News and Events

Dubbo Japanese Garden wins Trip Advisor award

Monday, July 08, 2019

In June 2019 Shoyoen was awarded a winner in 2019 with a Certificate of Excellence in Hospitality.

This award is a result of the high level of attention by staff, The Friends of the Dubbo Regional Botanic Garden and the gardeners from Minokamo in maintaining the authenticity of the garden and reinforces the tourism potential of the gardens.


Find out what others are saying about Shoyoen on Trip Advisor.

Meet Ron: The Japanese Gardener

Friday, July 17, 2015

Take a walk through the gardens with Ron the Japanese Gardener in this video, courtesy of Kellie Jennar.

In Kellie's words: "This micro-documentary was made as part of a Metro Screen producing course that was funded by Screen NSW. A big thank you to my fellow participants and our facilitator, Andrew Barnes of Geagle Productions."

Ron: The Japanese Gardener from Kellie Jennar on Vimeo.

Botanical Buzz - Giving Support to Pink Silk Flowers and Lantern Seeds

Friday, June 19, 2015

I was told it would happen.  Just a matter of time and our Pink Silk trees before they attracted too much attention from fluttering moths laying eggs.  They burrow into the trunk leaving a tell-tale cocoon of chewed wood called frass.  Usually evident in the trunk fork of our innocent, didn’t deserve it, and otherwise outstanding park trees.

The Pink Silk tree (Albizia julibrissin) was the second choice by our Japanese landscape gardeners, coming after their first choice of Japanese maple.  We voiced our concern about the choice of the Japanese maple as the aspect was full afternoon sun.  While a beautiful tree the Japanese maple is susceptible to sun burn, especially with the heat of our summers.  Fortunately they listened and allowed the Pink Silk tree to take its place beside the waterfall.

What a to-do we had with three metre bamboo poles positioned at 45 degree angles to mark out where the new Silk trees would arch over the base of the waterfall.  Finally, with a lot of effort we finally got the angles right and received the thumbs up from our friendly Japanese gardeners.

When it came time to plant we had regular hardwood stakes to hold the plants just so.  In Japanese such support would be called “sasae”, or “tsae de Karada o sasaeru” meaning to support the tree with a cane.  Don’t worry; our Japanese gardeners will soon set me right with our maintenance program, even though I can imagine them shrugging their shoulders at my inadequate Japanese language skills.

The Pink Silk tree is otherwise well suited to Dubbo.  Coming from Persia, China and Japan the Albizia is a quick growing, 6 metres deciduous shade tree with finely divided Jacaranda-like leaves.

Now what shall we do about those annoying borers?  Simply extract the little bleeders with a length of wire, then fertilise and water in spring and summer.  Otherwise our trees are simply “in-the-pink” for summer flowers and tan-coloured seed pods in autumn, looking like thin Japanese lanterns.

Botanical Buzz - Pink Trumpet Tree (Not Iffy but “Ipe”)

Friday, June 19, 2015

We have gone out on a limb with another South American import, the Pink Trumpet Tree (Tabebuia rosea).  Yes, we have rosy expectations for our new arrival which we have just peeled out of its plastic nursery bag. 

The Brazilian South American Indians call it “Ipe”; a name that covers a range of species that all come under the auspicious umbrella of the Bignoniaceae family.  Our new tree has the definitive name in Brazil of “Ipe roble blanco”.  In its natural range it can reach a height of 25 metres but we don’t expect that it will reach that here due to our extremes of temperature.  It has a straight and slender trunk, smooth bark and rounded crown.  The leaves are palmate (a leaf with 5 or more lobes whose ribs radiate from one point) and it’s deciduous in nature.  It’s pest free and doesn’t mind soggy soils.

Typical of the family are the trumpet shaped blossoms in garish primal colours.  For more than 20 years Victoria Park has shown off another plant in this family, the Violet Trumpet Vine (Clytostoma callistegioides) from Argentina.  For those that are interested it is located on the fence between Victoria Park No.1 Oval and the cenotaph.  It grows readily from both seed and cuttings.

For the past four years we have trialled a close relative of the Pink Trumpet Tree at the Sensory Gardens and that is why we have a degree of confidence.  Also from South America, this time Venezuela, is the “Ipe tabaco”, the Yellow Trumpet Tree (Tabebuia chrysotricha). 

We have noted that the new Pink Trumpet Tree has slightly more sensitive foliage and have erected some frost protection to help it through its first year.  Once established it should flower in its second year.

Standby and eagerly await news of what befalls our cast of plants as they pitch themselves against the harsh realities of our local climate. 

Botanical Buzz - Bush Tucker (Finger Limes)

Friday, June 19, 2015

What is about wild foods that get people so excited?  Memories of Les Hiddins sporting a trendy, unique and perhaps eccentric bush hat as he tramped through the swampy backwaters of the Gulf Country comes to mind.  You may even remember the television show; “The Bush Tucker Man”.

