Eastwoodhill Arboretum is recognised as a Garden of National Significance by the New Zealand Gardens Trust - the result of many years of hard work by volunteers and staff, particularly in the Homestead Garden. It has most recently retained its five star status in the Garden of National Significance ratings in late 2017.
The Homestead Garden
The arboretum's founder Douglas Cook began planting immediately after taking up this once scrubby block of land in 1910. In his first year Cook planted roses, bulbs, vegetables, orchards trees and some woodlots around his cottage and in Orchard Hill valley. Many seeds of trees and shrubs were also purchased and sown.
However, Cook's progress was interrupted in 1914 by WWI. An order of 100 trees and shrubs and 100 rhododendrons and azaleas arrived a week before he was due to leave for a training camp with the Wellington Mounted Rifles and it was a rush to get these planted.
Cook served in the Middle East, Gallipoli, Egypt and France before being sent to Britain to recuperate from his war injuries. Here he admired the gardens of stately homes and was inspired to create an equally stunning garden at Eastwoodhill.
"I'd got the idea after staying with wealthy relatives and their friends, that I too could have lovely surroundings, even if I could never have a fine home and live as they did. That was the start of the park. A dignified park to drive through to my home, whatever its size," said Douglas Cook, founder of Eastwoodhill Arboretum.
The present homestead was the third home on Eastwoodhill for Cook. The original house was burnt down and its replacement was built to Cook's own design specifications in four stages.
In the mid 1930s, Douglas employed a bricklayer to lay many yards of brick retaining walls and free standing walls. A circular sundial feature and a set of Lutyens-inspired round steps were also laid.
Over the years, organisations such as the Youth Hostel Association, the National party and Save the Children were given permission to hold open days at Eastwoodhill and keep the profits. Tea was served on the homestead terrace and the public had an opportunity to explore the surrounding garden.
In the later years of Douglas Cook's life and after his death, many parts of the arboretum were left neglected. Concerned about the deteriorating health of the Homestead Garden, four local women - Dawn Jefferd, Mary Bush, Robin McIldowie and Bev Bridge - formed a gardening group in 1984 and began the massive task of rejuvenating the garden.
In 1992 the Trust Board appointed Gordon Collier from Titoki Point to be responsible for the overall design of the Homestead Garden area and through Gordon's input the garden has developed into a major attraction for the arboretum.
The Homestead Garden is 1.5 hectares and extends from the Visitor Centre to the Homestead and across to the Black Gates.