Albert’s Amazing Engan Botanical Garden
Tucked away in a gully in the heart of Surunki lies the passion of an extraordinary villager – an amateur botanical garden filled with unique plants collected from all over Enga.
Albert is a 30′ish’ Engan male who when he was in his early teens asked his brothers to leave some land for him to build a special garden. He called it his Orchid Garden because he did not really know what else to call it.
For well over a decade, he has travelled to the ends of his province collecting plants species of flowers, shrubs, trees, orchids, vines, root vegetables, wild fruit trees, mosses, ferns and more, planting them in well terraced gardens sheltered in an ancient highlands forest on his land.
I asked him why he started this idea and he explained that he just wanted too, the plants interested him. Every time he went to a cultural gathering, a singsing, a compensation payment, a peace meditation, a simple party – any event at all in Enga – he would be on the lookout for plants. From grasses, to trees to moss…he is always after something to add to his garden.
Noting his passion, other Engans would also collect plants for him and tell him the fascinating stories and uses of these plants. Some of the plants were used in love potions, others have medicinal values. Many have traditional stories attached to them. If you walk with him through his garden, he will explain everything to you.
He has built a beautiful house with a small lawn in the centre of garden for his wife and himself. His wife helps him with everything.
From seeing pictures of a tree house from a discarded Air Nuigini in-flight magazine, Albert built a tree house like that of the Koiari people of the Central Province. Many birds frequent his garden so it’s a great place for bird watchers to stake out birds from.
Albert is an absolute inspiration, an example of a ground up idea of cultural and ecological preservation by one individual, supported by his family and his community around him and the people of Enga.
The day before I left I left Surunki, I bumped into Albert on the road. He had come back from a meeting somewhere in the wilderness of Enga. And true to form, in his hand was a plant. He said he had been looking for it for a long time.
If you ever get to Enga, head out to the Yaso Komo Lodge and ask the how to get to Albert’s Amazing Garden…you won’t be disappointed. Or email me email@example.com and I will put you in touch.