News and Events

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 - Daylilies

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Golden daylilies (Hemerocallis sp.) are currently providing an unusual winter show around the Ike (the reflective pond) in Shoyoen, Dubbo Regional Botanic Garden. This tough drought tolerant herbaceous perennial usually flowers from spring to autumn.

The name Hemerocallis comes from two Greek words “hÄ“mera” (day) and “kalos” (beauty). This alludes to the showy flowers which typically last no more than 24 hours.

Although individual flowers are short-lived each plant produces many flowers, so displays can last for weeks.

Hemerocallis is a small genus of 15 species native to temperate East Asia. There are many thousands of modern hybrid cultivars. Originally, the only colours were yellow, orange, and fulvous red. Now the range of colours available includes near-whites, pastels, yellows, oranges, pinks, vivid reds, crimson, purple, nearly true-blue, and fabulous combinations.

Daylilies are popular ornamental plants and have been cultivated in British gardens for centuries. The English herbalist John Gerard wrote in his Herball (1597), “These lilies do grow in my garden, as also in the gardens of Herbarists, and lovers of fine and rare plants”

William Curtis, writing in Curtis’s Botanical Magazine in 1788, stated that “few plants thrive better in any soil or situation”. Although this attribute makes daylilies popular as a garden plant, it has also resulted in environmental problems. In the United States and Canada, for example, daylilies have escaped from cultivation and have become naturalised so successfully that they are now classed as invasive.

All parts of the plant are said to be edible but it is important to use caution as some parts contain a neurotoxin. Cattle and sheep can be paralysed if they eat the rhizomes and the leaves can cause kidney failure in cats. 

Dried daylily petals, called “golden needles,” are used in numerous Chinese dishes.

The flowers and rhizomes are also used medicinally.

                                                                                                                               By Ian McAlister & Karen Hagan

Botanical Buzz - Camellia sasanqua

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

The fresh pale pink blooms of Camellia sasanqua in the Japanese Tea Garden in Shoyoen, Dubbo Regional Botanic Garden will form a very appropriate backdrop to the celebration of 25 years of Sister City relations between Minokamo, Japan and Dubbo later this month.

The evergreen Camellia sasanqua is a small tree native to China and Japan with glossy dark green leaves. The delicate flowers are 5–7 cm in diameter with 5-8 petals. Colours vary from white to dark pink petals.

In Japanese, the word “sasanqua” is written with three Kanji characters meaning “mountain”, “tea” and “flower”.

Camellia sasanqua has a long history of cultivation in Japan, for practical rather than decorative reasons. The seeds formed the basis of a thriving industry long before there were any written records.

Prior to the use of oil from whales and fossil fuels, the oil from the Camellia seeds was used for lighting, lubrication, and above all, for cooking and cosmetic purposes. The oil is still used to protect the finest of samurai swords from corrosion.

Camellia oil has a higher calorific content than any other edible oil available naturally in Japan. However, it is difficult and time consuming to extract which has made it very hard for the Camellia oil industry in Japan to compete with sunflower, corn and other imported oils.

Like its famous cousin Camellia sinensis which is widely cultivated to produce the familiar beverage of tea, the leaves of Camellia sasanqua can also be used to make tea.

The rich colours of autumn are often associated with fulfilment and wisdom whereas flowers by their nature are precursors to new life. In this manner, Shoyoen becomes a metaphor for the anniversary of 25 years of Sister City relations between Minokamo and Dubbo – a celebration of an enriching past and a fresh commitment to future friendship.

                                                                                                                                By Ian McAlister & Karen Hagan

Botanical Buzz - Ginkgo biloba

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

An autumn review of Shoyoen, Dubbo Regional Botanic Garden would not be complete without spending a moment or two losing oneself in the saffron yellow autumnal glow of the iconic Ginkgo biloba. Science, history, Asian culture and art all commend this beautiful unusual tree.

Ginkgo biloba is native to China and the last surviving species of the Ginkgo genus. Its cousins once thrived all over the globe including locations near Dubbo.

It is an ancient species having changed relatively little in the last 270 million years and may have even been nibbled by dinosaurs.

