Parliament House Courtyard Gardens in spring…

Spring time is the perfect time in Canberra to visit gardens and a best kept secret is a tour of some of the 17 courtyard gardens within Parliament House..

The first courtyard, filled with spring bulbs, Azalea hedges and Silver Birches

It is hard to believe there could be so many gardens tucked away in Parliament House.

These courtyards are designed to provide natural light into office spaces and to give all the people who work here some fresh air and breathing spaces.

Oh that all office spaces were designed this way!

My absolute favourite …the Dogwood tree

The garden plants are selected to provide shade and screening, variety and colour throughout the year. The courtyard beds have both native and exotic flowering shrubs.

Deciduous trees are chosen to provide shade in summer and allow sunshine in winter.

We went on this tour in 2015, and the question always arises as to why we do not have more native plants in the gardens.

The answer is that until about 10/15 years ago, native plants were not considered for formal gardens (seems incredible today) but in recent times have been introduced into some of the courtyard gardens.

We did see a very interesting courtyard full of Australian natives, but it was one of the no-go areas for photos. 

 

Since our last tour I’ve noticed less Currawongs in the courtyards (the bully boys) and many of the smaller birds have returned and could be heard singing in the trees.

Magpies are still in evidence, and enjoying life alongside Parliamentarians at the House (as PH is affectionately known by locals)

When our tour group arrived in this courtyard, this resident Magpie gave up fossicking for worms, jumped onto the garden chair …moved in the centre, for the best effect, and warbled loudly until he drowned out the tour guide.

My neighbour suggested he was getting paid time and a half for a Sunday…

The warbling Magpie…how could such a small bird makes so much noise!

There are water features in 14 of the courtyards.

These provide cool places to sit in summer and also are deliberately there to dampen down private conversations from other courtyard users. They provide ”white noise”….. hard for people nearby to listen in…..

Perhaps restaurants should think of introducing water features..it would be great to dampen down the neighbouring table!

Four of the water features are supplied with recycled water from a cooling tower.

Parliament House is on permanent Stage 1 water restrictions.

A computer operated irrigation system checks rainfall, evaporation and soil moisture levels, and irrigation occurs based on daily evaporation rates

.The gardens have set a water saving target of 15%.

The original topsoil on Capital Hill was removed during the construction of Parliament House. and the decision was made to use sand based soil on the site.

Our guide told us that sand based soil is good for drainage, compaction resistance, especially for turfed surfaces.  It is used in landscapes built on the top of car parks, roofs and basement areas.

However, for plants in sand based soils, nutrients can easily leak through the soil, so the method is to use a controlled-release fertiliser and also to fertilise ”little and often”

The aim of the Parliamentary Gardens is to use less toxic pesticides and where possible use natural predators.

For example: parasitic wasps for scale, Lacewings for aphids, parasitic nematodes and soap sprays.

The horticulturalist spends time in the gardens, looking very much like David Attenborough  with a magnifying glass detecting predators amongst the leaves and then releasing bugs to combat the pests.

The courtyard below has beautiful Flowering Cherry trees (Mt Fuji), a gift from Japan

…we just missed a big photo-shoot in this courtyard last week when the blossoms were at their height.

Our guide, Trent said when he began at Parliament House some years ago, the gardeners, and young apprentices were allowed to choose an azalea each, for this courtyard…..no such lassez faire approach these days I’m sure.

The azaleas were still ablaze with colour and a credit to them.

In the courtyard below, the exotic and native plantings work well.

The rich red coloured Rhododendron hedges (just starting to bloom) blend in with the native grasses, which are much easier to maintain, and are irresistible to pass without waving your hands across them..

The tour ended with tea/coffee and scones in the Queen’s Terrace…a lovely end to an interesting morning.

This photo was taken in 2015, but shows the lovely light and colour in the courtyard as a TV crew get ready for an interview.

