News and Events

Botanical Buzz - Rose

Thursday, January 08, 2015

Symbolising love, romance and beauty, the roses framing the entrance to the Sensory Gardens, Dubbo Regional Botanic Garden provide a very fitting welcome to this beautiful garden space.

“Rose” was the childhood sobriquet of Napoleon’s wife the Empress Josephine. Napoleon disapproved and changed her name to Josephine.

While Napoleon was away on his conquests, Josephine purchased Château de Malmaison roughly 12km outside Paris and endeavoured to transform the large estate into "the most beautiful and curious garden in Europe, a model of good cultivation".

One of the garden spaces at Malmaison was devoted to roses; possibly the first specialist rose garden in the world.

Josephine assembled a team of expert horticulturalists and scientists and asked Napoleon to have his men send her rose seeds and cuttings from wherever they ventured. Even the British, then Europe’s preeminent rose producers, with a massive naval blockade aimed at the French, bent to her will. English growers sent their rose plantings directly to Malmaison.

At Malmaison, English roses, which only flowered once a year and faded quickly when cut, were systematically hybridised with roses from China to produce roses that bloomed several times a season, and looked splendid in a vase for days. The selective breeding also produced flowers with more petals.

The roses were so beautiful that Josephine commissioned the Belgian artist Pierre-Joseph Redouté to paint them. The Roses, a book comprising many of these botanical illustrations may still be purchased.

Roses grace two major architectural features in the Sensory Gardens. The climbing variety Pierre de Ronsard looks spectacular on the arbour and the beautiful David Austin Roses Glamis Castle and William Shakespeare fill the air with their heavenly scent in the Georgian style garden bed.

These beautiful roses, like the love affair of Napoleon and Josephine may fade with time, so come and see the display while it is at its best.

                                                                                                                                    By Ian McAlister & Karen Hagan

Botanical Buzz - Iris

Tuesday, October 07, 2014

Flamboyant and fabulous the Iris reigns supreme. Its distinctive flower is highly symbolic in western culture and its rhizomes have been used for hundreds of years in recipes for high class perfumes, medicines and as flavouring for gin.

Iris is the largest genus of the family Iridaceae with up to 300 species and thousands of hybrids. They are perennials, growing from creeping rhizomes or bulbs. Nearly all species of Iris are found in temperate Northern hemisphere zones, particularly from Eurasia to Asia.

They are a highly popular ornamental plant in domestic and botanic gardens. The Presby Memorial Iris Gardens in New Jersey boasts 14,000 irises of approximately 3,000 varieties.

The Iris takes its name from the Greek Goddess Iris, whose main symbol was the rainbow. The Goddess Iris was a messenger to the gods and this led to the flower being regarded as a warning. Irises are also associated with lost love and silent grief.

The famous fleur-de-lis is said to be a stylised rendition of the Iris. In addition to being a popular heraldic symbol in Europe, it is the symbol of the Scouts, an inter-national youth movement.

Founder of the Scouts, Baden Powell adopted the fleur-de-lis as the basis for the Scout’s symbol because it was commonly used to represent “north” on the compass rose. It subsequently became associated with leadership and knowing “the right way to go”.

The rhizomes of certain species of the iris are cultivated and processed to create orris butter a highly valuable ingredient in high class perfumes. Orris butter is said to have a similar fragrance to violets.

The rhizomes are still used as flavouring for Bombay Sapphire Gin along with many other botanical substances including juniper berries, almonds, liquorice, angelica root, coriander seeds and cassia bark.

Irises are currently in full bloom in the Sensory Gardens and Shoyoen at the Dubbo Regional Botanic Garden.
                                                                                                                                By Ian McAlister & Karen Hagan

Botanical Buzz - Clivia Miniata

Monday, September 29, 2014

In the shade of the camphor laurels on the northern edge of the Sensory Gardens of the Dubbo Regional Botanic Garden is a hybrid of a magnificent South African plant with British aristocratic connections.

The beautiful Clivia miniata (Natal lily, bush lily) is a species of flowering plant in the genus Clivia of the family Amaryllidaceae, native to damp woodland habitats in South Africa (Western Cape, Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal provinces) as well as in Swaziland.

There are six species of Clivia and they are all native to southern Africa. There are also many cultivars.

The first Clivia was discovered by English naturalist William J.Burchell in South Africa in 1813. John Lindley of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew named it Clivia noblis (noblis meaning of noble birth) after Lady Charlotte Clive, Duchess of Northumberland (1787 – 1866).  Lady Charlotte was the first to cultivate and flower Clivia in England.

