Pukekura Park - its ecology and history - Friends of Pukekura Park New Plymouth Inc.

Donation of Pukekura Park’s Original Orchid Collection

George Fuller

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The late Fred Parker was a member of the Pukekura Park Committee in the 1960 era. Fred had established a superb garden in New Plymouth which was open to the public and became nationally famous. Few visitors to New Plymouth in the 1930-1960 period would not have visited Parker’s Gardens. Fred had a highly developed understanding of plants, and was able to propagate difficult subjects with ease, and cultivate and display to perfection. His garden was the most intensively planted garden I have seen anywhere in my travels. It was an absolute delight and a plant hunter’s paradise at any time of the year. Not only was Fred a master of both summer and winter bedding displays of annuals, but throughout the year there would be rare and/or spectacular shrubs or climbers and orchids in flower.

Before I went overseas in 1947 to learn specifically about orchids, which at that time were relatively uncommon in cultivation in New Zealand, I worked on Saturdays at Parker’s Gardens encouraged by contact with Fred’s orchids and his willingness to pass on his knowledge about them. I returned to New Zealand in 1964 to resettle, but with very little hope of finding employment associated with orchids. I found temporary work in Auckland assembling cars while seeking technician work at a university or horticultural research station. By pure coincidence, I paid a social call on Fred Parker at a time when, unbeknown to me, he had decided to donate his fine orchid collection to New Plymouth City but he wanted to be assured that it would be appropriately housed and cared for. Fred suggested that I may be “just the person for the task”, and asked if I was interested!

In 1965, I joined the Pukekura Park staff for general duties with special responsibility for inducting the orchid collection as it was made available. This commenced in November of that year.

The news that the Pukekura Park displays would be enhanced by the donation of Fred Parker's orchid collection was readily accepted by the local authority, and finance was made available for the provision of necessary facilities. With his indomitable enthusiasm, Fred was up at the Park every day for months using his skills as a builder to physically ensure that the facilities came up to his standards. The collection of orchids was handed over in three stages, and became known as the Agnes Parker Orchid Collection in commemoration of the late Mrs Parker. Furthermore, it was endowed as a means of ensuring that it could be constantly updated. Subsequently, three glass houses providing divisions of cool, intermediate and warm climate for orchid genera were constructed at the New Plymouth Parks and Reserves Nursery at Brooklands. This involved me in frequent movement between the Fernery and the Nursery, usually jogging, because long-distance running was my chosen sport.

Fred Parker’s donation of his orchid collection received much publicity, and news of it spread rapidly with an interesting and unexpected outcome. Offers of further orchids were received from far afield and, in some cases, there were donations of complete collections of rare and/or valuable orchids, usually because ageing orchid enthusiasts felt assured that their plants would be well cared for and kept together as a collection if at the Park.

The accompanying photographs, owned by George Fuller, show Fred Parker (in the black suit) donating his orchid collection to the Park, and Iolanthe Small watering the new orchid collection.

Reproduced from The Newsletter of the Friends of Pukekura Park 3(1) (February 2008)


Fred Parker established a remarkable garden in New Plymouth which became nationally famous as Parker’s Gardens in the period 1930 to 1960. George Fuller returned from studying orchids overseas just at the time Fred Parker had decided to donate his orchid collection to New Plymouth City, and George was given special responsibility for the collection’s inclusion in displays at Pukekura Park in 1965. As news spread of the donation of this collection, orchids were received from other enthusiasts. To ensure that the Agnes Parker Orchid Collection was continually updated, three glass houses were built at the New Plymouth Parks and Reserves Nursery at Brooklands. A photo of Fred Parker making the donation of his orchid collection accompanies the article. A second photo depicts Iolanthe Small watering the new collection.

Pukekura Park, Brooklands Nursery, New Plymouth Parks and Reserves Department, orchid collections, Fred Parker, Agnes Parker, Parker’s Gardens, George Fuller, donation.

Fred Parker – donor of Pukekura Park’s original orchid collection

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