Its delicate fan shaped, bi-lobed leaves, characterised by radiating veins are unique amongst seed bearing plants and have inspired many poems. One such famous poem was written by the German scientist, poet and philosopher Johann Wolfgang von Goethe and simply called “Ginkgo biloba”. Goethe dedicated the philosophical poem to Marianne von Willemer, his former lover.

The leaves are also frequently represented in Chinese and Japanese art, ceramics, textiles, family crests, symbols and logos. The tree is the national tree of China, and the official tree of the Japanese capital of Tokyo. The symbol of the Tokyo prefecture is a ginkgo leaf.

The ginkgo leaf is also the symbol of the Urasenke school of the Japanese tea ceremony.

The Ginkgo biloba has been cultivated for centuries for medicinal and culinary use. The nut-like gametophytes inside the seeds are particularly esteemed in Asia, and are a traditional Chinese food.

The Japanese add ginkgo seeds (called ginnan) to dishes such as chawanmushi, and the cooked seeds are often eaten along with other dishes.

To see the magnificent Ginkgo biloba in all its golden glory before it drops its leaves, do not delay your visit to Shoyoen, Dubbo Regional Botanic Garden.

                                                                                                                    By Ian McAlister & Karen Hagan

Botanical Buzz - Liquidambar styraciflua

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Starting with a flicker of colour and then accelerating to a conflagration, the Liquidambar styracifluas commonly known as Liquidamber or Sweetgum, provides one of the most eagerly anticipated autumnal displays in Shoyoen, Dubbo Regional Botanic Garden.  However, there is much more to this fascinating tree than is immediately apparent.

Liquidambar styraciflua is a deciduous tree native to warm temperate areas of eastern North America and tropical montane regions of Mexico and Central America. It belongs to the Altingiaceae family and can live for four hundred years.  It can grow anywhere between 10-15 metres in cultivation and up to 45 metres in the wild. 

The name of the genus, Liquidamber is an allusion to the fragrant terebinthine juice or gum which exudes from the tree. The gum is said to smell of ambergris, a rare and exotic substance highly valued by high-end parfumiers and uniquely produced by sperm whales.

As the tree ages, the bark on its small branches grows in such a way as to create the appearance of plates or scales. This characteristic combined with the deeply fissured bark on the trunk may be what earned the tree, the nickname Alligator-wood.

While the starry five-pointed leaves of Liquidambar resemble those of some maples (Acer), Liquidambar is easily distinguished from Acer by its glossy, leathery leaves that are positioned singly (alternate), not in pairs (opposite) on the stems.

Liquidambar styraciflua is one of the most important commercial hardwoods in the Southeastern United States. It's heavy, straight, satiny, and close-grained, but not strong. It takes a beautiful polish, but warps badly in drying.

The long stemmed spiny fruit balls have earned a number of nicknames including "space bugs", "monkey balls" and "bommyknockers".

The Liquidambar styracifluas are a visual delight, don’t miss their spectacular autumn show.

                                                                                                                    By Ian McAlister & Karen Hagan

Botanical Buzz - Triadica sebifera - Chinese Tallow Tree

Thursday, May 01, 2014

Shoyoen in the Dubbo Regional Botanic Garden is glowing with autumn colour.

A deciduous tree that will make a spectacular contribution to the autumnal display in the next couple of weeks is Triadica sebifera, formerly known as Sapium sebiferum, and commonly known as the Chinese Tallow Tree. It belongs to the Euphorbiaceae family and is native to eastern Asia.

Triadica sebifera is legendary for the vibrant yellow, orange, red and purple of its heart-shaped leaves during autumn.

It is a fast growing small to medium sized tree with a domed canopy. It is disease and pest resistant, and once established, it is also drought tolerant. The plant sap and leaves are toxic. 

Sebifera and sebiferum mean "wax-bearing" and refer to the vegetable tallow that coats the seeds. In China and Japan the tree was once cultivated for its seeds. The seeds were thrown into boiling water to remove the wax, which was skimmed off and used to make candles. They were then pressed to extract oil for use in lamps, as a purgative, and for making oil-paper and soap.

