George Forrest Glen became the Head Gardener in 1901 for the Wellington City Corporation. In 1904 he was made Superintendent of City Reserves, a position in which he was to remain until his retirement in 1918. Glen was the first horticultural officer to manage the development of the Botanic Garden and other reserves. Prior to 1904 the Reserves had been managed by the City Engineer.
Born in England, Glen begun his gardening career in the gardens of the English aristocracy, such as Dupplin Castle in Scotland, and had even submitted garden designs for the Princess Mary aka the Queen Mother. He moved to New Zealand and settled in Lower Hutt before becoming Head Gardener at the Wellington Botanic gardens, when he then commenced living in what is now known as the Director’s house.
He was married with four children, three girls and a boy, Katherine (Kit), Isabelle (Isa), Chrissie and George.
As well as the Botanic gardens, Glen had oversight of Newtown Park, the Basin Reserve, the Cemeteries and Kelburn Park, among other city open spaces, as detailed in the numerous letters held in the Town Clerk’s correspondence.
Glen directed many changes and developments to the Gardens, most of which are still visible today. When he first arrived, the gardens were still predominantly a forest reserve, and had been designed with the idea of being a ‘horticultural zoo’, whereby many specimens were kept behind lattice fences or wire netting. Glen established many attractive bedding displays and events, which opened more of the garden to the public. While the changes were sometimes not always popular with the public, they changed the face of the Garden for the better.
The huge task of filling and developing the Anderson Park Gully as a Recreation Ground was carried out under his supervision. Many of the earlier plantings of trees in the Main Garden were removed and the area was extensively replanted, including planting the magnolias along the Bamboo Path.
The provision of playgrounds in Wellington's reserves was also begun in the days of George Glen. One of George Glen's first installations was the Children's Play Area authorised in 1904 and built in 1905. This occupied the area at the bottom of Grass Way, in one of the older nursery areas.
George Glen was apparently known to have the finest collection of begonias in the Southern Hemisphere. Every year he purchased £5 of seed from the North of England from the nursery of Blackmore and Langdon. He was well-known for performing the role of a judge for flower shows in both Wellington and other parts of the country.
He retired in 1918 due to ill health and died in 1924.