News and Events

Botanical Buzz - Mexican Sage – Sensory Garden

Wednesday, April 02, 2014

French Lavender (Lavandula dentata), Buddleia (Buddleja davidii 'Harlequin') and Mexican Sage (Salvia leucantha) are presently filling the Sensory Gardens at the Dubbo Regional Botanic Garden with rich purple flowers.

Coincidentally purple is an important colour during the Christian festival of Lent  (5 March – 17 April).  Purple is associated with mourning and so anticipates the pain and suffering of the crucifixion. It is also the colour associated with royalty, and celebrates Christ's resurrection and sovereignty.

The most striking of the purple flowers in the Sensory Gardens are those belonging to the Mexican Sage, a herbaceous perennial that is native to subtropical and tropical conifer forests in central and eastern Mexico.  The arching velvety purple clusters of flowers set against its soft mid-green leaves are very attractive.

Salvia is the largest genus of plants in the mint family, Lamiaceae, with nearly 1000 species of shrubs, herbaceous perennials, and annuals. The name Salvia derives from the Latin salvere ("to feel well and healthy, health, heal"), the verb related to salus (health, well-being, prosperity or salvation); referring to the herb's healing properties. Pliny the Elder (AD 23 – August 25, AD 79), a Roman philosopher was the first author known to describe a plant called "Salvia". It is likely that he was referring to Common or Garden Sage (Salvia officinalis). Common Sage has a long history of culinary and medicinal use.

Another eye-catching plant in the Sensory Gardens is the Japanese Blood Grass (Imperata cylindrica 'Rubra’). The leaves of this unusual and dramatic grass are green at the base with red tips that almost appear to glow. It has been used as a highly effective and attractive edging near the pond.

The plants in the Sensory Gardens have been carefully chosen to ensure that the garden is full of colour throughout the winter months.

                                                                                                         By Ian McAlister & Karen Hagan

Botanical Buzz - Fruit Trees in the Dubbo Regional Botanic Garden

Friday, March 14, 2014

One of the unexpected delights of the Dubbo Regional Botanic Garden is the fruit produced in the garden.

The fruit trees in the Sensory Garden include three varieties of apple tree (Gala, Orange Pippin and Pink Lady) in addition to lemon, mulberry, kumquat and pomegranate trees. Birds were quick to feast upon the apples but there are still plenty of lemons and kumquats, and some beautiful pomegranates to be spotted.

The fruit trees were included in the Sensory Garden to provide a feast for all the senses. Their inclusion also supports the movement in schools to encourage children to grow their own food and eat healthily.

The fruit trees in the Sensory Garden remind young people that fruit grows on trees not on supermarket shelves!

In Shoyoen the persimmon tree is attracting everybody’s attention. The abundant fruits are turning orange and providing an unrivalled autumn display.  The botanic name of the persimmon is Diospyros kaki, which means 'food of the gods' and has its origins in ancient China.

The persimmon tree was planted in Shoyoen as a special reference to our Sister City Minokamo with whom Dubbo will be celebrating the 25th Anniversary of the Sister City relationship, later this year.

Dojo Hachiya-gaki,  dried persimmon have been a speciality of Minokamo for hundreds of years and are internationally famous. They are considered as being suitable gifts for royalty. Producing perfect, traditionally dried persimmons is very labour intensive and they are very expensive.

Persimmons have been grown in Australia for almost 150 years but they are not common because most people are only familiar with the astringent varieties. Astringent persimmons can only be eaten when they're completely ripe and squishy-soft, otherwise the bitter tannins make them taste horrid. The sweet variety of persimmon was introduced in the late 1970s.

Autumn makes a visit to the Dubbo Regional Botanic Garden particularly fruitful.
                                                                                                                                By Ian McAlister & Karen Hagan

Botanical Buzz - Roses

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Roses have a long and colourful history. They have been symbols of love, beauty, secrecy and war.

The rose is a woody perennial of the genus Rosa, within the family Rosaceae. There are over 100 species. The majority originated in Asia and a few in temperate zones such as North America and Europe. The genus is, according to fossil evidence, 35 million years old.

