Category Archive: Travel

Kitagawa Village “Monet’s Garden” Japan.

By Bonnie-Marie Hibbs.

I have been very fortunate over the years to explore many gardens throughout Japan. This was my seventh time to Japan and you would think after this many visits that I would have seen it all. But the wonderful thing about the gardens, parks and landscapes in Japan is that they are always breathtakingly beautiful. You can never get tired looking at the scenery in this part of the world. However, on this trip I wanted to stay further away from the big bustling cities. I hid in small mountainous town surrounded by stunning views and sapphire rivers; this town is called Otoyo-Cho which is located in Nagaoka District, Kochi Prefecture.

During my time in Otoyo I spent a lot of my time adventuring out on long day drives to explore temples, shrines and a few gardens. One of the most memorable gardens I visited was in Kitagawa Village called ‘Monet’s Garden’. This garden was a 3 hour drive from where I was staying, and after a long car drive I was excited to get out and explore.

These gardens have been inspired and designed to recreate Monet’s “Water Lilies” garden. The water lilies are the star in many of his famous paintings. The large pond is the main attraction which draws gardeners from all across Japan to come visit. The colourful blooms of the water lilies sit proudly atop of the water surface, which are best viewed during the day before the flowers close in the evening. The gardens sit nestled amongst the mountains and the rolling hills add another layer to the romantic and tranquil atmosphere of this garden.

Every garden-bed border was smothered in colourful blooms such as Viola, Sweat Pea, Oenothera, Achillea, Poppies and many more amazing plants! The Hippeastrums flowers were the size of dinner plates and the vibrancy of the flowers were unbelievable! If you find yourself in this part of the world I would highly recommend taking the time to take a look at this garden and take in the beautiful scenery.

By Bonnie-Marie Hibbs – the Gardeners Notebook

I found my thrills on Blueberry Hill.

By James Wall.

Yes, it was back up the hills on our annual sojourn, to pick up some blueberry plants. This year we are picking up only 101 advanced Brigitta’s in 30cm pots. They would fill the bottom of the truck and some of them are about waist height, so stacking them on trolleys was not an option.

Moondarra Blueberries are about an hour out of Moe, towards them hills. (It’s not open to the public). It’s a windy road that works its way through farmland and forest. Once at the turnoff, its a few kilometres of classic country track, winding through 100 year old gums and working its way up some steep hills.

blueberry farm

Once at the packing shed at the top of the hill, it was obvious the wind was a howler. These plants are sure gonna be toughened up. After loading the truck, it was time to go and checkout some Brigitta’s growing in the field. When we got down there, the crop was amazingly completely protected from the wind by the side of the hill. The sun came out and the jumpers almost came off. These monster plants were 2 metres high and over 35 years old. The industry average harvest per plant might be 4kg, but these giants manage to have 10kg picked off them.

After a lesson in pruning, I have come to the conclusion it still is an art form that I haven’t totally mastered. Remove old unproductive wood, and snap off weak skinny short wood with your fingers. Don’t be afraid to bend wood and tie wood down with Jolly Ties, so pickers can reach them. Promote new red stems and consider removing the odd grey stem. It’s certainly not an exact science. Shhh, a little secret – they love their Felco secateurs and have a few different pruning saws, but the Felco is always the first to go from the shed.

Moondarra blueberry farm

So the plants are now back in our nursery in Melbourne and these 3 year old advanced plants in 30cm pots are going out at $39.95. Each plant has flower buds on them and each bud will have 5 0r 6 fruit this coming season so you can have a taste test. You will love the flavour of these girls – all in all yummy garden produce. Remember to let them fully ripe for best flavour – bird netting recommended.

Growers Notes: Brigitta is a tall, vigorous upright bush to 2, with high production. Very large, medium blue, firm fruit with good flavour. Excellent picking scar and keeping quality. This Australian developed variety Brigitta is now being widely grown world wide. Clusters can be tight and the bloom damaged easily. Ripens two weeks after Bluecrop with similar size berries. Fruit can drop easily so care when hand harvesting is required. One of the best keeping and shipping varieties available. A favourite with exporters. For pollination purposes it is best if planted near another variety.

