Sydney’s Royal Botanic Gardens: summer display called Pollination

There are so many reasons to visit Sydney’s Royal Botanic Gardens in summer…

….watching irreverent Sulphur Crested Cockatoos drinking from elegant water fountains on statues would be one …

However, the reason we have come on this warm and sunny day,  is to see the beautiful floral display called Pollination at the Calyx at the Gardens.

This vertical wall is the largest of its kind in Australia, and shows the diverse way a collection of plants and flowers can be arranged, and also how they achieve pollination..

To the left of the white flowers is the Giant Chin Cactus from Argentina., said to be pollinated by bees and flowers

This display concentrates on the plants pollinated by bees, bats, birds, butterflies and moths..

To my surprise I learnt that bees can’t see red, they see red flowers as unappealing black.

However, they are attracted to flowers of blue or lavender tones..

Birds on the other hand are very attracted to red flowers, especially those that can provide plenty of nectar for their relatively large bodies and busy flight schedules…

Australian honey-eaters are equipped with a handy brush-tipped tongue which helps them efficiently mop up nectar from flowering plants such as Grevilleas and Banksias..

(the photos below were taken in the National Botanic Gardens in Canberra)

New Holland Honeyeater feeding from a Banksia at the National Botanic Gardens in Canberra

Grevillea

Flowers attract pollinators through different ways

colour….the colour helps advertise their pollen to be collected from the flower..

 scent, the smell indicates a food source such as nectar..

shape, for example, providing a helipad for easy landings, this flower is pollinated by beetles who are not as skilful in flying as bees and moths etc., so they need a good landing platform…

The orchids attracted everyone’s eye, I think there were more photos taken of the colourful orchids than any other part of the display!

White Moth Orchid (Phalaenopsis)

The large topiary Blue Banded Bees are a highlight for children..

but not quite as striking as the real ones, with their iridescent blue bands across the abdomen..

Blue banded bees are one of a number of Australian native bees that perform a special type of pollination called buzz pollination…

http://www.bluebandedbees.com

http://www.aussiebees.com

The Pollination display is on for ten months, and the type of flowers will change according to the season.

The Royal Botanic Gardens is an oasis in the city, full of exotic plants and trees, flowers and palms, something for everyone…

How is this for a view looking from the Gardens to the city ?……… and it’s all free!

Copyright Geraldine Mackey: All Rights Reserved.

 

 

 

Sydney, Bondi Beach and hidden treasures..

Sydney has a population of about 4 million people, and nearly as many tourists in summer. Almost everyone is looking for a beach… and Bondi Beach is the most famous.

… the best kept secret is dawn on a summer’s day on Bondi Beach………the soft sky and pearl-coloured beach make this a magical time….and so few people see it..

I came to Australia, from Central Africa  when I was 19 years old, and very briefly spent some time in Bondi with my brother before I went to University to train to be a teacher…

In those days, the beach seemed wide and empty most of the time…

One of my brothers, Neil, has lived in the Bondi area all of his adult life. Walking along the beach and swimming in this lovely Icebergs pool is a routine he has continued into retirement.

He now walks and/or swims every day  with the same group he has known for years.  They have lived through all the ups and downs of life together, and, Neil says, can almost finish each others’ sentences.

(My Dad walked with a similar group in Port Macquarie, and they called themselves ”Dad’s Army”)

Neil and his lovely wife Jo very generously lend us their house during the Christmas period.  This means our two daughters, our son-in-law, and new granddaughter have a comfortable home in Sydney for Christmas, and we can visit Paul’s big exended family.

On Christmas morning we get a smoothie inside the Bondi Pavilion. The morning is warming up and the people are gathering in swimmers and Santa Hats…

Inside the Pavilion are some wonderful old photos of Bondi beach..

and it looks as if it was always popular and crowded with cars…today you need  a special permit to park here..

Paul always says Sydney has a special kind of blue sky, and here it is…

Good to see Sydney is using the sun for recycling… the small print on the rubbish bin says..” I use the sun to squash your rubbish and fit five times more in…'”

 

 

These days Bondi has suntanned locals, backpackers, European travellers escaping the winter, movie stars and celebrity chefs….Bill Granger’s restaurant in Bondi is lovely for coffee and cake.

Despite the mix, Bondi still has a kind of casual friendliness that I like…perhaps it is the combination of sun and space and colour….