Lady Charlotte was also governess to the future Queen Victoria of Great Britain and the granddaughter of Major-General Robert Clive (1725 –1774), better known as Clive of India. Robert Clive was the British officer who established the military and political supremacy of the East India Company in Bengal. He is credited with securing India, and the wealth that followed, for the British crown.

In 2001 a new species of Clivia was discovered by conservation officer Johannes Afrika. It was named Clivia mirabilis (mirabilis meaning astonishing, to be wondered at).

The popular Clivia miniata hybrid (miniata meaning the colour of red lead) brightens the Sensory Gardens in late winter and early spring with clusters of vibrant yellow throated, orange trumpet flowers. The flowers are held on stalks above the clump of dark green strap-like leaves.

Clivia miniata is very popular in Australia due to its stoic determination to look magnificent in that most difficult position – dry shade.
                                                                                                                                By Ian McAlister & Karen Hagan

Botanical Buzz - Westringia Fruticosa

Monday, September 08, 2014

Every garden needs botanical heroes.  These are plants that can fight off pests and disease, survive extremes of weather and look great all year round.

Should more delicate beauties succumb to unexpected misfortune; these hardy plants help keep a garden looking beautiful.

Westringia fruticosa is one of the Dubbo Regional Botanic Garden’s modest champions. This tough evergreen shrub belongs to the family Lamiaceae and is native to the coastal cliffs of eastern Australia.

Leaves are up to 2 centimetres long, narrow and pointed and set closely in whorls around the stem. The white, slightly hairy flowers are two centimetres across. The upper petal is divided into two lobes and spots embellish the bottom half of the flower.

Westringia fruticosa can grow to at least 2 m high and 5 m across, often forming a regular dense dome with its lower branches covering the ground. After reaching a mature size it does not deteriorate quickly with age as some species do, but maintains a good condition for some years. It also responds well to pruning and can be used as a hedge.

Westringia fruticosa flowers all year round and this characteristic combined with its tolerance to a variety of soils and low maintenance make it a popular garden plant.

It was named for Dr Johan Petter Westring (1753-1833) physician to King Karl XlV of Sweden and a keen lichenologist.  Westring was particularly interested in how lichens could be used to make dyes and paints.

Although Westringia fruticosa is commonly called Coastal or Native Rosemary, it is not rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) and should not be used in cooking.  Westringia fruticosa can be found in Shoyoen and  Rosmarinus officinalis grows in the Sensory Gardens.

Come and enjoy a refreshing stroll through the beautiful Dubbo Regional Botanic Garden, a garden designed to celebrate every season.
                                                                                                                                  By Ian McAlister & Karen Hagan

Botanical Buzz - Kniphofias

Monday, September 08, 2014

A blaze of colour is radiating from the Dubbo Regional Botanic Garden as the temperatures drop.

Multiple showy conflagrations are being provided by the Kniphofias in the Sensory Gardens.  Kniphofias are a genus of flowering plants in the family Xanthorrhoeaceae and are commonly known as red hot pokers, torch lilies and knofflers.  There are roughly 70 species of Kniphofias and they are native to Africa.

Kniphofias are distantly related to the native grass trees (Xanthorrhoea johnsonii and Xanthorrhoea glauca) also grown in the Dubbo Regional Botanic Garden.

Those following the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil may be interested to know that the internationally famous Brazilian landscape architect Roberto Burle Marx (1909 –1994) considered Knipholias useful as an architectural statement and for their colourful impact. Marx had a great influence on tropical garden design in the 20th century and his famous works include the Kuala Lumpur City Centre Park, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

The flowering spikes are also a big favourite with native Blue-faced Honeyeaters. Visitors to the garden towards the end of the day may be lucky to observe the honeyeaters performing acrobatics as they position themselves upside down to sip the copious nectar from the flowers.

In Shoyoen, a flash of red foliage is being provided by the dwarf cultivar Berberis thunbergia  'Little Favourite' . Berberis thunbergia (Japanese barberry) is native to Japan and Eastern Asia.

Also in Shoyoen, blooms are appearing like glowing embers in the flowering quinces Chaenomeles japonica and Chaenomeles speciosa. Chaenomeles are part of the rose family, Rosaceae.

The genus name Chaenomeles, Greek for "split fruit, or split apple" describes the way the five celled fruit opens when ripe.  The apple-shaped golden fruit is called Kusa-boke in Japanese.