Copyright Geraldine Mackey: All Rights Reserved

 

This week our thoughts go to all those fighting fires in California. We have shared the terrible destruction and devastation of fires, best wishes to everyone, but especially the fire fighters, and all those who fight natural disasters…… often unsung heroes of our world.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Parliament House in Canberra…..fences going up…

This is the entrance to Parliament House in Canberra, and it was designed by the New York based architectural company of Mitchell/Giurgola and Thorp.

The Italian architect Romaldo Giurgola said:

Parliament House should nest with the hill, symbolically rise out of the Australian landscape, as true democracy rises from the state of things.

The building lies low in the landscape and is designed for the Australian climate, the landscape, and the beautiful clear quality of light. .

Early morning light in late winter

This 196 square metre mosaic in the front of the building has the inscription….

this place where we  come and meet together…these drawings are part of the country we live in.

Mosaic designed by Aboriginal artist Michael Nelson Jagamara

Until recently it was the only Parliament in the world where you could walk over the Legislature.

Many tourists, and local Canberrans will remember walking to the top of the grassy slopes, to view the city, to watch fireworks at New Year.

However, times are changing, and there is soon to be fencing around Parliament House for extra security measures.

Recently, many people and their families met on the slopes of Parliament House to roll down the wonderfully grassy hills….in protest at the fences going up.

photo by Buzz Feed

(I immigrated to Australia as a young adult, and I think there is something endearingly Australian about such a protest!)

The end of an era, and, sadly, I imagine our grandchildren will be amazed to hear that such a thing was ever allowed…a time of innocence.

In late winter, when we arrived to take photos, the temporary fencing was being put in place.

Meanwhile life inside the building continues as before.

The entrance to Parliament House leads to the Marble Foyer. The 48 marble columns are in muted colours of pink and green….very much the colours of the Australian landscape.

The stairs are clad in green Cipollino marble from Italy and salmon pink marble from Portugal.

The walls feature twenty marquetry panels depicting Australian native flora.

Paul and I had come to look at the copy of the Magna Carta, on the first floor, unfortunately it has been removed for restoration.

……never mind, the best view on this clear winter morning is from the Queen’s Terrace Café ….

The front walls are clad with Paradise White Carrara marble from Italy, and the entrance is Red Christmas bush granite, quarried near Oberon in NSW

From here it is easy to see Walter Burley Griffin’s original design for Canberra.

 Parliament House is built into Capital Hill and from this viewpoint we can see Old Parliament House (now the Museum of Australian Democracy), the War Memorial and Mount Ainslie  

The white building is Old Parliament House, (now the Museum of Australian Democracy) behind it is the War Memorial and Mount Ainslie

You are never far away from bird life in Canberra, and this opportunistic Magpie has taken the chance to take my Blueberry Muffin, while we take photos on the Terrace.

We should know better!

Parliament House has lovely courtyard gardens, and is surrounded by flourishing Australian native plant gardens, and even resident bee hives……

Paul and I have booked a tour with one of the gardeners of Parliament House, so I hope you can join me for future spring posts at Parliament House.

Copyright Geraldine Mackey: All Rights Reserved.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Canberra, the bush capital in spring…

The Australian poet CJ Dennis said… ” spring is near, then suddenly it seems, one golden morn..

View of the Brindabella Mountains from our garden at dawn

the bush awakes, a living thing

A Crimson Rosella looking over her nest in a Eucalyptus tree in the National Botanic Gardens in Canberra

Flowers bloom…

A female Australian King Parrot eating the flowers of our plum tree in the garden

birds sing..

A Magpie warbling in the gum tree at Lake Tuggeranong, near our home.

and the entire world puts on its brightest dress to greet the laughing spring”

Grevillea rosmarinifolia ”Rosy Posy” family Proteaceae

Canberra, unlike many parts of Australia, has four distinct seasons, and spring is welcomed here the way it would be in the Northern Hemisphere.

The Manchurian Pears in full blossom along Lake Burley Griffin (photo by Paul Mackey)

Canberrans hear many different bird calls in spring, but none so earth shattering at 5.30 in the morning as the Kookaburra’s cackle….

However, who can blame them for waking us up early? No one should miss a minute of a spring morning…

Every spring one or two young Kookaburras arrive in our garden.

