Dubbo (red earth, in English) is a city of nearly 40 000 people 90 minutes' drive from where I live. The red earth of Dubbo is very fertile and in good seasons the countryside around the city abounds in wheat rippling in the breeze and fields of canola adding a brilliant yellow to the landscape. It's good country, but if there isn't enough rain, as there hasn't been for some time now, everything struggles. So far this year, Dubbo has had 35 ml (2.1 inches) which isn't much when the temperatures have been in the 30s most days and quite often into the 40s. It's been a battle there for both home and professional gardeners.
I recently visited Dubbo and dropped in to the Japanese Gardens. They are part of the Dubbo regional Botanic Garden along with a Biodiversity garden, a Sensory garden and Oasis Valley, a showcase of dry 'rainforests'. A dry rainforest sounds like an oxymoron, but it’s merely a term which differentiates this forest from a tropical rainforest. You can find out more about a dry rainforest here
The Japanese garden was opened on November 23rd 2002 on the 153rd anniversary of the founding of Dubbo. It was my intention on this warm Autumn day to see how the gardens have fared in difficult conditions and hopefully to enjoy a pleasant morning in the sun.
I read that 'Shoyoen', the name of the garden, means 'strolling and refreshing garden'. I was there as soon as the garden opened (9 am) and it was indeed refreshing to be there before the heat of the day and I did stroll around. There is certainly evidence of herbaceous struggle, but on the whole I was pleased to see many trees and shrubs flourishing in this garden which is maintained with hard work by local people, as well as gardeners from Dubbo's sister city Minokamo in Japan.
I had a short conversation with a gardener at the beginning of my visit who told me how difficult it has been to keep the cherry trees going: some of them have already been replaced twice, because unfortunately their trunks get sunburnt and this causes cracking and eventual death of the tree. The gardeners have now wrapped wadding around the trees' trunks to alleviate the problem of sunburn, as can be seen in the photo below.
The garden is centred around a lake containing an impressive selection of multi-coloured koi which smartly rise to the surface when a person passes, their mouths gaping in expectation of food. Winding around the lake, a gravelled path takes the visitor past plantings of cherry trees and ornately twisted Japanese pines up to the tea house on top of a small man-made hill. From the summit there's a view over the top of a waterfall to the lake and its surrounding gardens.
My visit to these gardens was a delight. I enjoyed wandering along the meandering pathways, the sound of the waterfall in my ears. It's a peaceful location in which to spend a morning. Gardeners have worked very hard in adverse conditions to keep plantings alive, and indeed healthy, there were birds enjoying seeds and waterways, and the sun shone brightly but not too strongly.
If you would like to read more about the Japanese Garden in Dubbo, you can link to the website here