The fernery was originally part of the New Zealand International Exhibition, held in Hagley Park from 1906 to 1907. One of the major features of the exhibition, the fernery, housed 80 of the 180 fern species then known in the country.
Since Victorian times ferneries were popular in English gardens to house ferns from various parts of the world. After the exhibition, millionairess Annie Townsend used the glass roof and plants to build a fernery for her home at Mona Vale. She built the brick-walled structure you see today as a feature of her Edwardian style garden.
The present collection of ferns was donated by Landcare Research Lincoln, the Christchurch Botanic Gardens and the private collection of the late Arthur Ericson.
No section of the exhibition was more typical of these beautiful islands than the fernery, with its little forest of frontage, deliciously soothing to the senses.