Japanese stroll gardens are places of contemplation and harmony where visitors can wander along meandering paths through thoughtfully planned landscapes. The Japanese Garden at the University of Southern Queensland in Toowoomba is the largest stroll garden in Australia. Its traditional design includes large rocks, a tumbling waterfall and a central lake surrounded by sweeping lawns and sloping beds of Japanese and Australian native plants.
Children come to feed the resident ducks, artists can often be seen recreating the serenity on paper and, on most weekends, wedding ceremonies take place here. Whatever the activity, the garden lives up to its name – Ju Raku En – public place of peace and longevity.
The Japanese Garden is located in Regent Street, Darling Heights, Toowoomba and is open daily 6:00 am to dusk. Entry is free.
In the last full week of September, Toowoomba celebrates all things floral during its annual Carnival of Flowers. Australia’s Garden City confirms its reputation with a grand floral parade, competition gardens and colourful exhibitions featuring everything from teapots to quilts.
Every year, St Luke’s Anglican Church hosts a beautiful floral display created by the Toowoomba Floral Art Group. Spectacular arrangements featuring both everyday and exotic blooms fill the church and thousands of visitors come to enjoy and admire.
There are more than 700 species of Eucalyptus and almost all are native to Australia. Commonly known as gum trees because of the sap that oozes from any breaches in the bark, they grow almost everywhere, from the inland deserts to the alpine areas of the southern states.
The flower of a eucalypt is not composed of petals. Instead, a large number of long feathery stamens are held together by a colourful operculum. As the stamens dry and fall away from the clusters of blossoms, seeds form in the opercula which dry and become hard – we call them gum nuts.
When the gum trees are flowering, we know summer has begun.
When we travel, I like to buy charms for my charm bracelet – it’s a simple way to remember the wonderful places we’ve been to. In Hawaii I found the perfect bead. Its circlet of flowers was reminiscent of a beautiful lei, made of the flowers of the frangipani tree. When I told the shop assistant I love frangipanis, she corrected me. “These are plumeria,” she said. I was confused – I’d always thought leis were made from frangipani flowers.
Later, as we walked through the mall, I pointed to a frangipani tree in the garden and asked Marsha what it was called. “Plumeria,” she said. Mystery solved! Plumeria = frangipani; the same flower with two names.
The scientific name Plumeria honours the 17th century botanist Charles Plumier, who studied the plant species of the New World, while the common name Frangipani refers to a 16th century Italian who invented a plumeria-scented perfume.
We saw frangipanis blooming everywhere in Hawaii: in the gardens of historic missionary homes, between the headstones in churchyards, and adorning the monuments at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Honolulu.
During our lunch break at Wai’anapanapa State Park on the Road to Hana, we had the feeling we were being watched. We spotted movement near the stone wall, but the creature moved so fast we missed him at first. So we sat very still and waited, and out he came again.
He surveyed the scene carefully before venturing out in search of food, but quickly darted back into the gap in the rock wall when people came too close.
Mongooses were imported into the islands of Hawaii in the 1800s to reduce the rat population in the sugar cane fields. Unfortunately, they took a liking to the native ground nesting birds and devoured them as well as the rats. The only Hawaiian island that doesn’t have mongooses is Kauai; the story goes that when a delivery of mongooses was being unloaded of a ship in Kauai, a mongoose bit the hand of a worker. He was enraged and threw all the cages into the ocean. As a result, Kauai has a much larger bird population than any other island.