Ignite your imagination at the Dubbo Regional Botanic Garden.

                                                                                                                                 By Ian McAlister & Karen Hagan

Botanical Buzz - Kumquats

Monday, September 08, 2014

The recent cool weather may encourage us to cover up but it brings out the exhibitionist in the kumquat tree in the Sensory Gardens of the Dubbo Regional Botanic Garden.

Kumquats are a group of small fruit-bearing trees in the flowering plant family Rutaceae, forming the genus Fortunella (named in honour of the Scottish botanist Robert Fortune). They are closely related to citrus and the small edible fruit also called kumquats, resemble those of the orange tree (Citrus sinensis).

Like oranges, kumquats will only change from green to bright orange if they experience sufficiently cool temperatures to kill off the chlorophyll in the skin of the fruit.

The plant is native to Asia and has been cultivated since ancient times. The earliest historical reference to kumquats appears in the literature of China in the 12th century. Kumquats were introduced to Europe in 1846 by Robert Fortune who was a collector for the London Horticultural Society.

Robert Fortune is more famous for going to extraordinary lengths to illegally smuggle cuttings of the tea plant, Camellia sinensis, from China into India on behalf of the British East India Company. Without Fortune's bravery and skulduggery, the tea industry in India is likely to have been very different.

There are three main varieties, the Nagami, the Marumi and the Meiwa. Their fruits vary in size, sweetness and shape (round and oval). The oval-shaped Nagami kumquat is the sweetest.

Like oranges, kumquats have many culinary uses but whereas oranges are peeled before eating, fresh kumquats are eaten whole.

Kumquats symbolise good luck in China and other Asian countries, where they are kept as a houseplant and given as a gift during the Lunar New Year.

Put on a warm hat and come and enjoy the exuberant winter colour of the Sensory Gardens.

                                                                                                                   By Ian McAlister & Karen Hagan

Botanical Buzz - Nandina domestica

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Nandina domestica  (Sacred Bamboo) proves that the familiar can often surprise us.

Nandina domestica  is a common sight in Dubbo’s gardens. Its attractive foliage, hardiness and drought tolerance make this low maintenance plant a popular choice with local gardeners.

Contrary to its common name, it is not a type of bamboo. Nandina domestica  is the sole member of the genus Nandina and belongs to the family Berberidaceae. It is native to eastern Asia.

Nandina domestica is an erect evergreen shrub up to 2 m tall by 1.5 m wide, with numerous, usually unbranched stems growing from ground level. Its attractive leaves progress through a range of colours as they age. The young leaves are bright pink, then green and finally red and purple before falling.

White clusters of flowers appear in early summer followed by small bright red berries in autumn which often persist through the winter.  The Nandina domestica growing in the Sensory Gardens have an excellent show of berries at the moment.

It is very popular in Japan where many cultivars have been created.  The scientific name is a corruption of the Japanese name “nan ten”.

Nan ten is homonymic with both difficulty and change giving rise to the belief that Nandina domestica can make misfortune disappear.

In Japanese gardens it may be planted near gates or at the north east corner, the “kimon”. Kimon means "demon gate," and is where the bad spirits may enter.

Visitors to the Dubbo Regional Botanic Garden will find that Nandina domestica has been planted near both of the gates of the Japanese Tea Garden.

Its association with difficulty and change may have been the reason the famous Zen master Nakahara Nantenbō ( 1839 –1925) chose Nandina as the material for the stout staff he was notorious for using to "encourage" disciples during rigorous training; a ruthless reminder that lack of attention to detail can lead to a nasty surprise!

                                                                                                                        By Ian McAlister & Karen Hagan

Botanical Buzz - Mint

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

A new avenue of aroma in the Sensory Gardens, Dubbo Regional Botanic Garden will refresh and invigorate visitors.

The vertical gardens have been re-designed by Council to introduce water saving elements, and then filled with the aromatic Mentha suaveolens 'Variegata’ (Variegated Apple Mint) and Mentha x piperita f. citrata (Basil Mint). These plants combine with Mentha x piperita (Peppermint) growing at the base of the walls, to fill the air with scent when their leaves are disturbed.

Mentha (also known as mint, from Greek míntha) is a genus of plants in the family Lamiaceae. There are roughly 13 to 18 different species. Precise classification is made difficult by natural hybridization between some species. There are also numerous cultivars.

The genus is widely distributed across Europe, Africa, Asia, Australia and North America.

Mints are almost exclusively perennial. Leaf colours range from dark green and grey-green to purple, blue, and sometimes pale yellow. The flowers are white to purple.

