News and Events

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 - 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

Botanical Buzz - Apple

Friday, March 06, 2015

An exotic traveller hidden in full view in the Sensory Gardens often escapes the attention of visitors to the Dubbo Regional Botanic Garden.

The apple (Malus domestica ) has so successfully insinuated itself into European and American cultures that our co-existence seems completely natural and unremarkable.  However, this ubiquitous and culturally important fruit may have begun its relationship with man long ago and far away, in the forests of Almaty in Kazakhstan, Central Asia. Here the fruits of its wild ancestor Malus sieversii were collected and dispersed by merchants travelling on ancient trade routes.  

Apples were cultivated in Ancient Greece and Rome and from there spread across Europe. Eventually they were transported to America by early settlers. 

Most of the European apple trees taken to America died after finding the climate inclement. It was by virtue of a remarkable feature of the apple that America was able to produce its own highly successful and numerous apple varieties. 

Apples will grow readily from seed but each new plant (wildling) will be significantly different from its parent for example the fruit may be very sour, a “spitter”. For this reason apples grown for their fruit are cloned using grafting techniques.

By propagating many wildlings, settlers were able to find varieties of apple more suitable for their climate.  Trees that produced delicious fruit were highly prized but spitters could provide a lucrative source of income. 

At the turn of the twentieth century most of the apples grown commercially in America ended up as cider. This attracted the ire of the temperance movement. Anxious to protect their livelihoods, apple growers started to promote the health benefits of the fruit using the marketing slogan “An apple a day keeps the doctor away”.

Make sure your picnic in the Dubbo Regional Botanic Garden includes an apple and take time to reflect upon its amazing history.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Dubbo Regional Botanic Garden

Botanical Buzz - The Pelargonium

Monday, February 09, 2015

The Dubbo Regional Botanic Garden is a marvellous place to meet up with old friends especially those of the botanical variety.

One such familiar garden friend is the pelargonium.  The Pelargonium genus includes about 200 species of perennials, succulents, and shrubs.  They are often called geraniums but Geranium is the correct botanical name of a separate genus of related plants.

The confusion arose because the eighteenth century Swedish taxonomist Carl Linnaeus included all the species in one genus, Geranium, but they were later separated into two genera by Charles L’Héritier in 1789. Both genera, Pelargonium and Geranium belong to the family Geraniaceae.

Geraniums and pelargoniums can be told apart by the shape of their flowers. Geranium flowers have five very similar petals, and are thus radially symmetrical (actinomorphic), whereas pelargonium flowers have two upper petals which are different from the three lower petals, so that the flowers have a single plane of symmetry (zygomorphic).

The name pelargonium comes from the Greek pelargós (stork), because the seed head looks like a stork's beak.  There are pelargonium species native to parts of Africa, Australia, Asia Minor and New Zealand. Most of the pelargonium plants cultivated in Europe and North America have their origins in South Africa.

There are many cultivars and the very attractive flowers are available in white, and many different shades of pink, purple and red.  There is also a wide variety of scented leaf pelargoniums including those with lemon, lime, cinnamon and peppermint scented leaves. 

The rose-scented foliage of Pelargonium graveolens is important in the perfume industry. Pelargonium distillates and absolutes, commonly known as "scented geranium oil" are sometimes used to supplement or adulterate expensive rose oils.

Some pelargoniums have edible flowers and some scented-leafed pelargoniums can be used to flavour jellies, cakes, ice cream and other dishes.

Re-acquaint yourself with this wonderful old friend in the Sensory Gardens of the Dubbo Regional Botanic Garden.

                                                                                                                                By Ian McAlister & Karen Hagan

Pink Autumn Crocus (Zephyranthes carinata)

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Bold and beautiful blooms delight the eye and hidden gems foster the thrill of discovery at the Dubbo Regional Botanic Garden.

Visitors passing through the Sukiyamon (Japanese gate) are greeted by fabulous blue and white Agapanthus (lily of the Nile), stunning Day lilies and serene water lilies.  Sharp eyes will also spot the tiny purple flowers of the Liriopes, the red fruits hidden amongst the leaves of the Pomegranate growing in the Sensory Gardens, and with a little bit of luck, the enigmatic Zephyranthes carinata (Pink Autumn Crocus).