I like to think they come because we have plenty of water, and they are relatively safe for flying lessons between the garden arches and the overhead electrical wires.

We call this young Kookaburra the Minister for Transport… he looks so important doesn’t he?

…..and he’s in the right city!

Meanwhile… the ”Town Crier”‘ is marching up to the top of the neighbour’s roof..

So………

Where is this Grandbaby anyway? …

….and does she know about me yet?

 

Our first grandchild has arrived safe and sound, and….. she is absolutely lovely in every way..

 

The very best description of being a grandparent is surely the words written by Australian writer, Thomas Keneally

‘Being a parent is like being a slightly bewildered NGO in the trenches, with fear of consequences all around..

…..to be a grandparent is a little like being a General back in the chateau, writing dispatches on the bravery of the troops, besotted with admiration for them, but with the warm knowledge there’ll be time for wine with dinner.”

 

 

I hope that you are enjoying your garden and green spaces, where ever you are in the world…

 

Copyright: Geraldine Mackey: All Rights Reserved.

 

Cockatoos and Australian King Parrots….waiting for spring

So, what to do in winter if you are a cockatoo?

Sulphur Crested Cockatoos living in Canberra have an abundance of food, and very few enemies. So there is plenty of recreational time.

…During the dreary winter days why not practice undoing knots, and a tennis net is just the thing….

Parrot experts say that the parrot family are the smartest of all bird families, they continue to learn as they grow, rather than relying on instinct.

Luckily humans leave tempting problems like street lamps and tennis nets, and almonds wedged in the roof of carports..

A Sulphur Crested Cockatoo looking for almonds on the carport roof..

The Little Corella is a cousin of the cockatoo, and has become a frequent visitor to the Canberra region in recent years….judging by the amount of lamp post covers swinging in the wind.

Members of the Canberra Ornithologist Group have noticed Corellas teasing rows of Crested Pigeons perched on power lines by pushing them off balance..(obviously the Little Corella has no problem with balance)

Little Corella Judith Leitch www.birdlife.org.au

There is something very sweet about these Crested Pigeons, who manage to keep their fine hairdos in place regardless of the weather…(or teasing going on)

Crested pigeons

In June, the beginning of winter, we usually have cold crisp days, with blue skies…

Food is still in abundance…

The Crimson Rosella feasting amongst the grass seeds in our garden

Then comes the grey, cold July days, and life becomes a bit tougher..

The male Australian King Parrot with vivid orange and deep green colouring, and the female Australian King Parrot with a softer green and orange chest.

On cold winter mornings these King Parrots perch on the guttering of our cabin in the garden. There they drink the melted icy water after a frosty night.

We have a Japanese Maple growing between the cabin in the garden and our house. This year the King Parrots have come to feed on the dried seed pods…

.. giving us a perfect chance for photos as we sit in the sunroom having coffee..

The female Australian King Parrot

The male King Parrot

The male King Parrot spends a lot of time rearranging his tail so that he can eat in comfort.

The male King Parrot, finishing a good meal!

This magnificent Yellow-Tailed Black Cockatoo flew into my neighbour’s garden last winter, and used the Silver Birch tree as a viewing platform in the hunt for food..

(Despite their regal appearance,  I read recently that their cousins the Orange-tailed Black Cockatoo in Western Australia have suffered injuries from Raven attacks.)

A Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoo

A Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoo feeding from a Banksia bush..

And now, in mid-August, there is warmth in the air, and the skies are occasionally blue again.

We saw this Magpie on our walk this morning, and he began warbling…… a very familiar and much loved Australia Magpie call.

My Scottish father used to say the bagpipes brought ”a stirring” to his heart and I think a Magpie’s warbling brings a stirring to most Australian hearts.

and back home, here is another important member of our garden bird family ….one very noisy Cockatoo!

”I told you spring was coming…doesn’t anybody listen to me anymore?”

… it is true, spring is almost here!

Paul and I are also waiting for a very special event in our lives, my daughter and her husband are soon to have a baby, our first grandchild!