It is one of the most widely used culinary and medicinal herbs in the world.

Mint may be found in European, North African, American and Asian kitchens. It is used in a wide variety of traditional dishes and beverages from Greek dolmades with yogurt-mint sauce to Touareg tea in northern Africa.

Mint essential oil and menthol (derived from the essential oil) are extensively used as flavourings in breath fresheners, drinks, antiseptic mouth rinses, toothpaste, chewing gum, desserts, mint (candy) and mint chocolate.

It has a long history of medicinal use. It was originally used to treat stomach-ache and extracts from the herb are currently used to relieve irritable bowel syndrome.

In Ancient Rome, Pliny the Elder recommended students wear a wreath of mint to “exhilarate their minds” and in ancient Greece it was known as the “hospitality herb” because it was strewn on the floor to sweeten the air.

Voices from past and present recommend a visit to this innovative, sweet smelling garden.

                                                                                                                            By Ian McAlister & Karen Hagan

Botanical Buzz - Lilly Pilly

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

The beautiful tough lilly pilly is an important botanical element in the Dubbo Regional Botanic Garden.

There are roughly fifty different varieties of lilly pilly grown in Australia. They all belong to the genus Syzygium in the myrtle family, Myrtaceae.

Lilly pillies are drought tolerant evergreen rainforest trees and are cousins to the historically and economically important Syzygium aromaticum from which the spice, cloves are harvested.

They may be grown in full sun or partial shade and have attractive glossy green foliage.

There are two species of lilly pilly in the Dubbo Regional Botanic Garden, Syzygium australe and Syzygium paniculatum and both are native to Australia.

Syzygium australe, which incidentally is the floral emblem of Coffs Harbour, is grown in Shoyoen and a dwarf cultivar of the species is grown in the Sensory Gardens. It can grow to 35m tall but responds well to pruning to produce an attractive dense compact shape. It is used as a hedging plant near the beautiful sandstone gecko in the Sensory Gardens and may also be found in the refined and elegant outer roji of the Japanese Tea House.

The magenta lilly pilly, Syzygium paniculatum has been planted in the Oasis Valley as part of a suite of Australian dry rainforest plants. It grows to a height of 15 m with a trunk diameter up to 35 cm.

Both the Syzygium australe and Syzygium paniculatum produce attractive edible fruits which may be eaten fresh or cooked. The fruit can be used to make jams and jellies.  Autumn visitors to the Dubbo Regional Botanic Garden will be able to spot the fluffy white flowers and small magenta fruits on the Syzygium australe.

                                                                                                                    By Ian McAlister & Karen Hagan

Botanical Buzz - Groundcovers

Friday, April 04, 2014

A garden design that flows and guides the eye from one feature to the next is both calming and beautiful to behold. Shoyoen and the Sensory Gardens at the Dubbo Regional Botanic Garden both soothe and restore the spirit in this manner.

Groundcovers play an important part in unifying a garden. They can also surprise and delight by providing a swathe of colour in a shaded area and reduce maintenance by keeping weeds down.

Trachelospermum jasminoides 'Tricolor' always catches  visitor’s eyes as they stroll through the sheltered walkway between Shoyoen and the Sensory Gardens. It has covered the ground with delicate mottled and variegated leaves of white, pink and green.

Trachelospermum  is a genus of about 15 species of evergreen woody vines in the dogbane family Apocynaceae. All species are native to southern and eastern Asia except for one. Trachelospermum comes from the Greek, literally meaning "neck seed", and referring to the seed shape.

Another groundcover used to great effect in Shoyoen is Juniperus horizontalis “Blue Forest”.  The distinctive dense, steely blue foliage is very attractive. The scale-like green leaves turn a dull purple in winter.

The genus Juniperus  (Juniper) belongs to the cypress family Cupressaceae. Depending on taxonomic viewpoint, there are between 50 and 67 species of juniper, widely distributed throughout the northern hemisphere, from the Arctic, south to tropical Africa in the Old World, and to the mountains of Central America.

Specimens belonging to the genus Juniperus are amongst the oldest trees in the world.  A Juniperus occidentalis in Sierra Nevada, California, United States has been estimated as being 2,200 years old.

Juniper chinensis (Chinese Juniper), a cultivar of which may also be found in Shoyoen is one of the most popular species for use in bonsai. It is also a symbol of longevity, strength, athleticism, and fertility.
                                                                                                                       By Ian McAlister & Karen Hagan