The delicate and pretty Pink Autumn Crocus is much shyer than its flamboyant cousin, the Agapanthus. It belongs to the family Amaryllidaceae which has three subfamilies, the Agapanthoideae (agapanthus), Allioideae (onions and chives) and Amaryllidoideae (amaryllis, daffodils, snowdrops, autumn crocus).

The scientific name Zephyranthes is derived from the Greek “Zephyrus”, the god of the west wind, and “anthos”, meaning flower, referring to the slender stalks. Zephyrus was said to be the most gentle of the Greek Anemoi (the wind gods) and according to legend had many lovers. His children included the two immortal horses Balius and Xanthus which belonged to Achilles.

The Pink Autumn Crocus is a perennial flowering plant native to Mexico, Colombia and Central America. It is widely cultivated as an ornamental and has become naturalised in many countries including north eastern Australia.

It grows from a bulb and has pink crocus-like flowers set amid a mass of dark green tubular leaves.  It grows to roughly 20cm high and is poisonous if ingested.

The Pink Autumn Crocus flowers in summer and autumn. Flowering may be triggered by heavy rainfall, a characteristic that led to the plant being referred to as a “rain lily”.

The unpredictable nature of the Pink Autumn Crocus epitomises the rich experience offered by the Dubbo Regional Botanic Garden. There is something new to see every day.
                                                                                                                                By Ian McAlister & Karen Hagan

Botanical Buzz - Canna Lily

Friday, January 09, 2015

A little detective work can unearth fascinating stories about some of our most familiar garden plants.

The Canna (commonly known as the canna lily, although not a true lily) is a great example of a plant with interesting roots!

The Canna is a genus of 19 species of rhizomatous perennials with broad, flat leaves that grow out of a stem in a long, narrow roll and then unfurl. The impressive flowers are colourful and bloom over a long period.

Cannas belong to the same order (Zingiberales) as gingers and bananas. They are native to the tropics and subtropics of the Americas, and have become widely naturalized elsewhere.

Western horticulturalists have been trading and hybridising cannas for roughly four hundred years. The famous French rose breeder, Monsieur Pierre‑Antoine‑Marie Crozy began breeding cannas as early as 1862 and a group of cultivars bears his name.

The plant became a very popular garden plant during the reign of Queen Victoria and was grown widely in Europe, India and the United States during this period.

Modern canna hybrids come in four different sizes: pixie (45cm-60cm), dwarf (60cm-100cm), medium (1m-1.5m) and tall (1.5m-2m). They come in all colours except blue, green and black. The foliage may be green, blue-green, purple, burgundy, bronze or striped.

Canna edulis is grown in South America for its large edible tuberous rhizomes which have a very high starch content. The young rhizomes may be eaten raw or cooked.

In Australia, Canna edulis became known as Queensland arrowroot.  In the late nineteenth century it was grown in plantations at Coomera and Pimpama in Queensland and the rhizomes were processed to produce a substitute for arrowroot (a gluten-free thickener used in cooking).

Visit the Sensory Gardens of the Dubbo Regional Botanic Garden to see beautiful ornamental cannas in flower and reflect on this plant’s amazing history.
                                                                                                                            By Ian McAlister & Karen Hagan

Botanical Buzz - Lemon Myrtle

Friday, January 09, 2015

“Sounds and sweet airs that give delight and hurt not” (Act 3 ) The Tempest by William Shakespeare.

After the recent blustery tempests capable of sending any ship off course, it is not a big leap for the creative mind to imagine the Sensory Gardens as being the island home of the wizard Prospero.

For young children the Sensory Gardens must seem full of wonder and magic.

The towering bamboo quivers in the wind, fountains gently splash and the leaves say “shhhhhh….”.

 Scented flowers and aromatic leaves fill the Sensory Gardens with “sweet airs” to create enduring and pleasant memories of visits to the gardens.

 A plant that combines visual beauty with olfactory delight is the Backhousia citriodora commonly known as the Lemon Myrtle.

Backhousia citriodora is an Australian native plant indigenous to the coastal areas from Cairns to Brisbane. It belongs to the Myrtaceae family and can grow into a medium sized tree.

The genus was named after the remarkable James Backhouse. He was a nineteenth century botanist and Quaker missionary committed to the welfare of the disadvantaged. During arduous travels to penal outposts he collected many botanical specimens of Australian plants for the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew in London.

