Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Eden Garden: Beauty Rising From the Rubbish Heap

When I was at secondary school in Auckland, New Zealand, I wrote a geography essay on the topic, “That Auckland is a city of volcanic cones joined together by a sewerage system. Discuss.” I have neither any recollection of what I wrote nor any idea of my argument but it was probably a mountain of crap, like its subject.

I happened to visit one of those volcanic cones recently on the flank of Mt. Eden, a few minutes drive from downtown Auckland.

Some photographs reveal what this area used to be—an abandoned quarry that had not only left an unsightly scar on the mountain but had been used as a rubbish heap.

Today it is called Eden Garden and it is certainly one of Auckland’s best-kept secrets. It has become a modern Garden of Eden containing waterfalls, trees, shrubs and flowers. Such is its horticultural richness (it contains one of the biggest collections of camellias in the southern hemisphere) that this garden is listed by the NZ Gardens Trust as a ‘Garden of Regional Significance’.

From a depressing, disused quarry that stood as tribute to humanity’s vandalism and waste, to a place of beauty, growth, tranquility and healing. No wonder people choose to bury the ashes of their loved ones in these gardens that witness to the amazing transformation of the dead. It is no surprise that people visit these gardens in their droves to drink a cappuccino while watching tuis (NZ native bird) feeding from the Taiwanese Prunus. People drop in after work to listen to musicians playing their violins and flutes against the backdrop of the rhododendrons. Counselors sometimes meet their clients in the outside or inside café, surrounded by so much life, healing, change and promise.

The simple plaque on the gate belies the enormous work of an army of volunteers:

“In 1964 Sir Frank and Lady Mappin gave an abandoned quarry to the nation. Thanks to the vision of a small group of enthusiasts this quarry became today’s Eden Garden. They looked on a wilderness and dreamed of a garden.”

Dr. Geoff Pound

Image: Front Gate to the Eden Garden.