A Trip Down Under: Gillie’s Adventure Continues

Posted by Natasha Graham on 08/11/2018

Day three saw a visit to the Chinese Friendship Gardens to do plant research, gain inspiration and knowledge on an alternative gardening philosophy for our own Beale Park Jubilee water gardens.

The Chinese Garden of Friendship was a co-operative effort between the Guangdong Province of the People’s Republic of China and the New South Wales Government. It was built to symbolise the friendship between Sydney and the city of Guangzhou in the province of Guangdong, to mark Australia’s bicentenary in 1988.

The Taoist principles of ‘Yin-Yang’

Designed and built by Chinese landscape architects and gardeners, the garden follows the Taoist principles of ‘Yin-Yang’, (opposing but complementary balanced forces), and ‘Wu-Xing’, the five elements — wood, fire, earth, metal and water. I found it intriguing to see how these tranquil gardens have developed, with these Chinese philosophies always at the core of their designs. Unlike western-style gardens, including parts of Beale Park, there are no formally laid out flowerbeds or manicured lawns; instead, wild aspects of nature are recreated in landscapes that feature waterfalls, mountains, lakes and a rock forest. It is fascinating how natural everything looks, despite everything in the gardens being carefully chosen and meticulously placed to create harmony and balance.

The rock forest tells a love story from a Chinese legend of Ashima and the landlord. In brief, Ashima, the beautiful maiden, is kidnapped by the son of a rich landlord and forced to marry him.  Her love, a brave shepherd, rescues her, but the landlord unleashes the floodgate and drowns her as they escape.  Her spirit is captured forever in a rock statue. The towering rocks are all individually selected for their unique forms and are limestone.

As well as design philosophies, I had the opportunities to learn more about a variety of plants such as the Colocasias that grew along the water’s edge, and the wonderful vibrant Bougainvillea. With the benefits of Sydney climate the Bougainvillea can achieve full tree status. However, Beale Park’s climate means growing our Bougainvillea in large pots and overwintering them in our heated greenhouse. I gained some excellent growing advice for our three specimens that have flowered profusely throughout summer, outside the tea house in the courtyard at the Park. This year we have successfully grown Colocasias along the pool in the African Garden. Sadly, they won’t survive a British winter, so we will dig up the corms and start them back into growth in early spring in our propagators.

Even though the Chinese gardens have been built along philosophical principles very different from Beale Park, there were some striking resemblances. Beale also has significant gardens flowing around water with a distinctive hint of the Orient. Our water gardens also have an air of tranquility and visitors have commented on the peaceful ambience of this part of the gardens. It also struck me that our own Jubilee gardens, and Sydney’s Chinese Friendship Gardens have been designed so the whole gardens cannot be seen from any one point within the garden. Many of the design philosophies would indeed translate to our own much loved Park.

Day 4 – a visit to Taronga Zoo, and a visit to 1st Glebe Junior and Senior Guides to share all things Beale Park.

Bertie was especially delighted to go to Taronga, as he could visit his fellow Indian Peafowl who, like at Beale, wander freely around Taronga Zoo. Whilst Bertie was off visiting his friends, I was learning all sorts about how big zoos function, and how they manage their planting in their enclosures, from a fabulous volunteer. Taronga is home to over 4000 animals from 350 species. One of the highlights for me was the tiger trek experience, getting close to the critically endangered Sumatran tigers. The cleverly designed new, extensive enclosure was very carefully planted up to enhance the habitat of these precious animals. It was amazing to see first hand how easily the Tigers would ‘disappear’ as they wandered through various plantings. As a gardener, it was truly fascinating to see first hand how enclosures such as these are planted up to best enrich the animals’ living experience, and how the plants form part of the important conservation effort.

The evening was great fun with 1st Glebe Junior and Senior Guides, who invited us to join them to share all things Beale. Bertie was a huge hit and made many friends. We shared our favourite animal and plant facts. The overarching theme was conservation. Some of the girls wrote Beale Park postcards explaining about their favourite native Australian animals. The girls loved the photos of Beale Park, and were fascinated with seeing Beale Park wallabies in the snow, and loved the terrapins basking on the metal hippos in the central lake at Beale. One of the activities we did with the younger guides was to make terrapins and Bertie helped with conservation activities. It also happened to be the time of the annual girl guide cookie drive. Bertie was delighted to help, especially with the tasting!

Wildlife parks, such as Beale Park, make great outings for organisations like Guide and Scout groups, as well as school groups, with so much to explore and discover. Check out our website for more information https://www.bealepark.org.uk/education/allyou-need-to-know-2/