The National Bonsai and Penjing collection is housed at the National Arboretum in Canberra and boasts over 80 miniature trees, some of which are over 60 years old. It is a truly inspiring collection from some of Australia’s best bonsai and penjing artists and could provide something to strive towards for those aspiring bonsai and penjing creators amongst you.
‘I’ve heard of bonsai but what is penjing?’ I hear you ask. Well, whereas bonsai is the art of growing mini trees and shrubs in containers through regular pruning, penjing is the art of growing mini landscapes in containers. The landscapes can include rocks, ground covers and small objects or figurines in addition to trees and shrubs. Penjing may also have a name, story or piece of poetry associated with it.
Bonsai has been practised in Japan for at least 1,200 years and originated from the Chinese practice of penjing, which has been practised for at least 1,400 years.
The Arboretum’s collection contains some stunning specimens. Many of the selected plants are the traditional bonsai species such as Chinese elms and Japanese maples but, being an Australian collection, quite a few use Aussie natives, making the collection a real treat.
Perhaps the most surprising thing about the display for me was that all the plants are outdoors with just a metal lattice over the top of the enclosing courtyard to protect the precious plants and landscapes from hail. The site is subject to severe frosts and also receives some snow but only a few pieces require protection from the cold weather. This protection comes in the form of a glass partition that can be closed to create a small sheltered space. This area is the only section of the courtyard with a proper roof, which provides a spot for heaters that prevent the temperature dropping below 5°C.
The collection offers something special at all times of the year. Some specimens flower and even fruit, putting on a display through the warmer months. Many of the plants are deciduous and put on a particularly lovely display during autumn. There is, of course, less colour during winter but the bare branches of the deciduous species have a beauty of their own.
If you’re visiting Canberra, I thoroughly recommend a trip to the Arboretum specifically to visit the National Bonsai and Penjing Collection. Do try and pick a day when it’s not raining though.
Growing great edibles is very satisfying for any gardener but sometimes knowing what to do with certain crops can be a little difficult. If you’ve ever wondered what to do with your globe artichokes then look no further than this super easy and tasty recipe for hot artichoke dip – from my friend Anita. This has got to be the tastiest way to use globe artichokes Click To Tweet Just adjust the quantities to suit the amount of produce you have.
Approximately 200 g globe artichokes (inedible parts removed)
1/2 cup whole egg mayonnaise
1 clove garlic (feel free to add more if you like lots of garlic)
1/4 cup grated mozarella cheese
1/4 cup parmasean cheese
Juice of 1/2 a lemon
A sprinkle of paprika (to taste)
Very quickly blend all ingredients except the paprika (you want the mix to remain a bit lumpy).
Pour it all into a casserole dish and sprinkle the top with paprika.
Bake uncovered at 180 degrees for about 30 minutes, until golden.
Enjoy hot with bits of turkish bread, pita bread, corn chips, etc.
Can be eaten cold if there is any left over (but that may never happen).
Part 1 of this post about the Albury Botanic Gardens looked at the broader garden. As promised, in part 2 of this post, I am going to show you my favourite part of the garden – the children’s garden.
Despite the fact that I am a ‘grown up’ and don’t yet have any children, the children’s garden really called to me. The garden is well designed to be attractive to adult carers while being fun for children of all ages and abilities. If you plan to visit the garden while in Albury, be aware that the children’s garden is closed on Wednesdays (except during NSW school holidays) – note the website doesn’t say anything about this… We were only in Albury for a night and of course it was a Wednesday, so we nearly missed out on visiting this part of the garden. Luckily we were able to pop in after we checked out of our hotel the next day.
The first thing you’ll see in the children’s garden, is the life-sized dinosaur. Pretty much all children are captivated by dinosaurs at some point so it’s a great addition to the garden. The best bit though, is the fact that there is a speaking tube built into the structure. I’m sure it’s a big hit with the children – but even us adults had a go too 🙂
There’s also a smaller dinosaur that children can climb on. The surface around it is nice and spongy so if anyone falls off, they’re protected from serious injuries. I’d still recommend carefully watching any children in your care though.
Other than the dinosaurs, there were many other sculptures throughout the garden.
Indeed, I think the ratio of plants to hard-landscaping features was pretty good.
And the sculptures aren’t just for show. The castle below is actually the public toilets and drinking water fountains.
There are also educational sections for the garden. Both adults and children alike can see what edible plants are in season at any given time of the year. The central sculpture within the edible garden even illustrates the transformation of a female squash flower into a ripe pumpkin.
Speaking of plants, the species selected for the garden have obviously been carefully chosen to simulate a prehistoric environment.
There are also places for adults to sit while they keep an eye on their young charges.
I particularly admire the way the garden designers have used plants as interactive elements to the garden. The living cubbies are a perfect example and they would be easy to replicate in a home garden.
In addition to living cubbies, there is also a hut built from dead plant material. Again, this is something a home gardener could consider putting in their own garden.
Just like the broader gardens, the children’s garden contains a (fully fenced) water feature with the added benefit of a water-relevant mural behind it.
Really, I could go on all day about the many wonderful features of this garden.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this look at the Albury Botanic Gardens and are inspired to visit if you’re ever in the area. Even if you can’t visit the garden, hopefully you’ve picked up a couple of ideas for things you might include in your own garden – whether it needs to be child friendly or not.
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