Wodonga TAFE garden is full of surprises

UNIQUE: Three young Bottle Trees growing beautifully in the grounds of Wodonga TAFE (note the raised location). The gardens at Wodonga TAFE feature a huge range of unusual plants and different themes.

UNIQUE: Three young Bottle Trees growing beautifully in the grounds of Wodonga TAFE (note the raised location). The gardens at Wodonga TAFE feature a huge range of unusual plants and different themes.

The gardens around Wodonga TAFE aren’t what most people would expect. 

With most institutions, you have large numbers of a few species of plants and repetitive themes are the norm. The gardens at Wodonga TAFE feature a huge range of unusual plants and different themes.  This diversity in species and themes is a huge bonus for the horticultural students at the TAFE – seeing and touching the plants far outweighs just seeing a picture of the plant on the internet.

One of the more unusual plants that head gardener Matt Corr has introduced to the gardens is the Bottle Tree. This tree, botanically named Brachychiton rupestris, has a very interesting shape which makes it visually intriguing. Originally a member of the Sterculiaceae family, this tree is now in the Malvaceae family.

Being a native of Queensland you might think Brachychiton rupestris would hate growing in Albury-Wodonga but if you get the spot right it will grow. The Bottle Tree likes a well-drained position in slightly acidic soil. If you don’t have a well-drained location try building or mounding up the site like the gardening staff did at Wodonga TAFE. Ensure the tree is in an open and sunny position and all should be fine – this tree can withstand the cold to about minus eight degrees and thrives in hot sun.

The Bottle Tree gets this name from its shape. The tree becomes more and more bottle-like as it gets older. This swelling of the trunk is because the tree stores water and the trunk swells in response. In Queensland this tree can reach 15-20 metres, but if you grow it in a cooler area the tree will be smaller.

This tree is semi-deciduous (so some leaves will drop, but not all) and the leaves that drop will do so before the plant flowers. The flowers are yellowish, bell-shaped and they appear in clusters at the end of the stems from around October to December. 

There aren’t too many pest or disease problems with the Bottle Tree which is a real bonus.

The genus Brachychiton contains more than 30 species and new hybrids and cultivars appear on the market regularly. Some other well- known members of the Brachychiton genus include the Kurrajong, the Illawarra Flame Tree and the Lacebark Tree.

The Bottle Tree is definitely one of Australia’s more interesting species and because it grows in most locations this tree is worthy of planting, just remember it will grow reasonably large, make sure you have room for it before you plant.

Diary: The Agriculture/Horticulture Department at Wodonga TAFE is offering a short course, Operate and Maintain Chainsaws, on August 14 and 15, 8.30am – 4.30pm. Cost is $320.