Pottering about

On a recent visit to the Auckland Regional Botanic Gardens for the first time I stumbled upon the Potter Children’s Garden.

The garden, which was made possible by funding from the Frederick Potter Masonic Trust, was officially opened by HRH Prince Charles, the Prince of Wales in March 2005 – and, despite the similarity of names, is nothing to do with the Ian Potter Foundation Children’s Garden at the Royal Botanic Garden Melbourne. Read more about Sir Ian Potter.

Musa velutina or pink velvet banana, native to northeastern India and Assam. Photo: Sandra Simpson

New Zealander Frederick Potter (1857-1941) was a Freemason who dedicated his life to helping young people, despite having no children of his own. He was born in London and came to New Zealand as an infant with his parents and elder brother William aboard the steamship Lord Ashley.

A successful businessman he made land donations to various organisations in several parts of Auckland, including an acre in 1929 to the Takapuna Borough Council for what became Potter’s Park.

In 1930 the Potter properties and endowments were entrusted to the Grand Lodge of New Zealand which created the Potter Masonic Trust. Mr Potter died at Auckland Hospital on March 29, 1941.

The Potter Masonic Trust has also given money to children’s parks in Hamilton.

Photo: Sandra Simpson

The Potter Children’s Garden in Auckland was extended in 2010 and also won an award that year – and encourages self-discovery from its visitors. As well as native plants, there is a desert area (don’t you love the skull!) and a rainforest area, complete with “steaming rain”.

The garden also aims to introduce children to the wonders of New Zealand plants and animals and the relationships these have, for example the puriri tree, kereru (native wood pigeon) and mokoroa (puriri moth).

In 2009 it was reported that about 9000 children a year visit the garden.

Bromeliads attached to what might be old bridge pilings. Photo: Sandra Simpson

In other news from the garden, you may have seen that a 90kg bronze sculpture of an eel was stolen at the weekend – the NZ Herald reported this morning that it has been recovered intact and will be given to the sculptor, Bing Dawe, for repairs. The artwork is worth $30,000 and was recovered from a scrap metal yard after thieves tried to sell it for $300!

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