Sydney, true urban jungle.

By James Wall.

Being a Melbourne boy, I am always besotted with the climate in Sydney. Sure, it might be a bit muggy in summer; but in Winter, it’s a veritable greenhouse for growing plants. Yes, while Melbourne is shivering at 14C for a usual daily max, Sydney regularly cracks 20C in July. Because of this, plants grow well, whether they are cool climate, or sub tropical. Ok, maybe a few things don’t grow quite as well without a bit more chill. But alas, one can truly say that inner Sydney however, is a true urban jungle.

Sydney is made up of sandstone and shale – formations raised to their present heights by by earth movements, starting in the Jurassic period some 200 million years ago. It’s creates a dimension with its vertical spaces that can be embedded with nature.

Then there is the human embedding of construction into this environment of land and sea. Much of it with architects sympathy, but some such as the Sirius building with architectural brutality. Yes, this is Sydney, true urban jungle.

Staircases appear in the cracks of Woolloomooloo. Half way up you turn and see green. The inhabitants here don’t splash about weedkiller – they just go with the green. They co-habitulate.

Then there is the formal with touch of style – non complete without the splash of colour of grandmas geranium.

Contrast this with the brutal, banal yet soothingly beautiful Sirius Building. Plants here taking on the buildings struggle to survive. You see the state government wanted to demolish this building but it would not be without an outcry. The people will go down fighting so that the building itself does not go down. As Wikipedia opens with about this place:

“The Sirius building is an apartment complex in The Rocks district of Sydney, Australia. Designed in 1978-1979 by architect Tao Gofers, the building is a prominent example of Brutalist architecture in Australia. It has striking repetitive geometries in reaction to the Japanese metabolist architecture movement. The complex was built to rehouse public tenants who had been displaced after a controversial redevelopment of the historic Rocks suburb during the 1960s and 70s.” source: Wikipedia.

Like many cities, some householders don’t think about the heat sink effect of a concrete metropolis. Thanks to their neighbours plants are shading us and keeping us cooler.

Yes, so this is all getting a little loose; yes by this stage I was just walking around zombie like shooting the vaguest thing that was growing. But just then….

the epic Sydney Harbour Bridge infused with Gymea lily shot appeared just in time.

Lavender Bay, the home of Wendy Whitely and her communal garden. Her husband had iconic art, and she now has an iconic garden. A garden that is open 24 hours a day, seven days per week. Yes, a garden is there all the time. 

Of course Brett painted from his balcony at Lavender Bay his famous The Balcony 2 back in 1975. It now resides in the Art Gallery of NSW.

Brett Whitely 1975:

“Windsor and Newton Deep Ultramarine oil colour has an obsessive, ecstasy like effect upon my nervous system quite unlike any other colour.”


In the end, there is art in that urban jungle. More than ultramarine blue, there is green……urban jungle green……may it live on.

Cup Day at the Royal Botanic Gardens.

By James Wall.

What do you tell your children on your day off that you want to walk around the Royal Botanic Gardens, Melbourne ?

You tell them we are going on a photographic assignment of course. One child gets the camera for half an hour and then the other child gets its for the next half an hour. When we get home, we have a slide show and see just what sort of pictures we have taken.

Yep, they liked the idea, so before they could change there mind we were in the car and on our way.

The weather was perfect and it was mid morning so there was still parking. The gardens had a real buzz about it. It reminded me of the first spring day at Central Park in New York. People were just bursting with energy to get out there. With Melbourne Cup on, there were somewhat annoying helicopters buzzing about the air like giant blow flies, but even these could not destroy the subtle euphoria that was in the air. It was a day to bump into an old friend out of the blue. It was a day to appreciate nature.

At some stage during the photography, a kids flick of the camera dial accidentally took 4 photos of everything, but with 3 of the photos being altered with special effects. I guess some of the greatest human creations were made by accident. Below are some of the results to our day out at the Botanic Gardens.

