History of the Fernery and Display Houses

The proposal to construct the Fernery was first discussed in 1918 as a means to preserve a collection of native ferns.

Mrs Lovell from Hawera designed the Fernery based on her own fernery that featured, the now iconic, tunnels dug through the hillside. 

Work started in June 1926 with the steep hillside being dug by hand. The soil was used to form the small lakes in Stanton Dell and The Fred Parker Lawn.

Planting started in July 1927 with houses one, two and three being planted almost entirely with over 1000 native ferns, many of which were donated by Duncan and Davies, a well known New Plymouth Nursery.

Mayor Mr H.V.S. Griffiths opened the Fernery in January 1928.

The Begonia house was built from salvaged materials in 1939.

The mid sixties saw the entrance fee to the Fernery and Display houses abolished.

A local nurseryman Fred Parker donated a large collection of Cymbidium orchids and house two was converted to display the collection.

The old Begonia House was replaced in 1967 with a new steel structure that was named the Kibby Begonia house, named after funders Mr and Mrs George Kibby.

1998 saw a major rebuild of the roof structures over houses two and three amalgamating them and the area between them into one structure. An extension to the north created a viewing platform from houses two and three and another entrance to the Kibby House.

The Kibby House was extended in 2001.

The top prop was rebuilt to twice its original size to re-house a large collection of orchids.

2005 saw an irrigation system installed on the tops of the fern banks in houses one, two and three and outside the nursery.

The Horton Walk entry was opened to the public in 2006.

An authentic Balinese pavilion was purchased from a donation and installed in the tropical area in the Kibby House.

The display houses complex was upgraded in 2013 as the third part of a major upgrade that began 14 years ago. The upgrade features new staff facilities and offices, Curator’s office, a new propagation glasshouse, raincover growing houses and nursery line-out area.

The fernery house, which  was the oldest section of the facility, was re-roofed, using a high tech tinted glass, and new irrigation and ventilation systems were installed throughout the display and growing houses.

There were also a new potting shed, chemical and tool sheds built. 

Although these facilities have had a major upgrade, the display areas open to the public remain the same.

See our Flickr page for more historic photos of the Fernery and Display Houses.