Words Vicki Ravlich-Horan
Images Ashlee DeCaires
Dotted through Hamilton Gardens you’ll spot some of the healthiest Quince trees around and at this time of year they are laden. An ancient fruit, the quince has fallen out of favour in recent times, possibly due to the work involved in turning the rose scented fruit into anything edible. This has meant many trees are neglected and the fruit riddled with disease. Not so at Hamilton Gardens!
Leading Hand, Tarn Harker who trained at Wintec on site at the Hamilton Gardens has been working at the gardens for five plus years and now leads a team of 4-5 gardeners gave us a little tour to point out just where some of the hidden gems in the garden can be found. If you ever get the chance to have a behind the scenes tour of the gardens I highly recommend it. Each time I spend time with the gardening team I learn something new about this treasure in our city, not to mention gain a nugget of knowledge I can take back to my garden.
While the gardener’s foremost priority is always visual impact several gardens produce some fabulous produce. The Italian Renaissance Garden is a perfect example. Here 48 healthy Seville orange trees put on a beautiful display each year. If you have ever tried to grow citrus in a pot you will appreciate the care and attention required for these trees to flourish. And flourish they do and in late autumn they are bursting with bright orange fruit.
While visually gorgeous this fruit, like the quince, is not edible raw. Also like the quince they don’t go to waste, instead the Hamilton Gardens team harvest the oranges along with the quince and send them to Wild Country who turn them into preserves sold in the gift shop.
The Seville Orange Marmalade was the first of the Hamilton Gardens Preserve range. You’ll also find a paste made from those quinces, Damson Plum Jam from the trees in the Tudor Garden as well as Lemon Curd and chilli sauce.
When we arrive at the kitchen garden, a garden designed to be like a Kitchen Garden of a Manor house we see mile high corn, tonnes of tomatoes, Kiwifruit, courgettes, chillies and more including a large patch where potatoes had just been dug. In this garden, where an abundance of produce is grown the Hamilton Gardens Café make use of what they can or Kaivolution are called to help distribute the bounty, like the bumper potato crop.
The Hamilton Gardens are not designed to be a city farm but instead a place to learn through the gardens of time, it just so happens that such gardens produce food. I’m looking forward to what the planned Egyptian garden will produce! All the same it’s great to see that little goes to waste, what can be is used to generate more funds for the garden or enhance visitor’s experience and the rest is donated to those in need.