From its origin in 1869 as a private garden, Percy Reserve is nowadays a well-loved public attraction, an urban retreat for family groups, picnickers, plant-lovers and anyone looking for an hour’s enjoyment of the natural environment of green spaces and bush-clad hills. It sits alongside Western Hutt Road, easily accessible from Dowse Drive turn-off.
The original garden was set up by the Percy brothers on land close to a flour mill built by their grandfather. The brothers planted a mixture of native and exotic species, with preference for native flora – an unusual action for the time – and their work was described as “a veritable native plant museum”, becoming well known in the area. The mill is long gone but a waterwheel, now ornamental, remains.
The land occupied by the flour mill and surrounding garden was valuable to the family of Te Puni, a leader of Te Ati Awa and a government adviser. Rental income from it was paid to Te Puni’s son-in-law, Matene Tauwhare, according to records. In 1939 a half share of the Percy garden was inherited by the Government, to be kept as a scenic reserve. Later, the other half passed into public ownership and in 1949 the whole area was opened for public use.
Closely associated with Percy Scenic Reserve are the names Tony and Helen Druce. Tony Druce was one of New Zealand’s foremost botanists and, with his wife, Helen, established a native plant collection at their property in Pinehaven holding many hundreds of living specimens. In later life the Druces donated the entire collection to the reserve, where it has joined a select group of other important and diverse plant collections.