Lake Tuggeranong

With the early morning light increasing, I have been getting up early (hard to sleep in when waiting for baby) and reading and enjoying many blogs …a lovely distraction.

May you enjoy your season, and green spaces, where ever you live in the world…

Copyright Geraldine Mackey: All Rights Reserved

 

Zinnias evoke memories a long way from home…

I have a newspaper clipping from the Los Angeles Times 1999… And the title says  “Zinnias Evoke Memories of a first love” 

In my case, this article evoked memories from a long time ago, and a long way from home.

On a cool Californian day in 1999  we were visiting Universal Studios in Los Angeles. While we stopped off for coffee I noticed the Garden section of the LA Times … and Paul kindly suggested I sit down and read it while they tried another ride.   ( sounded like heaven to me).

Rebecca (Bec) and Jessica (Jess) with Apollo 13 astronauts …and Paul looking very cool in front of Tom Hanks

I wanted to read about Zinnias … yes in the middle of Universal Studios .. because they were one of my mother’s favourite flowers and she grew them in the front garden of our house in Zambia ( Central Africa) when I was growing up.

In truth I don’t know whether they were her favourites because she grew lots of flowers and always successfully.

Robert Smaus, the Times Garden Editor had written, “my first garden was full of zinnias in wild Crayola colours”

…and that is just how I remember them.

In our Zambian garden they provided a lot of colour in a climate that was hot and dry.

At the time of reading that article in Los Angeles my family had long since left Africa and had emigrated to Australia.

My parents  were living in the pretty coastal town of Port Macquarie.

 

I was transported from my coffee table in the winter sunshine at Universal Studios in LA across Australia and back to Africa…….How strong the memories of flowers and plants are!

My mother introduced me to many plants and flowers, and when my parents had a home and garden of their own in Port Macquarie I was constantly trying to transplant flowers and shrubs from Mum’s garden in (warm temperate) Port Macquarie  to ours in (cold temperate ) Canberra.

Almost all flowers turned up their toes when they got to Canberra’s freezing/hot dry climate.

I could almost hear them saying

”what have you done to me…why didn’t you leave me alone in lovely temperate Port Macquarie!”‘

Only a few survived, and they are such a welcome part of spring and summer in our garden.

Orange Sparaxis

After a full and eventful life, my mother died, not too long after our holiday to the US.

This lovely Dutch Iris (transported from Mum’s garden) was flowering the night she died..

 

The Dutch Irises have spread and flowered around our garden every November since then…..a warm reminder of our shared love of flowers and gardening.

Sweet peas were a big favourite for her and for me, (and they grew just as well for me as for her……Yes!) and the smell is another memory trigger……but who could not love a sweet pea?

 

Do you have a flower or shrub or a smell  that takes you back to a memory?

Copyright: Geraldine Mackey All Rights Reserved

 

 

 

Thala Beach…where the forest meets the sea..

I have a wonderful Australian’s children’s book called ”Where the Forest Meets the Sea” and while I was teaching I kept many a restless class captive with this book.

I wish I had all those students (and my daughters) here now to see the real thing….a lodge perched on a mountain, literally where the forest meets the sea.

We are in Far North Queensland, escaping the winter in Canberra, and we have stopped off for coffee at a wonderful place called Thala Beach Lodge.

A painting of White-bellied Sea Eagles

A sweeping staircase takes us up to the circular guest lounge perched high amongst the trees, with breathtaking views of the Coral Sea.

The whole lodge is made from local timbers, and it is just like walking into a grand tree house.

 

 

My apologies, I have taken a photo of the seating rather than the beautiful Coral Sea..

The building is designed to bring the breeze from the sea and the scent from the trees.

There is a  long cool veranda and thoughtful local flower arrangements and pieces of interest for even the casual visitor here at Thala..

Each year, between June and September Southern Humpback whales are seen passing by this part of the coast. They mate and give birth along the shores of Queensland, after migrating from their Antarctic feeding grounds.

carving by Brent Vincent

Adult males establish dominance by ”singing” their complex songs, which can travel more than 100 kilometres underwater and can last 20 mins without repetition.

cairnspost.com au Humpback whales frolic off the coast of Cairns in North Queensland

This photo, in the local newspaper, shows the whales along the coast near here.

