The gardens of Old Parliament House were designed as an extension of the building itself. The chief architect, John Smith Murdoch, wanted members and senators to use the gardens as an integral part of the building, however, later extensions blocking the colonnade at the back of the building meant this intention was lost.
The rose gardens were designed by Rex Hazelwood. The four quadrants each contain two recreational facilities and two rose gardens each: the Broinowski, the Rex Hazelwood, the Ladies and the Macarthur Rose Gardens.
Because the Provisional Parliament House (as it was originally known) was deliberately kept simple and restrained in keeping with its temporary status, the design was carried through to the accompanying gardens.
During the early twenty-first century reconstruction of the gardens was undertaken by the National Capital Authority. The aim was to return the gardens to their original 1930s character. Each of the four rose gardens displays a particular theme in which the roses are companion planted with matching shrubs and perennials:
- The Broinowski Rose Garden – English shrub roses
- The Rex Hazelwood Rose Garden – Early Asian and European roses, Australian Alister Clark roses
- The Ladies Rose Garden – Early Hybrid Tea Rose, examples of the donated roses of the 1930s
- The Macarthur Rose Garden – Tea and China Roses