It is said to be the third most productive vegetable oil producing crop in the world, after algae and palm oil. This makes it an attractive plant for biodiesel production. Just one mature tree can produce 100,000 seeds every year and a mature stand can produce 4,500 kg of seeds per hectare per year.

However, Triadica sebifera’s robust characteristics and prolific production of viable seeds contribute to its highly invasive nature. The trees at Shoyoen are managed to reduce the likelihood of Triadica sebifera spreading and growing where it is unwanted.

Autumn is regarded as a prime time to visit Japanese gardens and visitation is expected to rise at Shoyoen as people come to enjoy the colour, peacefulness and harmony of this special garden.
                                                                                                                      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

Botanical Buzz - Companion Plants

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

A local plant species renowned for its grace and resilience has been selected as a companion plant for some delicate beauties due to arrive at the Dubbo Regional Botanic Garden later this year.

The Acacia pendula (Weeping Myall - wattle) belongs to the sub-family Mimosoideae of the family Fabaceae. It grows to roughly 10-12m high and has a graceful, weeping habit. Its striking blue-grey foliage makes it an attractive ornamental plant.

The Acacia pendula is tough and long lived. It can tolerate heavy soils and waterlogged sites but it is also highly drought tolerant. There are excellent examples of Acacia pendula in the Biodiversity Garden and one at the north east corner of Elizabeth Park next to the mosaic.

Eleven Acacia pendulas will be planted just outside the fence on the west side of Shoyoen. They will provide shelter for new cherry trees. Three Prunus × yedoensis (the Tokyo Cherry) will be planted in Shoyoen later this year, after the Acacia pendulas have become established.

This is not the first time that wattles have been used to provide shelter for more delicate plants in the Dubbo Regional Botanic Garden. The Dubbo Christian School planted 200 local wattles in the Oasis Valley to protect the rainforest species until they became established. This has been very successful.

Globally, companion planting for pest control, pollination, shelter, providing habitat for beneficial creatures and maximizing use of space, has been practised in one form or another, for thousands of years.

One of the best ways of keeping a garden healthy is to make sure that it is as bio-diverse as possible.  A broad selection of companion plants which ensure the availability of flowers all year will attract birds, pollinating insects (like butterflies, bees, and native wasps), reptiles, beetles and all sorts of helpful garden buddies.
                                                                                                                           By Ian McAlister & Karen Hagan

Botanical Buzz - Shoyoen (Japanese Garden)

Monday, February 10, 2014

Shoyoen (the Japanese Garden) is a work of art. The plants chosen for Shoyoen frequently have symbolic attributes and literary references as well as being valued for their physical characteristics such as colour, shape and size.

Certain plants are iconic and often associated with Japanese gardens. These include the cherry tree (sakura), bamboo (take), plum tree (ume) and pine tree (matsu). In East Asian Culture the grouping of the bamboo, plum tree and pine tree is regarded as particularly auspicious. Motifs combining these three plants occur regularly on Japanese Imari porcelain.

Cherry, plum and pine trees all grow in Shoyoen. The cherry blossom was considered an especially beautiful and important symbol for Japanese samurai because at the height of its beauty it would inevitably fall to the ground to die. Samurai also had to be willing to sacrifice themselves in their prime.

Plum trees have many symbolic references but are often associated with spring.

In traditional Japanese aesthetics matsu (pine) represents “long life”, but its homonym is the verb matsu meaning “to wait”. Accordingly, in many Japanese poems, pine trees are represented as waiting for something or someone.

Bamboo has significant cultural, economic and historic importance in Asia. It serves in the Japanese tea ceremony both as a material and as a design motif. Bamboo is also used throughout Shoyoen to provide ornamental fencing and was used in the construction of the new gate, the sukiyamon.

The Japanese Red Pine (Pinus densifola), Japanese Black Pine (Pinus thubergii) and Japanese White Pine (Pinus parviflora) are all popular in Japanese gardens. The Japanese Black Pine and Japanese Red Pine grow in Shoyoen. They represent the coastline and the mountains respectively, a reference to their natural habitat.

Visitors entering the sukiyamon of Shoyoen are symbolically leaving behind the chaos of the world and entering a place of reflection imbued with thousands of years of Japanese cultural and religious history.
                                                                                                                          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