How I envy locals being able to witness such a sight!

Near the lounge is an eye-catching painting, by the Australian artist Ray Crooke. He is best known for his Gauguin-inspired paintings of islander life in Fiji and the Torres strait.

Archibald prize winner, Ray Crooke lived nearby, in Palm Cove, until his death last year.

He was inspired by the people and history of Far North Queensland and the islands of Torres Strait and the Pacific.

This striking painting told an interesting slice of history of this area.

In 1876 gold was discovered inland from Kewarra Beach. The government paid for a track to be cut through the forest to reach the gold, and in 1877, some bushmen were sent out to cut the track.

One of the bushmen set up camp near the track, and awoke to find his horses had strayed in the night. While he was searching for them he shot at a large black snake, and to his surprise

”a naked greased white man with a red beard stood up and politely asked him not to shoot”

He and four other companions had lived in the area for 14 years with local Aboriginal families. The mystery of where they came from was never solved.

One clue to their identity was that they carried American made axes and there were the ruins of a ship wreck off White Cliffs,  where Thala beach sits today.

So much fascinating history is never told unless there is someone to record it…

The Lodge today is surrounded by natural stands of Eucalyptus forest/ dry woodland forest.

Tall canopies of trees protect an under-layer of ferns and vines…

Guests staying in the Lodge can swim in this peaceful pool, or go down to the beach below.

It is a credit to the owner Rob Prettejohn that he was inspired to build a place for people, yet treading lightly on the surrounding habitat, the forest and the beach front.

The Lodge specialises in bird watching, nature walks and star gazing.

Imagine lunch here, with kookaburras in the trees, and Rainbow Lorikeets flying (occasionally) through the dining room.

We are so tempted to stay here and have lunch looking out on that beautiful view…another day we will …and that is a promise..

Copyright: Geraldine Mackey: All Rights Reserved.

 

This is a flashback photo of Paul, myself and my cousin Theresa during our recent holiday in nearby Palm Cove.

Theresa, has lived in Far North Queensland for many years, and like me, she is a teacher. We were both born in Africa and have shared many adventures in both Africa and Australia.

She has introduced us to many new places in Queensland  (like Thala Beach Lodge) and if she wasn’t a teacher, I would highly recommend her as a  wonderful tour guide….

 

 

 

 

 

Bird watching in Port Douglas: expect the unexpected….

We are on a bird watching tour near Port Douglas, in Far North Queensland….and this little family are called Wandering Whistling ducks 

They have loud whistling calls, and their wings also make a whistling sound as they fly..so roosting flocks have a continuous high-pitched whistling noise, interspersed with twittering calls. In other words, they are a noisy bunch!

We have exchanged the very cold Canberra winter for the warm Far North Queensland coast, and today we have driven from Palm Cove to Port Douglas, to meet our tour guide, Del.

I love the morning light wherever we are, and this is a fine start to the day…

It is a cold morning, by local standards, 7 degrees C… and the locals are in shock, because  it would usually be double that on a June morning.

…but this is very pleasant for Canberrans, living in the south of Australia, as our temperatures are often about 11/12 degrees maximum in winter.

We do a tour around some of the suburbs of Port Douglas, where tropical trees and shrubs and water are all part of the landscape, and bring bird life from far and wide.

Our local guide book says,

“‘Sacred Kingfishers are often seen sitting on lamp posts and goal posts around Port Douglas,

and, sure enough, Del, points out this little fellow on the goal post…looking a bit like a young kookaburra..

Sacred Kingfisher

…and nearby, equally slow to start on this cool morning is a Rainbow Bee Eater, almost luminous in the warm sunshine.

Rainbow Bee Eater

These little birds eat flying insects, but have a real taste for bees. They are immune to the sting of a bee, but  instinctively rub the bee’s stinger against their perch before eating the bee.

