(written by Wonsoon Park, photographs by Abby Johnson)
How nice it has been for us to finally meet the people who we have been longing to meet while preparing for this trip. Eka was the one of those people that we have wanted to meet. Eka, who is in charge of research in Cibodas Botanical Garden, greeted us with a very genuine smile and happily guided us into the gardens. The Cibodas Botanical Garden is one of seven bioregions in Indonesia designated by UNESCO as a world heritage site as well as one of four national botanical gardens in Indonesia along with the Bogor, Bali, and Purwodadi botanical gardens. It’s located in Mount Pangrango adjacent to Mt. Gede-Pangrango National Park.
We met the staff of Cibodas and had a meeting that included a presentation from the director, Dr. Didik Widyatmoko who has worked in the field of horticulture for twenty-four years as an endemic plant expert and held many different positions among a diverse array of Indonesian organizations. There are twenty-two research staff members who have a wide variety of specialties including taxonomy, medicinal plants, rhododendrons, and plant breeding and almost 200 workers in the garden. The garden was established in 1852 and focuses mainly on conservation, research, environmental education, and tourism.
The eighty-five hectare garden is uniquely positioned because a natural preserved area surrounds it, which is important for their plant conservation. The garden has almost 500,000 visitors a year. Some of the research projects at the garden include carbon stock and biomass assessment, restoration and rehabilitation, bryophyte conservation, exploration and research of Sumatran montane forests, and ecological studies and forest dynamics. They also collaborate with BGCI on environmental education programs and teacher training.
After our meeting, we went out to explore the gardens. The most impressive garden was the bryophytes garden, which has 100 species growing very well under the perfect weather conditions for them. Beside the garden the Amorphophallus titanum plants, which have magnificent flowers every 4 years or so, each showed their single individual leaf that appeared as a big tree-like stem emerging from the ground. We were able to see the nursery where Indonesian plants that are collected on the yearly plant expeditions are held and the nurseries growing indigenous orchids and Nepenthes. There was also a cherry tree garden, rhododendron garden, begonia garden, medicinal plant garden, and cactus garden. The fern collection was well organized and included various tree ferns, the stems of which are sometimes used for orchid growing material. The Chinese also collect the scales of the fronds for medicinal purpose. After we saw the oldest tree in the garden planted in 1860, it started to rain. We kept touting to see the rest of Gardens and it looked even more special under the heavy tropical rain.
The next destination, Taman Bunga Nusantara was a totally different world. It had a water garden, French garden, rose garden, American garden, Balinese garden, and Japanese garden on the thirty-five hectare property managed by 150 gardeners. The garden was established in 1995 and shows relatively new and more stylish garden display. The Balinese garden and maze garden were the highlights of the trip since they were full of extraordinary plants that we have never seen before and made us feel like we were in a more exotic atmosphere.