The bougainvillea winds itself around garden fences as we walk back up the hill

 

Morning glory spills over the edge of the cliff and onto the footpaths that we walk on…

Our daughters look out for the Frangipani, and always remind me that my Mum used to make necklaces for them out of the flowers in their home, the equally beautiful Port Macquarie.

My neighbour often says she gets ”postcards”  (memories) from her mother…same here..

 

The sheer tenacity of some flowers blowing off the cliffs around Sydney is amazing..

Sea Hibiscus Hibiscus tiliaceus

This one has a mix of yellow and pink blossoms, and they all flower away, while weathering the blowing winds and storms that are felt in these exposed coastal parts of Sydney..

Even the beetles in Sydney are pretty cool…

Cotton Harlequin Beetle

and of course the cliffs around Bondi are a real delight..

… it is possible to walk along most of the coastline and enjoy the same views seen for centuries…without noticing the crowds in shops and on beaches…. don’t be fooled, Sydney has lots of hidden gems…

These cliffs deserve their own post, one day soon!

I hope you can visit Canberra’s Green Spaces for my next post, which is our visit to the exhibition of Pollination in the Royal Botanic Gardens in Sydney.

Copyright Geraldine Mackey: All Rights Reserved.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Canberra, the bush capital, sun, storms, and season’s greetings

This  wonderful Sturt Desert Pea, from the desert of  Central Australia, seems to be singing..

‘It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas..

Canberra is nowhere near the desert in Central Australia, but the Sturt Desert Pea grows here in the Desert Garden of the Australian National Botanical Gardens.

 

Desert garden in the Australian National Botanic Gardens

Canberra usually becomes very hot, and dry-looking the closer we get to Christmas, but this year we’ve had unexpected rain, and the Brindabella Mountains stayed blue for a long time.

The development of the Arboretum in Canberra was very controversial at first….one hundred forests of trees from all over the world were planted.

This was an act of faith really because a ten year drought had not long ended. However, we have had regular rain since then, and despite the difficulties there may be, the Arboretum looks stunning now,  and is a great tourist attraction….

Not far from the south side of Canberra, (where I live) is Namadgi National Park…

These last couple of years, with abundant grasses and vegetation, there has been an explosion of babies in spring….

a young female Kangaroo with her joey

On the edge of Namadgi is  Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve…used by bushwalkers, and families alike, and it is a joy to see all the animals and birds around after a rainy day..

Kookaburra at Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve

 

baby koala Ghambi (meaning fire) and his mother..

I believe two new koala babies have been born since our visit…

…closer to home, one kindly gardener has planted red hot pokers, red geraniums, and blue agapanthus along the verge next to her house…it looks wonderful in the morning sunshine, and the red hot pokers are stunning against the white trunk of the Eucalypt tree.

I often walk along the backtracks (fire trails) with Paul and also with friends and neighbours..

Paul had just finished painting the deck  (luckily it was dry) when an unexpected hail storm occurred.

It only lasted about 15 minutes but caused some damage around the neighbourhood.

Luckily no damage for us, but most of the plants looked a bit bedraggled….. one minute it is 33 degrees Celsius and the next minute there are pieces of ice in pot plants!

 

These Liliums and the Gazanias get the prize for resilience….they began flowering again the next day.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Gazanias  must wonder what is going on here….one day a Sulphur Crested Cockatoo is lopping its flowers, the next….pieces of ice are landing in the pot!

 

My favourite part of summer is sitting on the deck having breakfast, the sound of sprinklers and happy birds flying in and out of the water.

So much fresh stone fruit to add to our breakfast… the birds eat from our fruit trees and we buy ours from the markets…something seems wrong with that equation….but where would be we without them?

yes…its beginning to look a lot like Christmas….

This photo was taken last summer, we read papers online now!

The Good Food website has this variation on a Pavlova (an Australian/New Zealand favourite summer dessert) …and there is another one with honeycomb…they are worth looking at…

slablova …the perfect crowd friendly pavola..

Season’s greeting to everyone, and thank you for your company this year, I’ve enjoyed writing about Canberra’s Green Spaces, and travelling the world through blogs I read, and the people I’ve met.

…best wishes to you all, and may you have enough time to enjoy family and friends and green spaces (or snowy white spaces from the comfort of your warm fire..) where ever you are in the world.

Copyright: Geraldine Mackey All Rights Reserved.

 

 

 

Australian Parliament House honey harvest for Christmas!