 

The trees and shrubs are full of berries, fruit and flowers, and in the early morning, it is like bird supermarket….so much choice.

Australasian Yellow Oriole

 

Tawny Frogmouth

Here are two Tawny Frogmouth, sleeping peacefully in a palm tree between holiday townhouses. With such great camouflage, tourists and locals are completely unaware of them.

This is a Freshwater Mangrove shrub, with a stunning flower…

Everything is enormous in Queensland, even the seed pods….

A family of Bush Stone Curlew have taken up residence under the trees near the supermarket.

….they spend most of the warm days settled under the trees with half shut eyes, and then have a high pitched wailing contact call to other curlews at night.

Bush Stone Curlew

That call could wake the dead!  However, I’m sure, for locals it is one of the familiar sounds of home.

(These birds reminded Paul and I of the Hadedas in Cape Town, and I’m sure they are a relative. While we were visiting we noticed Hadedas seem to spent a lot of time trampling around in gardens and messing in trees, but are affectionately tolerated in the city….and, as one gardener said, they aerate the lawn!)

The colours of the tropics are bedazzling when surrounded by water, and there are many small reserves and nature trails..

Monet in the tropics..

 

These Magpie Geese, tend to gather in aquatic vegetation, are very common in some parts of Queensland and the Northern Territory.

Magpie geese

They are considered pests by mango farmers as their crops are often damaged by these birds…

…. looking at their strong beaks, legs and feet, it is easy to see how they could damage crops.

This Comb-crested Jacana, and her young are  sometime called Lily trotters, as they live in floating vegetation of tropical wetlands..

 

 

 

 

 

Here are the Wandering Whistling ducks again, enjoying the sun…but what are they all collectively looking at?

are they alerted, but not alarmed in their lakeside resort…..

 Just then, Del points out, in that laid-back Far North Queensland way, that there is a crocodile in the water, not far from the birdlife..

…he tells us that he is pretty sure the (approx.) 12 foot croc is getting its food from fish coming down from the river, and so the croc hasn’t bothered the birds during the few weeks it has been in this area. However, Del says, in a matter of fact way,

”he can move like a flash when he wants to..”

We are standing on a slight mound of grass nearby, and Paul and I are silently measuring the distance between this croc, and us, not far really…..

We stroll back to the car, keeping a watchful eye on the croc, yet not wanting to look like wimps from the city. When we are safely back, I’m hoping one of us took a photo of the croc, not quite what we were expecting  on a bird-watching tour!

With hindsight, we were lucky to see a crocodile in a relatively undisturbed natural setting, and none of it was staged for tourists (something  that, unfortunately happens a great deal in Australia and Africa.)

However, having said that, I’m a bit of a peaceful Monet girl myself, so these scenes below are the ones I love best..

A typical winter’s day in Port Douglas, not far from the town centre.

Fish and chips and a glass of wine, while looking at the view, all in a day’s work of bird watching!

 

It is about two years since I started my  blog, Canberra’s Green Spaces….many thanks to all visitors, local and overseas who have visited, whether casually or regularly.

I appreciate all visits, and comments and, in turn, enjoy the many blogs I follow. Blogging has broadened my horizons immensely..

 

Copyright: Geraldine Mackey All Rights Reserved.

 

 

 

Far North Queensland, Melaleuca Trees in Palm Cove

On a cold June morning, we flew out of  Canberra, and four hours later we landed in a very different Australian city, Cairns, in Far North Queensland.

Cairns is the gateway to the Great Barrier Reef, and the Daintree Forests, part of the Wet Tropics World Heritage area.

Despite its international airport and city status, Cairns has lost none of its original laid-back Queensland character.

view of the cane fields and the mountain range as we drive from Cairns airport to Palm Cove

Driving from the airport there are cane farms on either side of the road, and some original old Queensland houses dotted around the countryside.

We are heading just a short distance away to our favourite spot, Palm Cove…where the winter temperatures at this time of the year are around 14 degrees to 26 degrees.

…let’s just keep that a secret…

We have been visiting Palm Cove with our family for about twenty years.

