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Conference 2023
30th March – 2nd April 2023
‘Intimate Landscapes’

Our 2023 Banks Memorial Lecture and some of our award presentations were held alongside the NZGT conference based in the Wellington region.

BANKS MEMORIAL LECTURE (a free public lecture)
‘An Empire of Plants?: Chinese plants, Asian/ European trade, and Aotearoa New Zealand, 1790s–1880s’

By Associate Professor James Beattie

James Beattie
James Beattie, 2023 Banks Memorial Lecturer.

The Banks Memorial Lecture is a free lecture open to the public. The lecture commemorates Sir Joseph Banks, botanist on Captain Cook's first voyage to New Zealand. During a later distinguished scientific career, Banks was Director of the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew, London.

Venue: Begonia House (greenhouse),  Wellington Botanic Garden.
Date: Thursday, 30th March 2023.
Time: 5.30–6.30 pm, followed by award presentations.
Cost: Free.

James Beattie is a garden, environmental and world historian whose works focus on the Asia Pacific region, mostly over the last two hundred years. His many books and articles explore cross-cultural exchanges occasioned by British imperialism and globalisation, especially through gardens and plant exchanges. James grew up in the Wairarapa and Yorkshire, and studied history at the University of Otago,  where he gained a BA Hons (first class) and a PhD.

James is currently working on several garden history-related projects, related to Chinese migration, garden-making, health and botanical exchange. He feels privileged to work in the area of garden history, not least because of the many wonderful people he has met and with whom he has collaborated, as well as the magnificent gardens he has visited.

In 2022, he received the RNZIH Garden History Award (Award in Horticultural History and Conservation).


Our King at Kew & the Emperor of China at Jehol solace themselves under the  shade of the same trees & admire the elegance of many of the same flowers in
their respective gardens.

Joseph Banks to Sir George Staunton, Letter, January 1796
(Ray Desmond, Kew: The History of the Royal Botanic Gardens, London, 1995, p. 98).

Both the British Empire and the Chinese Empire were as much empires of plants as they were empires of conquest. For Joseph Banks, plant-hunting and empire-making were closely interlinked objectives which he eagerly promoted. In light of Banks’ activities and the statement above about the availability of Chinese plants in Britain, this talk examines some of the manner in which imperial connections between China, India, Britain, Australia and New Zealand reveal lesser known histories of plant introductions from Asia – and particularly China – into New Zealand from the 1830s. I will focus on two groups of people who introduced Asian plants into New Zealand: the first, typified by former East India Company trader Thomas McDonnell, who settled in the Hokianga in 1830, and – the second group – comprising Cantonese migrants and gardeners, such as Dunedin flower-lover Wong Koo, who came to New Zealand from the mid-1860s.

2021 NZ Gardens Trust conference
‘Rebuild, Renew, Reimagine’

The 2023 conference focused on the diverse landscapes of the Wellington region.

Acclaimed Auckland-based landscape designer Andy Hamilton delivered the keynote speech at the conference dinner.

The NZGT collaborated with the RNZIH in offering the Banks Lecture, presented by Dr James Beattie, on the Thursday evening. Award presentations followed the lecture.

The programme, registration form and accommodation details are at:

(Note different venue, date and time to the NZGT conference and Banks Lecture)

Venue: Friends Room, Auckland Botanic  Gardens, Manurewa.
Date: Sunday 30th July 2023.
11.00 am.


  1. Welcome
  2. Apologies / In Memoriam
  3. Minutes of the 2022 Annual General Meeting
  4. Matters arising from the Minutes of the 2022 AGM, including ratification of a revised Constitution
  5. Presidents’ Annual Report
  6. Statement of Accounts for 2022, Budget for 2023 and confirmation of Auditor
  7. Branch report (Auckland)
  8. Trust reports
  9. Publications and website report
  10. Election of Officers
  11. General Business.

The AGM was followed by RNZIH award  presentations.

Minutes, reports, and proposed revisions to our Constitution was circulated before the AGM.

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Last updated: 8 May, 2023