By the way, the cafe was excellent, the kids area was rocking with little boats running down the creek, the trees were ever majestic, so if you haven’t been to this wonderful place in a while, like I hadn’t, make sure you get down there soon – cause photos can never tell the full story.



The Yuyuan Gardens in the Old City of Shanghai.

Yuyuan Gardens

By Bonnie-Marie Hibbs.

Throughout my travels around China I had the opportunity to see a lot of different attractions and only a few gardens. Out of all the gardens I had the chance to visit this was by far my favourite and left me feeling the most impressed. This garden is beautifully landscaped with man-made hills that flow naturally into the scenery and has a great diversity of plants.

300 Year Old Wisteria

The Yuyuan Gardens are located in the Old City of Shanghai. As you wonder through these gardens there are many unique artistic styles to discover from the paintings to the placement of plants. I found myself excited to discover what may lie around every corner!

Yuyuan Gardens was first constructed during the Ming Dynasty, 1559, by Pan Yunduan. He wanted to build a garden for his father to comfort him in his old age. But the construction of the gardens was postponed for 18 years until 1577, due to Pan Yunduan being appointed as the new Governor of Sichuan.

Lotus plants.

Once the gardens were complete they were the most prestigious and largest gardens of their era in Shanghai. However, due to the expenses of the gardens the Pan family eventually fell to ruins. The Pan family was unable to keep up with the expenses of the gardens, so the gardens were passed on to new owners.

In the 19th century the gardens suffered damage from the First Opium War and the Taiping Rebellion, with almost all of the original structures completely destroyed. From 1956 – 1961 the gardens were repaired by the Shanghai Government, and were reopened to the public.

If you find yourself traveling to Shanghai in the near future I would highly recommend that you visit the Yuyuan Gardens. I only got to spend about an hour seeing these gardens but I would recommend spending a bit more time to absorb the beauty of this landscape.

Chateau Villandry in the Loire Valley, France.

By Sue Webster – 
Here is a story about the Chateau Villandry in the Loire Valley, France.  We visited this garden in 2007 and were stunned with the beauty of these gardens.  If you only have time to visit a couple of chateaux when in France, this is a must.


The Chateau of Villandry is the last of the great chateaux in the Loire, built during the Renaissance in the Loire Valley. Located about three hours from Paris on the banks of the Loire River, the chateau is renowned for its elegant architecture, but it is especially well known for its gardens that spread across three terraces and combine aesthetics, diversity and harmony. (Photo 1)

The Chateau Villandry dates from 1536 when it was built by one of King Francois 1 finance ministers, Jean le Breton. It was confiscated during the French Revolution before eventually being acquired for Joseph Bonaparte in the early 1800s. A Dr Joachim Carvallo purchased the Chateau in 1906 and spent a great deal of time and money restoring the chateau and gardens back to Renaissance style, which is what you see today.

The castle’s gardens are the reconstruction of a 14th century French garden based on ancient texts. The gardens are divided into four terraces, consisting of six gardens. Linden trees, yews and hornbeams are used extensively to surround the different gardens.

The Renaissance kitchen garden is composed of nine equally sized squares but inside of which the geometric patterns are all different. It has a profusion of colourful flowers and vegetables planted in a chequerboard plan. The effect of the seasonal variations is an ever-changing three dimensional picture. (Photo 2)

In the ornamental garden the box hedges form musical symbols, but pride of place is given to hearts, scrolls, butterflies and fans and more, all of which make up the four sections of the garden of love. When you climb up to the belvedere you can enjoy a magnificent view of the garden of love in its four sections – tender love, passionate love, fickle love and tragic love. (Photo 3)

The water garden is the most tranquil. It is a classic creation based around a pool representing a Louis XV mirror and surrounded by a cloister of linden trees. Here the pool takes centre stage, with the sound of the fountains and the great lawn space bringing calmness and tranquility. (Photo 4)


The herb garden or garden of simples, has many medicinal and culinary plants which were traditional to the Middle Ages.