The beautiful Great Hall of the Australian Parliament House is not the first place you would imagine a bee harvesting ceremony to take place.

Add to that some sampling of  delicious chocolate coated honeycomb and other honey inspired goodies, and you have a very popular event!

Earlier this week I joined this celebration of the first harvest of honey from the beehives in the Parliamentary Gardens.

Cormac Farrell, an Environmental Scientist, and head beekeeper with the engineering company Aurecon, helped established the hives at Parliament House in 2013.

Cormac Farrell: head beekeeper for Aurecon photo Rohan Thomson Canberra Times.

He said the Parliamentary garden crew have been fantastic because they maintain the gardens almost completely pesticide free. There are eucalypts trees with an understory of tea tree and cherry blossoms in spring and a big stand of Argyle apple nearby.

Eucalyptus trees surround Parliament House

In 1976 the first Parliamentary beehives were approved by the then Speaker of the House of Representatives, Billy Snedden. He was asked by the Victorian MP William Yates for permission to install two hives in the House of Representatives garden.

As the request was made on the 1st April, Snedden thought it was an April Fool’s Joke, but approved it anyway.

The House of Representatives Gardens today

During the time of the first two beehives in the House of Representatives gardens, Mr Yates’ honey became very popular, and was often taken home by politicians.

The honey was famously given as a peace offering by Mr Yates from the Liberal Party, to the Prime Minister Gough Whitlam from the Labor Party, during a particularly heated parliamentary debate.

Gough Whitlam: Prime Minister from 1972-75

Wouldn’t it be great if honey could smooth over party tensions these days!

Today’s hives at the new Parliament House gardens have the latest bee technology fitted with sensors to monitor the health of the hives as well as the Australian-invented “Flow Hive” which allows easy harvesting of honey.

I joined the many people who watched the first harvest. As you can see I was not the only one hoping to get a glimpse of the whole process. I had trouble getting photos of the process…

 

Cormac Farrell is gently brushing the honeycomb

Father and son beekeepers, Stu and Cedar Anderson’s invention ”Flow Hive” has made beekeeping much easier. The Flow Hive works by splitting honeycombs vertically with a key mechanism, releasing honey inside and letting it flow to a tap at the bottom, all without disturbing the bees.

Stu Anderson (left) and Cormac Farrell (right)

 

The honey flowing seamlessly into a jar as a result of the Flow Hive (honeyflow.com.au)

This project is a collaboration between the Department of Parliamentary Services, the Australian National University Apiculture Society and Aurecon.

Once the honey goodies came around, it was difficult to hold sticky bits and take photos! Congratulations to all who brought this project together, what better place to have beehives…

Cormac Farrell made this simple but profound comment at a previous interview:

It might seem weird to keep backyard bees at Parliament House, but for our grandparents generation it was as normal. Bees help people understand how seemingly small things connect with big things. Our cities are not concrete jungles, we can still have plants and we can produce food, bring culture and real life to the place.

 

Links for further information:

www.honeyflow.com.au

www.beeaware.org.au

 

Geraldine Mackey: All Rights Reserved.

 

 

 

 

 

Wonga Wetlands…. water, birds, and nature’s own bluegrass band of frogs

Wonga Wetlands is a ecosystem of lagoons and billabongs, and is home to a variety of wildlife and River Red Gums. (a type of Eucalyptus tree)

The name Wonga means Cormorant in the local indigenous Wiradjuri language.

These wetlands cover around 80 hectares on the Murray River floodplains, near the city of Albury.

I have included a map showing Canberra in relation to Sydney and Melbourne, the two biggest cities in Australia.  Albury is about midpoint between Canberra and Melbourne.

We stopped off in Albury on our way down to Melbourne to visit our little granddaughter, and the Wonga Wetlands are on the outskirts of the town.

These  lagoons are being gently restored after many years of farming and grazing using reclaimed water from the Murray River.

It is an area that is now being developed  to conserve and protect the habitat, and the native flora and fauna.

It wasn’t that easy to photograph birds on the move in this wetland environment, so I have added a photo here of a  Cormorant taken along the bank of Lake Burley Griffin …to show this fine bird at close range.

The photo below shows an elegant  Egret and behind the Egret is a Cormorant, much smaller than the one from Lake Burley Griffin in Canberra.

How very well camouflaged they are in their true environment.

I wished I had a long range lens to capture the wild life on this dead gum tree…

Fortunately Paul took this great photo (below) of the Pelican and two black Darters looking on.

