The Tree Church in Ohaupo, New Zealand is a church made from living trees. Each of the trees that make up the church and surrounding grounds has been carefully selected for its quality and style of growth. The living church is surrounded by three acres of gardens, living tree fences and boundaries, a living labyrinth, and garden walks, and is designed as a place to contemplate and enjoy nature.
Leptospernums, or the Teatree, were selected to make up the walls of the church. The flowering species is native to New Zealand and honey from the tree’s flowers is said to have healing, antibacterial properties. The tree’s leaves have a copper sheen, enhanced by trimming every six weeks. The cut-leaved Alder, or Laciniata, was used for the church’s roof, due to its flexibility and the sparse canopy that allows sunlight into the space. The natural light keeps the church free from the need for electricity and helps maintain the growth of the grassy ground cover. Additional trees supporting the church include the Camelia Black Tie, a bright red rose, the Acer Globosum, also known as Norway Maple, a small tree that grows a dense, symmetrically round crown of leaves, and Thuja Pyramidalis, a conical shaped evergreen native to New Zealand.
The church’s alter is made of Italian marble from Lake Cuomo, and has personal significance for the church’s owner, Barry Cox, as it originally served as the alter at his home church in Shannon, New Zealand.
Throughout the gardens, guests will also see oaks and maples, Beech trees, Ginkos, the evergreen Poplar, the conifer Taxodium, or Cypress tree, and the Black Tupelo, or Nyssa tree. Bog gardens, a cut flower garden and a vegetable garden are also located on the grounds. A pond of water lilies is surrounded by weeping willows. A labyrinth walk is based on the design of the city of Jericho in 460 BC. The unicursal labyrinth has no dead-ends. Visitors enter at the single entrance and follow the circular pattern to the center, then back out again. The 7 circles of the Jericho labyrinth historically represent the circle of life itself; from the outer circle of death, to the inner circle of eternity.
History: The creator of the Tree Church, Barry Cox, has always been fascinated by churches and their history, and spent much of his young adult life traveling the world to visit the most famous cathedrals. Cox owned a service that safely uprooted and transplanted trees, and he used this experience and knowledge in his personal Tree Church project, as he set out to create something that honored the beauty of churches he long admired.
In 2007, Cox built the iron frame of the church and carefully planted the trees, which he has since been training to grow around the frame. Ultimately, the iron frame will be removed when the trees are sturdy enough to support the structure on their own.
Although Cox initially began the project for his personal enjoyment, he was convinced to open the gardens to the public in 2015. Soon after, Cox’s nephew asked about getting married in the church, and a new business was born. Cox currently has plans to plant a natural amphitheater behind the church, to be used for events, as well as plans to expand the English garden surrounding the labyrinth.
Ongoing Programs and Education: The Tree Church is open to the public seasonally, closing for the winter. Visitors pay an admission fee to walk the grounds and spend a day enjoying the landscape. Although there is no food or drink available at the gardens, guests may bring their own picnic lunches. Day visitors are asked to respect the Tree Church and surrounding gardens as they would any church, and are encouraged to quietly enjoy their time on site.
The church itself can seat up to 100 guests for weddings and other events, and is available for event rental. There is also a covered outdoor pavilion available that can seat up to 60 under cover for receptions and other events.
What’s Nearby: The Tree Church is consistently voted Number One among things to do in Ohaupo. Nearby, visitors interested in nature and the outdoors will also find Hamilton Gardens, a conceptual nature park that has recreated historical garden concepts from throughout the world, and Yarndley’s Bush, a natural forest offering hiking and trails, nature and wildlife viewing.
119 West Road M, Ohaupo 3881, New Zealand, Phone: 6-42-76-90-31-05