King's Birthday opening hours

12:00am 03 Jun 2024

Over the King's Birthday public holiday (Monday 3 June 2024) some of our facilities will be closed or have reduced hours.

Find out more
Tāhuhu kōrero


Find out all about the 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.

Image: Fernery and Display Houses 1998