Roses can be erect, climbing or trailing, and often have stems armed with sharp prickles. Flowers vary widely in colour, size and shape, and are usually large and showy.

Roses have been cultivated for thousands of years. Paintings of roses have been discovered in Egyptian pyramid tombs from the 14th century BC. Records exist of them being grown in Chinese gardens and Greek gardens from at least 500 BC.

The rose has been associated with secrecy since ancient times. Conversations taking place under a real or an image of the rose were considered “sub rosa” – confidential. Five-petalled roses were often carved on Christian confessionals, indicating that the conversations would remain secret.

During the fifteenth century, the rose was used as a symbol for the factions fighting to control England. The white rose symbolised York, and the red rose symbolised Lancaster, as a result, the conflict became known as the "War of the Roses." The Tudor Rose is a combination of the two roses, symbolising reconciliation between the two warring families.

It wasn't until the late eighteenth century that cultivated roses were introduced into Europe from China. Most modern-day roses can be traced back to this ancestry.

In the Sensory Garden of the Dubbo Regional Botanic Garden the climbing rose, Rosa 'Pierre de Ronsard' covers the white arbour in glory while the beautiful white (Glamis Castle) and red (William Shakespeare)  David  Austin roses fill the walled garden with their heavenly scent.
                                                                                                                                                                          Ian McAlister and Karen Hagan

Botanical Buzz - Broad-leaved Paperbark (Melaleuca quinquenervia)

Monday, February 10, 2014

Visitors to the Sensory Gardens are quickly entranced by the scent, colours, textures and sounds of the carefully chosen plants, water features and garden elements.

The Melaleuca quinquenervia commonly known as the Broad-leaved Paperbark was chosen for the Sensory Gardens because of its aromatic leaves, long flowering period and a textured bark which is so visually attractive that it is almost impossible to resist touching it.

Multiple thin layers of soft pliable bark part from the trunk like the leaves of an ancient tattered book – an appropriate metaphor because this tree has a fascinating story.

Melaleuca quinquenervia is native to New Caledonia, Papua New Guinea and coastal eastern Australia, from Botany Bay NSW into Queensland.  It is widespread in coastal swamps and along lake margins. It grows 10-15m high and can live for over one hundred years.

Flowering occurs from autumn to winter. The scented white or cream flowers are arranged in cylindrical brushes at or near the end of the branches. They are followed by small woody seed pods containing many tiny seeds which are easy to collect and grow.

It is known for its ability to withstand drought and flood, and to quickly regenerate after fire. Its native habitat in Australia is under threat but it has been classified as a noxious weed in six US states.

Melaleuca quinquenervia has multiple uses, and is widely used traditionally by indigenous Australians.

The soft pliable bark was used for sleeping mats, lean-to shelters, dressing wounds and for wrapping food for cooking.

Crushing the leaves releases the aromatic oils which were traditionally used to relieve headaches, blocked sinuses, and coughs.
 
The wood is suitable for light construction but contains silica, which blunts saws and planes.

The essential oil of Melaleuca quinquenervia is used in cosmetic products.

The Sensory Gardens has a small stand of Melaleuca quinquenervia near the white, rose covered arbour.

                                                                                                                            By Ian McAlister & Karen Hagan

Botanical Buzz - Indian Summer Crepe Myrtles

Thursday, January 30, 2014

While most of us are wilting in the heat the magnificent Indian Summer Crepe Myrtles in the Dubbo Regional Botanic Garden could hardly look more gorgeous. They are covered in fresh delicate blooms despite the rising mercury.

The Indian Summer range of Crepe Myrtles are hybrids of the common Crepe Myrtle (Lagerstroemia indica) and the Japanese Crepe Myrtle (Lagerstroemia fauriei).  The combination has produced trees that resist powdery mildew, a fungal disease that can be seen on some older crepe myrtle varieties. Each cultivar is named after an American Indian tribe. The trees have a compact vase-like shape and range in size from around 3-6m fully grown.

