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A much loved tropical sanctuary

Tauranga’s Tropical Display House is a botanical wonderland maintained by Citycare Property horticulturalists with special devotion.

On behalf of the city council, Melanie Wards and Moa Palo are dedicated to looking after the unique plants in this warm and humid temperature-controlled environment in Robbins Park.

Since Citycare Property began this contract in July 2019, the Tauranga horticulture team has painstakingly brought the display house back to its former glory days.

“It is a really exciting opportunity to recreate a tropical haven for the city and bring fresh eyes to the displays,” Horticulture Supervisor Megan Webber says.

There are beautiful orchids galore – Cymbidium orchids, Phalaenopsis (Moth orchids, Paphiopedilum (Lady Slipper Orchids), Dendrobium Orchids, Oncidium Orchids (Dancing Lady) and Arpophyllum Giganteum Orchids.

tropical display house tauranga citycare property

And even an Elephant Foot Yam which is known for its ugliness and stink when it’s in flower.

Many hanging baskets fill the display house and ferns, bromeliads and tall plants provide layering for the displays.

The Citycare Property team has some historical ties to Tropical Display House.

Megan and Waikato Branch Manager Gavin Andrews worked there earlier in their careers.

Tauranga Branch Manager Jessica Townsend has great memories of the site at Robbins Park as her grandmother lived across the road from 1979-2010.

When Jessica was visiting as a child she’d play there with her brother, hiding and imagining it was a jungle.

“There was always a particular smell to the place so when I walked in again last year it took me right back to being 5-7 years old!” she says.

Megan has sourced plants from around the Bay of Plenty and built a supply chain with enthusiasts by attending orchid shows and utilising the contacts she has established over her 30-plus years in the industry.

The display house provides an opportunity for the team to be creative. It holds six different benches with plants displayed according to varying themes and colours and changed each quarter.
“It’s a hidden sanctuary – a lot of people don’t realise it’s there. I was so keen to get my teeth into it and restore it to how it used to be,” Megan says.

The display house began its life as the borough glasshouse, then in 1954 it opened as Begonia House. There are no botanical gardens in Tauranga, but the Tropical Display House is adjacent to the rose gardens.

Maintenance includes a daily visit to clean, plant maintenance and collection of visitor data.

The temperature hovers around 25-26°C and the irrigation system runs on a regimented timetable depending on the needs of the precious plants.

“Melanie and Moa take real pride in their work and it’s a real credit to them – they love starting each day in such a wonderful environment,” Megan says.

During the national COVID-19 pandemic lockdown, there was no way the horticulture team was going to risk all their hard work and neglect the prized tropical assets.

Melanie and Megan took some of the more rare and expensive plants to their homes for love and attention during Level 4.

Now the Tropical Display House has re-opened to visitors, so drop in if you’re in Tauranga.

Main photo: Moa Palo (left) and Melanie Wards nurture the exotic plants at the Tauranga Tropical Display House.