Bee Dawson | hardcover | 228 pages | 2022
Ōtari tells the story of Ōtari–Wilton’s Bush, the only botanic garden dedicated solely to the collection and conservation of the plants unique to Aotearoa New Zealand and a native bush reserve with over a hundred hectares of regenerating forest, including some of Wellington’s oldest trees.
It begins with the Ngāti Tama gardens in the area from the 1820s, and settler family the Wiltons, who protected acres of native bush for the community to enjoy, and then follows the evolution of the land into a plant museum under leading plant ecologist Leonard Cockayne and Wellington’s first Director of Parks and Reserves, John Gretton MacKenzie.
Botanical descriptions and archival research are enlivened by the colourful stories of the curators who created and managed the collections, starting with Walter Brockie in 1947, and the many gardeners, botanists and volunteers who have worked on the internationally renowned garden and reserve. Ōtari–Wilton’s Bush is a taonga that sustains both the people who visit it and the country whose plant life it protects.