Take a moment to look closely at the flowers. The distinctive petals of crepe myrtles are crinkly just like crepe paper, and come in almost as many different colours. There are deep reds, hot pinks, purples and white. 

The abundant and beautiful long lasting blooms of the crepe myrtle have earned it a place in the top ten flowering trees of the world.

But the show won’t end with the summer. Most varieties colour well in autumn with leaf colours ranging from bright red, deep maroon, vibrant yellow, pink and burnt orange, all on the one tree. The bark is also beautiful, exfoliating early summer to reveal a bold, gnarled, sinuate and twisted trunk in mottled colours.

Their beauty, compact size and hardiness have made crepe myrtles popular street trees in Dubbo. They have been planted outside the Central Administration Building of Dubbo City Council and along Bourke Street.

Crepe Myrtles may be found in the Sensory Gardens and Shoyoen.
                                                                                                                        By Ian McAlister & Karen Hagan

Botanical Buzz - Brachychiton rupestris (Queensland Bottle Tree)

Tuesday, January 07, 2014

Brachychiton rupestris (Queensland Bottle Tree) is one of Australia’s most visually arresting and affectionately regarded native trees. Its common name refers to its characteristic bulbous trunk which can grow to over six metres in circumference.

It is one of 31 species of Brachychiton, with 30 found in Australia and one species in New Guinea.
Brachychiton rupestris is endemic to a limited region of Australia namely Central Queensland through to northern New South Wales. Yet the tree is quite hardy and can tolerate a variety of climates and soil types. It has been widely cultivated all over the world as an ornamental tree.

The tree grows to 18-20 m and the canopy spans 5-12 m in diameter. It will drop its leaves before the flowering period, which are between the months of October and December. It will also drop its leaves to conserve water during periods of drought. The characteristic bottle shape should develop in approximately five to eight years.

Another striking characteristic of Brachychiton rupestris is that its swollen trunk is made of a spongy pumpkin-like fibre, filled with moisture and water. In times of drought, settlers would cut down bottle trees and peel off the bark to expose the fleshy fibre for their cattle to eat. It is said that a large tree could satisfy a hungry, thirsty herd for weeks.

Aboriginal people historically carved holes into the soft bark to create reservoir-like structures. The seeds, roots, stems, and bark have all been a traditional source of food for people and animals alike. The fibrous inner bark was also used to make twine or rope and even woven together to make fishing nets.

Brachychiton rupestris has been planted near the beautiful sandstone gecko in the Sensory Gardens and in the Oasis Valley, just beyond the entrance of the boardwalk on the right hand side. 
                                                                                                                             By Ian McAlister and Karen Hagan

Botanical Buzz - Golden Trumpet Tree

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Colour is rampant in the Sensory Garden.

 

Looking particularly stunning at the moment is the Golden Trumpet Tree (Tabebuia chrysotricha) which belongs to the family Bignoniaceae. This family is most noted for its ornamentals which are grown for their conspicuous tubular flowers.

 

The Golden Trumpet Tree is considered the national tree of Brazil and has all of the exotic and joyful overtones normally associated with Brazil’s national dance, the samba. It’s abundant, showy yellow flowers have earned it a place amongst the world’s most attractive flowering trees.

 

The Golden Trumpet Tree grows to a height of 7.5m – 10.5m and its canopy may be as wide as the tree is high. The flowers are rich in nectar, making it a useful honey plant.

 

Also looking spectacular at the moment is the dwarf Tasmanian Blue Gum (Eucalyptus globulus var compacta) .  After keeping visitors in suspense for months it has also burst into flower.

 

After admiring these wonderful trees take a moment to seek out the beautiful turtle sculptures prepared by local school children during the educational programs at the Dubbo Regional Botanic Garden. They are by the white arbour next to the pond.

 

Amongst the plants that the children have planted in the turtles is Carpobrotus glaucescens also known as Pigface, a ground-creeping plant with succulent leaves and large daisy-like flowers. Carpobrotus refers to the edible fruits. It comes from the Greek karpos ("fruit") and brota ("edible"). Glaucescens refers to the blue green bloom, which lightly covers the leaves.

