Monday, 19 October 2009

My Australian Adventure: Chinese Garden of Friendship

This small garden situated in  Sydney's Darling Harbour, walking distance from Chinatown, was one of the highlights of my Australian adventure.  Nestled in the heart of the financial district this garden is a true surprise and should not be missed.

The garden is centred around a large reflective lake (above) and filled to the brim with enormous Koi Carp in every colour and pattern imaginable (left) .  

As you walk around the lake you are taken on a wondrous journey through Chinese buildings, sculpture and native plants from both Australia and China.  

The garden was created and designed by Sydney's sister city, Guangzhou in China.  The gardens were positioned near Chinatown as it was felt it would compliment the already present Chinese heritage and culture but also made links to the new developing area of the harbour itself.  The garden was opened in 1988 during the bicentennial celebrations and symbolise the bond between China and Australia.

On entering the garden you are met with a display of Penjing (as shown below).

This art form is also know as Penzai which is where the Japanese art of Bonsai originates (Bonsai being the Japanese pronunciation for Penzai).  Acer, Pinus and Ulmus were all on display as well as many others that I am unfamiliar with.  The garden also contained trained forms grown directly in the ground, forms grown in rock and scholars rocks (above).

As it is Spring in Australia many plants were just coming in to flower including Magnolia, Azalea, Osmanthus, and Rhododendron.

Out of all of the flowers on display my favourite was the glorious Spring Waratah  or more accurately Telopea speciosissima, pictured right.  

As the national flower of New South Wales, and the official flower of the Sydeny Olympics in 2000, it was a joy to behold growing  and blooming in a garden that combines Australian and Chinese native flora. 

At first I thought this plant was a Protea and I jumped straight to, "What is this plant doing in a Chinese garden?!", of course I then realised what it was exactly.  Indeed, the plant does belong to the Proteaceae family but isn't it amazing how a perceived planting mistake, which turned out to be valid, could cause so much alarm?

I later observed this plant in other gardens that I visited and learned more about it and its relation to aboriginal folklore.  One legend from the Eora describes how a female Wonga Pigeon searches for her husband who was lost when out hunting.  She is attached by a hawk and badly wounded.  As a result she finds cover in a Waratah bush and as she struggles in the bush her blood turns the white Waratah blooms red.

The vistas in the garden were breath taking and I think the angles for photography were endless.  I particularly like this shot which shows some of the architecture and the slope leading to it which was planted with many a mature Cycad.

This area with its numerous large boulders also made a great home for various lizard species which were rather confident around people.  I caught many images of sunbathing lizards and witnessed several disputes between lizard neighbours.  

I'm assuming that as it is Spring breeding season must be imminent, hence the increased aggressiveness.  

I will add a post about some Australian wildlife I encountered on my trip at a later date.

Of course, what Chinese garden could be without a Bamboo grove. Many species could be found in the garden including Phyllostachus nigra (pictured right), Phyllostchus aurea and Phyllostachus vivax, amongst others I failed to recognise.  

The garden cannot be viewed in it's entirety from any one point in the garden.  The large bamboo groves and taller trees aid in achieving this effect.  The bamboo also frames stone sculpture and creates an imposing spectacle when walking along the many paths.

As you can see in the picture on the right the lower leaves of the bamboo have been removed to help show off the ebony tones of the wood and increase the dramatic effect that this species of bamboo can bring to a garden.

And of course what garden could be complete without the ever invasive and highly irritating, to me anyway, menace that is Vinca minor.  I found this evil creature lurking in a shady corner and had to grab a snap.  Whether intentional or not I find comfort in knowing that such a great garden has at least one weed invasive species.

The Chinese Garden of Friendship is most definitely an important garden to visit when in Sydney.  It helps in our understanding of the very noticeable relationship between Australia and China.  It demonstrates that gardens can help unite civilisations; they can aid in our understanding of history and also provide a calm  retreat for a very busy city and its residents.

More information on the garden and it's events can be found here.

Have you visited this garden?  Do you have any stories or information to add? Or do you have any comments or questions? I would love to hear from you.


  1. Wow - what a beautiful post! I think my favorite flower is also the red telopea...I wish I could grow it here! I'm a Vinca hater, too - that stuff grows EVERYWHERE!! Enjoy your trip!

  2. Wow - I never knew about this garden! Will have to check it out when I next visit.

    I would imagine that the climate there means that, as temperate gardeners, we would not recognise the more tropical bamboo species.

    I love the first photo, and the one with the Cycas - you would never guess that was Sydney!


  3. Beautiful pictures, Ryan, and thank you for sharing this with us. The history of Japanese Bonsai is no longer a mystery to me. I should already have known this, however. I read in a text at some point that bonsai was also the product of the dwindling land base and loss of nature during Japan's feudal era (from about 900 ACE to about 1868 ACE). I love my maple and Chinese Weeping Elm Bonsai. They are gorgeous now, that summer has faded. Your photos are astounding.

  4. Thanks for this! I love Chinese gardens. I saw a lovely one in Vancouver, but it might be a while before I get to Sydney!

  5. We visited the Chinese garden last year and loved it. A splendid little haven in the middle of a busy buzzing area with plenty of places to sit in the shade and contemplate the quiet beauty of it.

    Thanks for the memories..

  6. Hi, Just drop by from Blotanical. Im captivated by your garden encounters.

  7. It is a very attractive garden. I like the use of rocks and boulders (as well as the plants).

  8. What an amazing place to see! Very pretty pictures you have to document your journey too~

  9. Another beautiful post, Ryan. Thanks for sharing the pictures from your holiday! Seeing the picture of Telopea, I suddenly remembered being in 4th grade and doing a project on the flora of Australia! Hadn't thought about that for YEARS. Thanks for the post and reviving a pleasant memory.

    @blawnoxgirl (Jan)

  10. Yep - been there 'cos it was right by the hotel we stayed at the last time we went to Oz, so you couldn't miss it!

    It's an oasis of calm right in the middle Sydney's hubbub :)


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