Cross Hills Gardens & Nursery

Cross Hills Gardens in the Manawatu are a hidden gem to outsiders, but well known in the garden world as one of New Zealand’s best Rhododendron and Azalea gardens, with over 2000 varieties. A little off the beaten track but a firm favourite with MoaTours guests for many years on our Taranaki Rhododendron Gardens tour.

Cross Hills Gardens history

It is not often you find a garden that has spanned four generations and is still going strong.

Cross Hill Gardens and Nursery in the Manawatu was once virgin bush. In the late 1880’s the bush was cleared and turned into pasture. It was farmed for 60 years before Eric Wilson, the founder of the garden bought the land in 1938. Eric and his wife Merle have since passed away, but not before making a significant mark on the property. Today their son Rodney and wife Faith, grandson Scott and wife Angela and their young family now manage the 240-hectare property.

The sheep and cattle farm take up 218 hectares and the remaining eleven hectares are the Cross Hill Garden and Nursery.

How the garden evolved?

In 1951 Eric and Merle built a new homestead on the property and landscaped the surrounding land with native and exotic trees, including many Rhododendrons. With the perfect soil and the right climate for rhododendrons they flourished. As public interest grew for these wonderful trees so too did Eric and Merle’s love for them. They continued to plant them and in 1970 the Rhododendron garden was completed

Soon after a second garden called the Café Garden was established followed by the South Hill Garden in 1972 and the Azalea Bowl in 1982. The garden continued to mature and in 1984 the Middle Flat above the Conifer Valley was planted. This area and the Far Flat 1986 contain many of the new and exciting imports to Cross Hills.

Before Eric passed away in 1992 he was delighted the planting had been completed as well as the Waterfall and Ornamental Pools, a project he was intent on seeing through.

The world’s finest Rhododendron and Azalea collection

Like any garden they are an evolving project and the Wilson family are continually modifying and rebuilding to add interest and beauty for future years. The Rhododendron and Azalea collection is no exception and now totals over 2,000 varieties, reputedly the finest in the world.

With the thousands of bushes planted, it has been possible to create the many different colour and variety groupings providing a great show in the peak season, October through to November.

Cross Hills Nursery

As a result of the family’s great knowledge and love of Rhododendrons and Azaleas, Rodney and Merle started a nursery 35 years ago. Today, 700 varieties of Rhododendrons and Azaleas are available for sale and are shipped from one end of the country to the other. The business is very successful and the plants can be purchased at the property or on-line.

In addition, Cross Hill Nursery is the only nursery in the world growing standard Rhododendrons.  These designer trees can be grown in tubs or a feature in a garden. They are rarely seen outside of New Zealand taking five years to propagate to a saleable size. A normal Rhododendron takes three years to reach a saleable size.

As a sideline to the nursery, the family produce a permanent aluminium lifetime plant label. They are sold all over the world and to botanical gardens and can be a great reminder of the specimen’s name long after it was planted.

November Country Fair

If the farm, the nursery and the gardens aren’t enough to keep this energised family busy, they also like to give a little back. Each year in November the Country Fair takes place in the gardens. With over 180 stalls showcasing unique and New Zealand made products, they expect over 6,000 visitors this year to come and enjoy the garden, live music, picnic and stalls. Cross Hill Gardens makes a donation after the event alternating each year between the Palmerston North Hospice and Rescue Helicopter.

Opening hours and admission

Cross Hills Gardens and Nursery is open daily from September through May from 10.30am to 5pm (Peak Spring season October – November)

Children are free and there is a $10 entry fee for adults.

Off Peak Season adults $5.00.

No dogs allowed, excluding guide dogs.

Adults $8.00 for 20 people or more.

Bookings are essential for large groups. Allow 1.5 hours for a relaxed walk around gardens, plus time for refreshments.

The season ticket provides unlimited visits and is fully transferable so you can pass it on to someone else. $17.00 each

Location and Directions

Cross Hills Gardens and Nursery is in Kimbolton, a rural village north of Feilding in the Manawatu District, in New Zealand’s North Island.

The closet regional airport is Palmerston North. The garden is 45 kilometres for the airport, taking approximately 40 minutes to drive.

Cross Hills Gardens and Nursery
339 Rangiwahia Road
RD 54
Kimbolton 4774
New Zealand

Telephone: +64 (0)6 328 5797


The café is open during the peak season. It serves home-made food for morning and afternoon teas and light lunches.


The Magic Mini is available during the peak season, weekdays only.

It is excellent for visitors unable to walk the distance. The Magic Mini seats nine people. The trip takes 35 minutes and is available by appointment only at $5.00 per person (minimum $20.00).

The property is accessible by wheelchairs and electric scooters.

Tours You'll Love

Taranaki Rhododendron Gardens 6 Day Tour

See Taranaki’s best rhododendron gardens in bloom, visit Cross Hills Garden in Kimbolton and stay in Whanganui and Taupo.

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