 

There is so much to see at the Sensory Garden that visitors will be enthralled.

 

                                                                                                                               By Ian McAlister & Karen Hagan

Botanical Buzz - Winter in the Sensory Gardens

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

The Sensory Gardens are ablaze with winter colour.

Lighting the way and capturing everybody’s attention are the Kniphofia - Winter Cheer. These are also known as Red Hot Pokers or Torch Lilies due to the shape and colour (red and orange) of their inflorescences.

There are many different varieties. The leaves are reminiscent of a lily, and the flower heads can reach up to 1.52 m in height. The flowers produce copious nectar which attracts bees and birds.

Providing a wonderful backdrop for the Knipholia is the silver grey foliage of the Wormwood (Artemisia arborescens). 

Artemisia is a large, diverse genus of plants and belongs to the daisy family Asteraceae. Common names for various species in the genus include mugwort, wormwood, and sagebrush.

Wormwoods have been used for medicinal, brewing, culinary and other purposes for thousands of years. 
Artemisia dracunculus (tarragon) is widely used as a culinary herb.

Artemisia absinthium was used to repel fleas and moths, and as an ingredient in beer brewing. The aperitif vermouth was originally flavoured with wormwood. The highly potent spirit absinthe also contains wormwood.

Artemisia arborescens is indigenous to the Middle East and used to make tea; its leaves are usually mixed with mint.

Artemisia annua (Sweet Wormwood) a herb used in Chinese traditional medicine, is now cultivated globally as the only source of a potent anti-malarial drug, artemisinin. Treatments containing an artemisinin derivative are now standard treatment for malaria. An estimated 300 million people succumb to infection by the malaria parasite every year. Artemisinin is also a topic of research in cancer treatment.

The bitter taste of Wormwood has earned it many cultural and literary references. It is mentioned in the Jewish Bible (also known as Tanakh or Written Torah), the New Testament and in Shakespeare’s Hamlet.

The Red Hot Pokers put on a stunning display but Wormwoods are the quiet achievers.

Ian McAlister and Karen Hagan

 

Botanical Buzz - Eucalyptus

Tuesday, July 09, 2013

Eucalyptus is one of seven closely related genera. Eucalyptus, Corymbia, Angophora, Stockwellia, Allosyncarpia, Eucalyptopsis and Arillastrum all belong to the Eucalypt group in the Myrtaceae family.
 
There are more than 700 Eucalyptus species and most of them are native to Australia. They may take the form of a low shrub or a very large tree. The Australian mountain ash (Eucalyptus regnans) is the tallest of all flowering plants (angiosperms). The tallest measured living specimen is almost 100m high.  Only the Giant Redwood (Sequoia sempervirens) is taller, and that is a conifer (gymnosperm). There are two Giant Redwoods in Victoria Park.
 
The flowers do not have petals but do have numerous fluffy stamens which may be white, cream, yellow, pink or red. The flowers are enclosed in the cup-like base (gum nut) and covered by a cap called an operculum. As the stamens expand, the operculum is forced off. This is one of the features that unite the genus. The name Eucalyptus, from the Greek words eu-, well, and kaluptos, cover, meaning "well-covered", refers to the flowers.
 
The flowers produce a great abundance of nectar, providing food for many animals.
 
The leaves usually change as the plant ages and are covered with oil glands.  The essential oil extracted from the leaves has medicinal, perfumery and industrial uses. Global production of eucalyptus oil is dominated by the Tasmanian Blue Gum (Eucalyptus globulus).
 
The Flooded gum (Eucalyptus grandis) is one of the main plantation species grown in tropical and sub-tropical plantations worldwide. It has the potential to achieve some of the highest growth rates of any plantation forestry species and the timber has many end-uses.
 
The Dubbo Regional Botanic Garden has many examples of Eucalyptus species particularly in the Biodiversity Garden but a Tasmanian Blue Gum (Eucalyptus globulus var. compacta) may be located near the gecko sculpture in the Sensory Gardens.

By Ian McAlister and Karen Hagan