In a world where supply of nutritious food is always short with tragic results, any (re)discovery of some secret cache right under our noses is . . . . well food for thought.

In our garden we are growing a range of bush tucker from local Quandongs to Lemon Myrtle, and the widespread Lilly Pilly.  However we are excited that we managed to acquire a few Desert Limes (Citrus glauca) to add to our collection.

Said to be “selected from the best varieties, enjoyed by Indigenous Australians . . . producing sweet tangy fruit,” our Desert Limes are a proud possession.  These ones are grafted onto another citrus rootstock for extra vigour and hardiness. 

The wild Lime grows in our western region naturally and used to be called Eremocitrus glauca.  With common names like Desert Lemon, Native Cumquat, the plant can grow to the seven metres and is usually found in a clump all growing together producing grape-sized, lemon-like fruit tasting of, you guessed it, lime.

What do you do with this bush food?  Marmalade is one option or on a hot summer day, simply pop one of the fruits into a cold drink for “An Australian twist on a Mexican tradition”, which is suggested by one of the suppliers.

Bush food may not feed the modern family all by itself.  Nevertheless, in the never-ending search for new ways to put food on the table it’s comforting to know that there is no leaf unturned.

Botanical Buzz - Koi (Flowers of the Water)

Friday, June 19, 2015

When next you come to the Japanese Garden lean over the bridge rail and stare at one of the giant, blubber lipped Koi mouthing sweet nothing back at you.  Spare a thought for why he looks so dazed and muddle headed. 

The KSA (Koi Society of Australia) make special mention of what they call Kohaku (white Koi with red markings).    We have some in our pond and are highly regarded in Japan.   Other colour combinations are also highly regarded including the gold on black.  

To keep our Koi with some natural company we have a Persimmon Tree (or Kaki in Japanese) planted right on the edge of pond.  This tree represents a connection with our sister city Minokamo in Gifu Prefecture, Japan.    Minokamo is well renowned for the high quality persimmon fruit that is produced.  In the early 1600s the Japanese warload Ieyasu Tokugawa passed through the area and after sampling the dried persimmon on offer declared that they were the “sweetest he had enjoyed.”  Ieyasu went on to ultimately win the campaign and eventually unified Japan, with the Tokugawa shogunate lasting for the next 265 years.

For some, like Ieyasu Tokugawa, the Persimmon is a gourmet delight.  Others become nauseated by such luscious sweetness.  I also found out why our Koi often seem “muddle headed” in the section of the pond under the Persimmon.  While the Persimmon is safe to eat, high in calories, rich in Potassium, fibre and Vitamin A, the fruit is reported to have a slight narcotic effect.  Pound the fruit and drop it into the water and the fish become stupefied and easily caught.

On your next visit to the garden, ask the staff for some fish food to coax the fish up to the bridge.  While you are there, try and identify as many different colour combinations as you can.

Botanical Buzz - Mind altering plants

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Visitors to the Dubbo Regional Botanic Garden will find plants that have played an extraordinary part in the development of civilisations. By providing food, shelter and medicine these plants have fulfilled our essential needs.

But there is a different side to plants and fungi, a darker side, which has always held an irresistible and often fatal attraction to humans.  Here desire and danger are inseparable.

Humans dabble with poisonous flora for three major reasons: enhancement of physical abilities or to relax and forget or the hope of entering into a more enlightened state of thinking or being.

Plants and fungi produce poisons to help ensure their survival against predation. A billion years of evolutionary trial and error have resulted in plants developing the ability to manufacture a multitude of complex chemicals (the exact number may never be known) with a level of efficiency that will always surpass that which can be achieved in the laboratory. These complex molecular compounds support a number of strategies to protect the plants from being eaten.

One of those strategies involves disabling, over stimulating or confounding predators with mind altering substances ranging from opium in the opium poppy (Papaver somniferum) to the caffeine in our morning coffee.

It is puzzling why plant and fungi produce mind altering substances rather than simply kill their predators with a deadly toxin. Perhaps the answer lies in a lesson learned by farmers. The use of a powerful deadly poison to kill a particular pest places enormous pressure on that species to evolve and become resistant to that toxin. Consequently the poison eventually becomes ineffective and another has to be developed. A substance, on the other hand, which mentally or physically incapacitates may result in the predator forgetting about food altogether.

Be safely intoxicated by the beauty of the Dubbo Regional Botanic Garden by affording the plants the respect they deserve.

Botanical Buzz - Autumn chemistry

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Autumn is the perfect time to have a picnic in the Dubbo Regional Botanic Garden. The beautiful surrounds and milder weather encourage us to stop, relax and ponder the deeper questions of life…. like why do the leaves of some trees change colour in autumn?