The arboured maze, where the goal is to find spiritual awakening as you make your way to the central platform.


The Sun Garden which was created in 2008. It consists of three rooms, the Children’s Chamber where there are outdoor games and decorative apple trees, the Sun Chamber with a sun shaped ornamental pond and the Cloud Chamber where little grassy avenues form triangles and wind their way through roses and shrubs.


Villandry is stilled owned by the Carvallo family, and is one of the most visited chateaux in France. In 2007 it received over 330,000 visitors.

The hungry little caterpillars

By James Wall

There are times when some of us want to destroy caterpillars. I know those ones on the broccoli in February are really annoying. There is however a couple of nurserymen who love caterpillars on their plants. In fact they grow them especially to feed the caterpillars. This is what I discovered behind the scenes at the Melbourne Zoo. It is all part of the butterfly enclosure and its ongoing breeding cycle that takes place so we can enjoy these wondrous creatures everyday of the year.

Host plant for butterfly to lay eggs on

What you need to do as a butterfly plant grower at the zoo, is reproduce the 6 or 7 different plants, each one for the 6 or 7 different varieties of butterflies bred. You see they are very fussy and each type of butterfly will only lay their eggs on a particular plant. If the butterfly is a tropical variety, then the plant needs to be a tropical plant, meaning growing it in a greenhouse for many months of the year here in Melbourne. Now it is no good having one big batch of plants ready at once. You need to have some ready for the butterflies, some half ready, and some freshly cut back so they will be ready in a couple of months time. No plants ready equals no butterflies, so the pressure is always on, especially in winter. It’s a bit like growing lettuce all year round in your vegetable garden. You don’t plant a whole lot at once. Eight plants every second week and you will have lettuce all year round.

Some butterflies like poisonous plants like oleander. Apparently the caterpillar themselves will contain some of these toxins, and can make a predator that eats them very sick. They will think twice before eating that same colour caterpillar again. Its sort of weird how this one being eaten now, will save one of his mates in the future.

well chewed lemon

One of the plants grown is the common old Lisbon Lemon. This is used to reproduce the Orchard Butterfly, its caterpillar pictured above. It’s not the most spectacular butterfly, but of course the spectacular butterflies eat the much harder plants to grow. Of course a lemon tree chomped like the one pictured  actually means a job well done.

Plants are placed in the main enclosure which is at a beautiful temperature if you like a 28 degree average. Once the eggs are laid, the plant is taken into another enclosure where caterpillars hatch and begin to eat the host plant. The caterpillar then forms a pupa or chrysalis which is like a cacoon inside which it forms into a buttefly. Often in the wild, this pupa is well camouflaged. At this chrysalis stage they are removed from the plant and hung in their own little box made of insect screen walls so as to protect them from potential predators like rats.

They are then released into the main butterfly enclosure and as we saw, midweek mums with prams, toddlers and lattes emerge in large flocks, all enjoying the magnificence of the beautiful butterflies.  For me there was the extra appreciation, as before this day, I had never considered the laborious horticultural process that helped make the butterflies grow. Each butterfly only lives for about a month, But their life cycle goes on and on forever.

big juicy and happy caterpillar

Chrysalis stage

Protective screened area where butterfly hatches

Orchard butterfly that enjoys lemon tree




Slightly broken butterfly on slightly broken palm leaf

Thermometer showing min max temps in butterfly house

Hokokuji Temple, The Bamboo Shrine

By Bonnie-Marie Hibbs, on location in Japan.

Hokokuji Temple, otherwise known as the ‘Take-dera’, translates to ‘Bamboo Shrine’.

This temple is well known for its display of beautiful stroll gardens and the 2000 Moso bamboo, Phyllostachys edulis, which are growing vigorously and multiplying every year.

Phyllostachys edulis, Moso bamboo, can grow to a height of a staggering 28 metres (about 92ft), making this bamboo the world’s largest growing and hardiest bamboo.

