present day. It is divided into 19 chapters, each giving an historical chronology of a particular park, using photographs, maps and text. It is inevitable that such a book can only touch on a park's development and not provide a complete record. There are times when one would like to know a bit more, and it is good to see a listing of source material at the end of each chapter.

The historic photographs and maps are superb, and tell much about the development of these parks and the early plantings of exotics. They show what a tremendous resource is stored in our museums and libraries, and how valuable photographic material can be as an historic record.

The author has been selective in the parks chosen, and tried to include those that are largest and oldest as well as those that show historical differences. However, it is hard to understand how a chapter can be devoted to Western Springs Reserve (including the zoo and MOTAT) in Auckland, when the world famous Otari Native Plant Museum in Wellington doesn't even get a mention. I am not denying the importance of Western Springs Reserve but in a book entitled 'Botanic Gardens and Parks in New Zealand', Otari should have been given preference.

This criticism aside, I would recommend the book to all those interested in the history of our parks and gardens. It is reasonably priced, and will prove complementary to the more detailed histories published (or about to be) on individual parks and gardens. Just as importantly, it will go a long way towards raising the profile of our neglected garden heritage.

Annual Journal of the Royal New Zealand Institute of Horticulture 1988 15: 110

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