Leaves contain a number of different coloured compounds. Healthy leaves are usually green because they contain more chlorophyll (which is green) than any other coloured substance. 

Chlorophyll is in almost every plant on earth because it is good at absorbing light from the sun.

Plants need energy from light to help them produce food so that they can grow, flower and produce seed.

However, chlorophyll is destroyed by bright sunlight so during summer plants have to continuously regenerate it. This process requires sunlight and warm temperatures.

Another compound found in the leaves of many plants is carotene which is yellow. Carotene promotes the absorption of light by chlorophyll.

Some leaves also contain anthocyanins. These are responsible for the red skin of ripe apples and the purple of ripe grapes. The formation of anthocyanins requires light and a high concentration of sugar in the sap. The former requisite is why apples often appear red on one side and green on the other; the red side was in the sun and the green side was in shade.

As autumn progresses nutrient flow to the leaves reduces and chlorophyll regeneration declines. If the leaves contain carotene, as do the leaves of the ginkgo bilobas growing in Shoyoen, they start to turn yellow.

The brightest autumn colours are produced when dry, sunny days are followed by cool, dry nights. Bright sunshine destroys chlorophyll and cool temperatures prevent its regeneration. In addition, dry weather (by increasing sugar concentration in the sap) and bright sunshine enhance anthocyanin production creating vivid red and purple colours.

Kick back and watch chemistry, biology and physics at work in the Dubbo Regional Botanic Garden.


Botanical Buzz - Autumn

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Autumn is one of Shoyoen’s most spectacular seasons. Over the next few months the garden will begin to glow with colour. Liquidambars, Chinese Tallows and Ginkgos will create a dazzling gold and red display which will give visitors reason to pause in delight.

The four seasons are highly significant to the Japanese. Shinto, Japan's native belief system focuses upon the cycles of the earth and the annual agrarian calendar. Expressions of Shinto beliefs include the recognition of divine spirits (kami) in natural elements such as old trees, mountains and waterfalls, and seasonal festivals.

Aki matsuri, autumn festivals thank the kami for a good harvest.

The seasons have also been used by poets, artists and gardeners as a way of giving expression to the Buddhist philosophy that change is intrinsic to the nature of existence. The beauty of the seasons and the poignancy of their inevitable evanescence have inspired many poems, paintings and gardens.

Traditional Japanese poems and paintings using a seasonal theme not only celebrate the sensual appeal of the natural elements but also imbue them with human emotions. Melancholy sentiments, invoked by a sense of passing time and loss are common. The lovely but short-lived blossoming cherry trees (spring) and the beautiful but stark image of persimmons remaining on trees after their leaves have fallen off (autumn).

The persimmon tree in Shoyoen, presently heavy with ripening fruit, has a much more positive association. It was planted to celebrate our Sister City relationship with Minokamo. Dojo Hachiya-gaki,  dried persimmon have been a speciality of Minokamo for hundreds of years.

Traditional Japanese gardens are much more than the creation of an “ideal” landscape or a work of art. Studying Japanese gardens may reveal essential truths about the nature of human existence.

A gentle stroll or meditation in Shoyoen can provide insight into an all embracing natural cycle of unfathomable beauty and complexity.



Botanical Buzz - A sense of self

Friday, March 06, 2015

The Dubbo Regional Botanic Garden holds a mysterious allure to those experiencing life changing events.  The garden is such a natural place to celebrate weddings, birthdays and other cultural rituals that it is rarely asked why a garden is able to help us negotiate significant life transitions.

In medieval times such a question would have been nonsensical. Humans had a pre-determined place in the natural environment and their progress through life was determined by the divine order.

Everything visible to the eye represented multiple layers of meaning reinforcing the nature of the divine order. It was a comfort.

During the Renaissance period, botanic symbolism was used to describe and reinforce the divine order. In Sandro Botticelli’s Madonna of the Pomegranate the white petals of the lily represent Mary’s purity and the gold anthers represent the radiance of her soul.  The pomegranate represents eternal life.

However, people also felt at the mercy of nature’s vagaries.  Crops regularly failed due to drought, flood, inferior seeds, disease or a plague of insects. Food shortages and famines were relatively common.

Rapid advances in technology during the last two centuries have enabled people to exert control over nature or at least the illusion of control. Using an arsenal including chemicals, machinery and genetic engineering we have selectively killed, nurtured and re-constructed nature to serve specialised needs.

During this process of disassembling nature into valuable and non-valuable parts some argue that we have gone too far and lost our sense of self and place in the natural environment and order.

We may never understand why the natural environment is so important to our well-being but without it we are truly lost.

When you come to your next crossroads in life follow the path to the Dubbo Regional Botanic Garden and find yourself in nature’s embrace.

                                                                                                   Dubbo Regional Botanic Garden