There is another Pelican nesting the branch below….one wonders how dead branches on dead trees stays steady, especially when the Pelican lands…

 

Paul’s second great shot was of this magnificent bird below, the Royal Spoonbill… close up you can see its eye, and the amazing white feathers flowing back from his head. I’ve read that the male Spoonbill develops a lush crest of white feathers during mating season.

We both spent a long time trying to photograph him as he put his amazing bill into the water, and skimmed along the edges of the lagoon, scooping up food to eat. ..but all our subsequent photos of this bird were blurry.

The White necked Heron

The ducks and swans seem to cruise happily through the thick algae.

 

Near this pool of water….

was a sign about the frogs…

There was very little sight or sound of these interestingly named frogs, but I did find some information from the website Backyard Buddies.

Pobblebonk Frog  (or Banjo Frog) are found in Eastern Australia, in ponds and lakes. Like nature’s own bluegrass band once the Banjo Frogs get going you’d swear you were hearing musical instruments….rather than a small frog looking for a mate.

When one frog starts to call, others will join in….a single bonk, or plonk sounds like a string of banjos being plucked.

Pobblebonk Frog: Photo from Museum Victoria

The Peron’s Tree (Maniacal Cackle) Frog is a tiny, and cute looking frog, but a very noisy creature. He sounds just like a jackhammer getting started when the mating season begins. Sometimes a Peron’s Tree frog gets into a drain pipe and calls, and there his call can reverberate and sound like the call of ten frogs, perhaps this is where the second name ”Maniacal Cackle” comes from …..

The Peron’s Tree Frog (Maniacal Cackle Frog): Photo from the Museum Victoria

The Eastern, or Common froglet must feel very ordinary next to these two!

Australia is the driest continent in the world, and we never take water for granted, so it is wonderful to see this wetland, full of water, wildlife and frogs!

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

Copyright: Geraldine Mackey  All Rights Reserved.

 

 

 

 

Canberra gardening in Spring, Cockatoos ten/ Gardener one (won?)

During the dull and colourless days of winter, I always forget the sheer joy of walking into the garden in spring.

This year we planted new tulips and these pink ones were the best performers…

When they began to grow I told my neighbour they were orange, but in fact, the orange tinge is on the inside of the tulip, or perhaps the red tulips, (almost finished flowering) are reflecting some red onto them

….either way, they are a joy to walk past every morning.

A few years ago we bought a packet of mixed bulbs from Diggers and miniature surprise bulbs keep coming up in the garden,  like these tiny yellow daffodils.

 

 

 

 

Many gardens in Canberra have Alpine plants. I have grown to love them, especially in spring, when they display their tiny, but perfect flowers.

 

The almost magenta-coloured Salvia is a good backdrop for the lovely white Dutch Irises, multiplying all over the garden.

The Hot Lips Salvia (photo below) flowers for about nine months of the year in Canberra.

This year we planted some lavender along the path, and the bees absolutely love it.

New this year are some blue Dutch Iris, smaller than others we have in the garden.  We have planted them in three different parts  of the garden, with varying sunshine. They all flower at different times in spring and so there is always an extra touch of blue in the garden.

Speaking of sunshine, we have one part of the garden which has full sun most of the day.

At the nursery recently, I noticed this lovely plant called Gazania Variety. This is the description on the flower.

A small perennial plant, which is very hardy and versatile and produces masses of daisy flowers. They thrive in a range of soil types and positions, and are ideal for hot dry exposed sites.

Let me add, they are very resilient.

There were four flowers on the plant when I put it into this blue pot. Their colour is breath-taking on a sunny day, and can be seen from all over the garden. The flower below was my favourite.

I should add that this is a fly-over areas for Cockatoos who are visiting a neighbouring tree.

….as you can see from the photo below, my favourite flower has been lopped off at the stem, in the morning, and left to wilt and die.

Overseas readers might not know that Sulphur crested Cockatoos frequently take an exception to a flower, especially bright coloured ones, and they break the stem as they go past.

Not to eat, just because they can..

Crimson Rosellas are also known to do this, especially in spring, but my money is on the Cockatoos.

I tried small stakes near each stem…no luck, and then, in a hurry before dusk (early morning seems to be lopping time), I wrapped this gaudy, but strong twine around the plant.

The poor plant now looks mighty confused, and naturally is not flowering with the same gusto as before.