When our children were young, you could take camel rides along the beach, and an old hippie had a little wooden stand where you could have a foot massage…..those were the days!

In  the colder southern states of Australia, the gardens and parks have died back for the winter, so it is almost like sensory overload seeing the glorious colourful flowers and shrubs that seem to grow anywhere and everywhere…

 

 

 

 

However, Palm Cove’s signature for me, are the most incredible Paperbark Melaleuca trees.

The trunk of the tree is layered with papery bark, which is in a continuous process of peeling and replacing. In a monsoonal tropical climate like Palm Cove, this discourages parasites from getting a hold on the tree.

(It is also very hard to pass a tree and resist peeling a fine layer of bark as you go.)

Tea tree oil is distilled from the fresh leaves and twigs of the Melaleuca, and come to think of it, this is probably what the hippie used, all those years ago, for his foot massages.

These distinctive Melaleucas were here when Captain James Cook sailed his ship, the Endeavour, within three leagues of the Palm Cove foreshore on 10 June 1770….some of the species are reported to be over 400 years old.

It is said that Captain Cook tried using the oil from the leaves to make tea, as a possible way of preventing scurvy.

The beauty of the Paperbark Melaleucas in Palm Cove is the seamless way the buildings, paths and people fit around the trees.

I have read that the local council regulated, many years ago, that buildings in Palm Cove could not be built higher than the Melaleucas…what a visionary decision!

Palm Cove will never be one of the many beaches lined by generic high rise buildings, all looking exactly the same.

Rainbow lorikeets, the busy noisy local parrots in this area, are regular visitors to the trees, as are honey eaters, sunbirds, fruit bats, native bees and many other species that feed on the Paperbark trees.

My apologies, I couldn’t find a Rainbow Lorikeet in Palm Cove the day of taking photos, so  I had to borrow a busy Lorikeet from a trip we did to Sydney’s Centennial Park. This Lorikeet is feeding on equally striking flowers from a tree called Cape Tulip Red, originally from Africa, but also very common in the warmer parts of Australia.

The camels and hippies have gone, but, thank goodness some things stay the same, Pete’s Place, with the best fish and chips in Palm Cove.

Barramundi is a locally caught fish here, and is absolutely out of this world….may it never change.  I haven’t got a photo of any of our fish and chip meals because they were eaten so fast!

….and, I need never feel too far away from home, because one of the noisiest cockatoos I’ve ever heard, is nesting just across the way from our balcony

…well, if you can’t find an almond tree in Canberra, then a Paperbark Melaleuca tree is a pretty good second…

Not even a cockatoo winging in like a Boeing 747 could ruin an evening walk on Palm Cove beach.

I hope you are enjoying your good fortune if it is summer in your part of the world, and if you are in the middle of winter, as Monty Don says, make it a restorative time.

In my next post Paul and I will go on a bird watching tour in Port Douglas…

 

Copyright:Geraldine Mackey: All Rights Reserved.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Australian Homestead: Markdale…… endings and beginnings…

Markdale, a historic Australian homestead, has been in the same family for three generations.

Set in the rolling green hills around Crookwell, New South Wales, this sheep and cattle property was bought in 1920, by Mr James Ashton, a parliamentary member for Goulburn 1901-1908.

”our family have been living and working on this property since the 1920s.” said Mary Ashton.

The Shearer by Rix Wright

Today the house and garden are open because the property has been sold and there is to be an auction of the all contents of the house on Sunday.

We have come to look at the garden, designed by a pioneer of Australian landscape design, Edna Walling.

However, it is tempting to look inside the elegant homestead, with high ceilings, sitting rooms and a dining room, all filled with antiques, books and art.

Each room is decorated with original pieces of antique furniture…..

It is truly ”the end of an era” sale, right down to fur coats and a beautiful 1920s wedding dress…

Upstairs is a large room probably used as a playroom, or a school room. Many children on remote farms traditionally had a tutor or governess until they went on to boarding schools in the cities or larger farming towns.

Every room has its own private view of the garden…

 

In 1947 Edna Walling re-designed the garden, removing many existing hedges to make way for the natural scenery of the paddocks and hills.