The species name citriodora and common name Lemon Myrtle is a reference to the strong lemon smell of the crushed leaves. Backhousia citriodora has been traditionally used by Aboriginal people in cooking and to treat a wide range of ailments.

It is now commercially grown and harvested for its leaves and essential oil. The crushed leaves are used as flavouring for a wide range of foods and can be made into tea.  The essential oil is high in  citral, an aroma compound used in perfumery for its citrus smell.

A fine specimen of Backhousia Citriodora, covered in abundant cream blossoms may be found near the beautiful sandstone gecko in the Sensory Gardens.

                                                                                                                        By Ian McAlister & Karen Hagan

Botanical Buzz - Leptospermum

Friday, January 09, 2015

Botanical delights come in all shapes, sizes, colours and textures in the Sensory Gardens of the Dubbo Regional Botanic Garden.

Towering bamboo (Bambusa sp.) sway gracefully above the heads of visitors while the velvety lamb’s ears (Stachys byzantine) crouch close to the earth within the reach of fascinated children.

The magnificent Pierre de Ronsard roses named after the sixteenth century French "prince of poets" bloom soft and lovely about the arbour while the Yellow Buttons (Helichrysum ramosissimum) peek cheekily from below the wisteria.

There is so much to see that it is worth walking around the gardens at least twice each visit to reduce the likelihood of missing something interesting and beautiful.

The delicate and abundant pink flowers of the Leptospermum Rudolph (tea tree) are certainly worth a second look.

Leptospermum is a genus of shrubs and small trees in the myrtle family Myrtaceae. Most species are endemic to Australia. The leaves are evergreen, sharp-tipped and small. The attractive flowers are up to 3 cm in diameter, with five white, pink or red petals.

The outstanding flower displays of some Leptospermum species make them a popular choice for gardens.

Leptospermums have a long history of medicinal use. Australian settlers soaked the leaves of some species in boiling water to make a herbal tea rich in ascorbic acid (vitamin C). It is said that Captain James Cook brewed a tea using leaves from Leptospermum scoparium (tea tree or manuka) to prevent scurvy among his crews.

The famous manuka honey is produced by introduced European honey bees (Apis mellifera) after they have feasted on the flowers of Leptospermum scoparium and/or Leptospermum polygalifolium. Leptospermum polygalifolium grows in the Biodiversity Garden.

Manuka honey is a very viscous, dark cream to dark brown coloured honey which has been credited with antibacterial and antifungal properties.

The treasures of the Sensory Gardens make visits rewarding for everyone.

                                                                                                                                By Ian McAlister & Karen Hagan

Botanical Buzz - Almonds

Friday, January 09, 2015

Fresh, vibrant and exciting, the Sensory Gardens of the Dubbo Regional Botanic Garden always live up to their reputation of delivering a unique experience to visitors.

To a child, the Sensory Gardens is a magical place.  A winding ever-changing path takes them on an experiential journey.  They are entranced by the kaleidoscope of colours, multitude of textures, soothing sounds, changing lights and delightful scents. The popular stepping stones provide a little thrill of adventure and no one can resist running their hands through the fountains. It is no wonder that the Sensory Gardens are often full of children and laughter.

To the discerning gardener, the Sensory Gardens are a triumph of design and a place from which to draw inspiration. Council staff will always be happy to provide details of botanical specimens.

A recently added species, Prunus dulcis more commonly known as the almond tree, has an ancient relationship with humankind. Almond trees were domesticated over five thousand years ago and now support a multi-billion dollar global industry.

The almond tree is native to the Middle East and South Asia.  It is closely related to the peach but its fruits have a tough, leathery coating rather than a juicy pulp. Almonds are cultivated for their seeds which are often mistakenly described as nuts.

Wild almonds, the ancestors of today’s cultivars, are poisonous. They contain amygdalin which readily metabolises to produce hydrogen cyanide, a potent toxin.

California produces 80 percent of the world’s crop of these highly versatile, nutritionally packed seeds. In 2013 Californian farmers produced over 1.55 million tonnes of almonds. Australia produces 6 percent of the world’s commercial crop.

Almonds may be eaten on their own or used as ingredients in many modern and traditional recipes from all over the world.

The wonderful collection of fruit trees in the Sensory Gardens remind children that fruit grows on trees and not on supermarket shelves.
                                                                                                                                By Ian McAlister & Karen Hagan