The flowers were lopped regardless of stakes or twine..

I found a hideaway place on the deck and pulled out all the twine and stakes. The poor plant looks as if it is on day release.

We went to visit our lovely granddaughter, and I left the long suffering, but recovering Gazania, in a very secluded spot on the deck. When we came back, there were no less than six flowers lying wilting on the deck.

So….?

In her blog  NewEnglandandGardenAndThread, Judy says we have to remind ourselves that our plants are not our children (and yes, who knew?)

However, just on principle I’m keeping the pot of Gazanias in the laundry at night, and on the front deck in the day time. (where I can keep an eye on them and flyover Cockatoos.)

okay, so where have you hidden them?

So far, the flowers are gradually recovering.

I think I might have won the battle…..

Butter would not melt in my mouth

but  perhaps not the war….

 

I’m not going to let this spoil spring for me, and I hope you are enjoying your green spaces and season, where ever you might be

 

Copyright: Geraldine Mackey  All Rights Reserved.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Retford Park, from homestead to country estate..

This grand house and parkland is tucked away on the outskirts of Bowral in the Southern Highlands, New South Wales.

The property dates back to 1821 when Governor Macquarie granted Edward Riley two parcels of land. It was originally called Bloomfield.

This Jane Austen-like driveway takes us back to the 1880s, when Samuel Hordern bought the property.

Fortunately for future generations, his son, Sir Samuel Hordern and his wife, Charlotte, were keen gardeners. They were responsible for the first of the large trees and camellias, and a park full of rare and unusual oaks.

Retford Park was bought by James Fairfax in 1964, and it was his country home until he died early in 2017.

James inherited his fortune from the Fairfax Publishing company founded by his forebears, and is a well known philanthropist and art patron.

When he died, he showed further generosity and foresight by gifting  Retford Park to the National Trust for all to enjoy.

The Southern Highlands has a temperate climate, and for new settlers arriving in Australia, it was a chance to grow colourful shrubs, like camellias, rhododendrons, and azaleas…the gardens were exploding with blossoms and colours..

When James Fairfax bought the property he turned it from an agricultural property to a country house for family and friends.

Under his care, landscape designers have blended old with the new. There has been extensive re-planting of the park, with various species, notably, chestnut, gingko, nyssa and many oaks…this is my favourite part of the property.

The Cypress Lawn, includes an older Redwood, and newly planted weeping Japanese maples, and a bamboo grove…

The Redwood tree has increased in height since a huge old Monterey Cypress was cut down after extensive damage by the cockatoos during the last drought….

The remnants of a Monterey Cypress, after being ringbarked by cockatoos during the last drought

as I have mentioned in many posts, cockatoos are great characters but tough to live with in the country and/or on a farm….(everywhere really)

A cockatoo busily stripping some bark from an apple tree nearby

The pool pavilion was designed in 1968 by the late architect, Guilford Bell. It provides panoramic views across the paddocks.

Not very far away from this slick and modern pool is part of the original garden, and here we can see the Rolls Royce of all chicken coups… electric fences to keep out the foxes..

It was customary for large estates to keep exotic birds and animals, and these days, all that remain are some emus. They  have an equally generous garden, also surrounded by electric fences…possibly to keep them in!

Emus, usually living in dry precarious bushland, probably think they have died and gone to heaven here!

Along the Emu walk are trees called Tilia cordifolia “Rubra”. Also known as Lime or Linden trees.

The older aviaries are being taken over by impressive vegetable gardens.

Near the garage was the Peony walk, unfortunately nearly the end of flowering time for these gorgeous flowers, but we managed to find a couple still blooming….Paul took an lovely shot of the pink one..

The Knot garden, closer to the house is planted with  English and Japanese box and Mop-top Robinias, designed by David Wilkinson, architect and landscape gardener.

The black and white tulips were very striking..

The Knot garden takes us full circle to the front of the grand house, and this is called the Grey Garden, and is planted with white agapanthus and clipped slivery grey shrubs.

Looking down through the Grey Garden you can see the lovely parkland beyond..

These ancient trees are drawing the visitor in…..what could be better on a warm spring day..

….than lunch under the blossoming trees near the coach house…. and cottages, in the original pastoral property

There is an overwhelming feeling of shade and peace at Retford Park, which only well cared parks and gardens can give…

 

 

Copyright: Geraldine Mackey All Rights Reserved

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.