The foliage on this species of bamboo is small and elongated, which contrasts against the thick culms (bamboo canes).

This makes it among the smallest foliage of all Phyllostachys varieties. Being able to visit the Hokokuji shine was a humbling moment for me, as I have dreamed of seeing this particular variety of bamboo in its natural environment for many years.

The Hokokuji temple was established in 1334 and became the family temple for the Uesugi and Ashikaga clans in later years.

On the west side of the temple grounds are the caves that are still visible today.

It is reported that the ashes of the Ashikaga family, Ietoki and Yoshihisa, who both died by the ritual of seppuku, are buried in these caves.

Seppuku was a form of suicide that warriors or samurai would perform to die with honour rather than die in the hands of their enemies.

Tengan-Eko was the founding priest who happened to be a representative of the Gozan Bungaku, known as the Zen literary movement.

His Buddhist name was Butsujo-Zenji. He is known for his wooden carved seals and his written Buddhist teachings.

It is said that he would sit among the Moso bamboo and write poetry.

My appreciation of Phyllostachys edulis ‘Moso’ has greatly increased just from being able to see the staggering height and natural beauty of this plant.

This has made my visit to Hokokuji Shrine one of the top highlights of my trip around Japan.

One of Tokyo’s oldest gardens

By Bonnie-Marie Hibbs.

After being in Japan for one day, I was eager to get outside to explore and to go sightseeing.

One of the first gardens I was able to visit throughout my travels was Koishikawa Korakuen, which is located in Bunkyo-ku, Tokyo.

Koishikawa Korakuen is one of Tokyo’s oldest gardens, constructed in 1629, which is formally known as the Edo period in Japanese history. Koishikawa Korakuen is one of the very few Edo period gardens that still remains in modern Tokyo today. The garden was first founded by the Mito Tokugawa family Daimyo (leader territorial lord), Yorifusa.

In later years the garden was completed by the new Tokugawa Daimyo, Mitsukuni, who was Yorifusa’s third born son. Mitsukuni incorporated many different concepts into the garden design, such as concepts taken from the Chinese Confucian scholar Shushusui from the Ming dynasty. One of the most famous concepts that still stands today in the garden is the ‘Full moon Bridge’ which is also known in Japanese as Engetsu-kyo. The name comes from the full moon reflection that the bridge casts upon the water’s surface.

Many Japanese gardens are designed on the main principle of replicating the natural landscape. This is done by creating ponds that are meant to represent lakes or rivers, installing stones/rocks, man-made hills or slopes etc. Koishikawa Korakuen is what you would call a ‘Tsukiyama’, (strolling garden with small hills, streams and ponds), style garden as it is designed to replicate the natural landscape on a smaller scale. The beautiful thing about this particular garden was the layout of the various pathways. Each pathway led to a viewpoint which overlooked other particular sections or segments of the garden, such as this photo below.


The lost garden of Paronella Park

By Tim White, Manager at Lotus Watergardens

Viewing platform and changing rooms.

While travelling through Mareeba in northern Queensland we heard about a property called Paronella Park and decided to go and have a guided tour. Jose Paronella started building Paronella Park in about 1930 after coming to Australia from Spain and building his wealth buying and selling cane farms. His dream was to build a castle and his whole philosophy was built around entertaining people.

Water feature powered by creek.

With the money he saved from his hard work he built castles, ballrooms, cafes, bathing areas, tennis and bocce courts and planted 7000 plants to landscape his gardens. He even built Queensland’s first hydroelectric power turbine to provide electricity to his estate from the waterfall in his backyard, as there was no power in the area. Unfortunately floods and cyclones have ravaged his castle and gardens but you can still see the forethought this man had.

Natural waterfall at Paronella Park.

This man was truly a visionary and, even though Paronella Park is not still owned by the family, the current owners have received a grant from the National Trust to rebuild this beautiful place back to its former glory.

Kauri pines walk.


Older posts «

Website by SWiM Communications