Many of the hallmarks of her design are here….curved granite walls, gently dividing the garden, a profusion of roses, and hardy perennials…..and the paddocks and hills can be seen at every turn..

Edna Walling is said to have designed the garden around some of the original trees. Unfortunately I don’t know if these are still standing, but there are some striking Eucalyptus trees on the right of the homestead…

…and from these trees the sweeping lawns guide the garden

…..through a canopy of trees and greenery.

Stone paths lead to garden rooms, which are protected from the winds by hardy perennials ….

Plants in this garden have to survive extremes of weather, very hot summers, and regular snow in winter…

 

Wisterias, magnolias, weeping elms, and claret ashes, and a great variety of shrubs and trees lead the eye onwards to the depth of the garden and the small lake beyond….

 

Even in the fading light, the autumn colours on the water are wonderful..

Autumn shows the colours of the garden, but spring is just as grand I’m told.

A new family with young children are moving into Markdale to begin a next chapter in the life of this beautiful property.

…just think of the fun they will have with this bonfire!

PS….In true country style the family and local community had tea and coffee ready, and all the wonderful homemade cakes that you only see in the country…..scones and cream, lamingtons, lemon meringue pie, passionfruit slice, and of course,  Caramel slices, dripping with goodness ….be still my beating heart!!

I didn’t take a photo of all the wonderful cakes on offer, but here is a sample of an Aussie country favourite cake…a lamington.

Image result for photos of lamingtons

Lamingtons… photo by Taste.com

 Copyright: Geraldine Mackey All Rights Reserved.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Crimson rosellas, peppermint sage, and a guilty magpie

In our Canberra garden this beautiful Crimson Rosella is feeding on the nectar of the pretty Salvia elegans, or Pineapple Sage….the flower and the parrot are almost matching in colour.

The sweet pineapple-smelling leaves and bright red tubular flowers of this plant can be used for cooking and medicinal purposes. However, for us, the joy of having this plant in our garden is to see the birds feeding on it in autumn.

A few years ago I planted a little stick of Peppermint sage near the kitchen window, to protect it from severe frosts. I was surprised to see it survive the winter, and then to see it flowering so beautifully in late summer and all through the autumn.

This dainty honey eater is called an Eastern Spinebill, and with its long curved beak it feeds on tubular flowers such as correas and grevilleas as well as the peppermint sage.I wish we could measure the energy this little bird uses as it eats and keeps its wings in motion at the same time…no wonder it is often mistaken for a hummingbird.

(If you look carefully at the new five dollar note, you can see the head and beak of the Eastern Spinebill featured)

I have read that Pineapple Sage is irresistible to nectar feeding birds and butterflies including hummingbirds in New Mexico where this plant naturally occurs.

Sometimes the Crimson Rosella shares feeding time with the Eastern Spinebill,  and they both tolerate this pesky photographer hanging around but,…. if looks could kill…….

This is the Red Wattle bird, has arrived to share in the Peppermint Sage bounty…

The Fuchsia is also flowering long after its usual time….and the Red Wattle is stocking up on nectar all round..

This shy looking young King Parrot is not a regular visitor to the garden, and probably hasn’t got the memo yet that this Almond tree is primarily a Sulphur Crested Cockatoo restaurant.

 

The colourful Eastern Rosellas are very cautious, the closest I have ever seen one in the garden is on our Japanese Maple, about half way down the garden path..

…the birdbath by the back fence is another safe spot.

and here is the Magpie who potters around in my neighbour’s garden most days……

Today he has ventured into our front garden and is about to start digging around in our small bit of lawn for grubs….

…. well may he hang down his head..

”Oh no! I’ve been sprung!….and she’s got that camera again!”

I love the way young Magpies put their wings out and run away from trouble, why not fly??

Quick!…. back home to my garden…

I just have a feeling there are things going on in this garden that I don’t know about,,,

On this glorious autumn day there are still some almonds to eat…so all is well in this garden….

Copyright Geraldine Mackey: All Rights Reserved.