Sydney harbour and Barangaroo Reserve

Has anyone told Sydney it is the middle of winter in Australia?

Paul and I have come to visit my brother and sister-in-law in Sydney. It is mid-winter in Australia, and we left our home in Canberra very early in the morning, frost melting on the grass. Four hours later, here we are sitting in Barangaroo Reserve, peeling off jackets and coats, and reaching for hats and sun cream, and looking at Sydney harbour.

Paul and I sat on a bench eating our lunch looking at this view…..

It is always a miracle when a prime piece of real estate is partly given over to parkland and public use, and this beautiful, relatively new piece of green space in Sydney, is one such miracle.

The former Prime Minister, Paul Keating, a long term resident of Sydney, was an early advocate for a public reserve. His vision was to return the area, known as Miller’s Point, to a ”naturalistic park”.

One of Sydney’s oldest industrial sites on the Harbour has now been transformed into a six hectare headland of open spaces. The planting and landscape is designed to replicate the vegetation before European settlement, making it as natural as possible.

Views of the harbour, on this glorious winter’s day.

Huge blocks of sandstone re-create the original harbour foreshore, and the sandstone is weathering and changing with time.

Over 76,000 plants and native trees, palms and tree ferns, native shrubs, small trees, native ground covers, grasses and ferns, have been planted in the last few years. Needless to say the native birds love this natural habitat.

The Barangaroo Reserve stands on the land of the Gadigal clan. Barangaroo is named after an indigenous woman who was married to Bennelong. She was a spokesperson between indigenous Australians and the new British penal colony… and was, from all accounts, proud of her culture, and a feisty character at a time when she needed to be so!

The Rainbow Lorikeets feeding from the Banksia bushes

Many years ago I lived in Sydney, near Balls Head Reserve, and Paul has taken a photo of me with a view of my old ”stomping ground” in the background.

Happy memories!

As you can see around this area, there is plenty of construction work going on with apartments, hotels, restaurants, being built on the right hand side of the harbour.

Buildings around the harbour with the distinctive Crown Sydney Casino looking very like The Shard in London.

The walking and cycling pathways take us to the edge of the city, not far from The Rocks (where you can see some of the original houses of early Sydney.) It is possible to walk to well known parts of the city, from here, for example, Darling Harbour and The Rocks and Circular Quay.

We chose to take the steps to the top of the Reserve, and have one last view of Sydney Harbour.

Salute to Paul Keating and many others who persisted in this vision, we now have a wonderful reserve for everyone to share.

Thank you for taking the time to read my blog today, and may your day be as bright as a winter Sydney day!

Copyright Geraldine Mackey: All Rights Reserved.

When is a plant a weed?

This pretty flower is called Patterson’s Curse

When I first came to Australia I went to university in a country town called Bathurst in New South Wales. Bathurst is a pretty town surrounded by rolling hills and golden fields. My new university friends offered to drive me to neighbouring towns, to get to know the area.

A field of Patterson’s Curse (photo by Lush Garden Services)

When I first saw a blazing purple and green field I was stunned by its beauty ‘‘Isn’t that a pretty field!”

My country friends were horrified, ”oh no, don’t say that, the purple stuff is Patterson’s curse!

Patterson’s Curse comes from the Mediterranean, some might know it as Salvation Jane, Blueweed, Lady Campbell weed or Riverina Blue Bell. The plant began arriving through mail order catalogues in the 1840s in Australia and was sold as a cut flower in Sydney markets. From gardens it rapidly invaded farms. By the 1900s it was well established as a weed throughout South-eastern Australia.

Patterson’s Curse is toxic to livestock, particularly horses.

Many years later, we don’t have to deal with Patterson’s Curse in our garden, but like all gardeners, we have to deal with our share of unwelcome plants…..Valerium being one of them!

A Valerium plant growing in between rocks in our garden.

Just look at the sizeable root of this plant, working its way under rocks to new territory!

Since Lockdown, we have really had a chance to work on the garden, and, as always, the weeds come first. Some plants, like violets, were welcomed and loved in our garden, at first..

A handful of violets to give to my neighbour, who often used them while cooking. She dipped the flowers in icing sugar to decorate a cake..

During my years of teaching in the Introductory English Centre in Canberra, our Teacher’s Assistant often brought little bunches of violets into office for us, especially on Monday,….in her words ”Monday is always a very unstable day”…and she was right!, We taught five to seven year old students, who had just arrived in Australia, and there were as many languages spoken as there were children.

At first the violets were lovely green borders in our garden, as can be seen on the left of the above photo..
In the above photo the violets are creeping up on the tulips..
and here they are taking over the garden!

Our garden is spread-out, and the violets had tucked themselves behind every nook and cranny. The violet roots are tough and can survive drought. As they so efficiently cover an plant bed, they cover up the soil and prevent precious plants like my Japanese maple from getting enough soil and water.

Paul has spent over a week pulling out violets, and has filled two trash packs with them…. no more violets!

I have long believed the Gardener’s Adage

The best way to make sure you are removing a weed and not a valuable plant is to pull it out. If it comes out of the ground easily, it is a valuable plant.”

I hope you are enjoying your garden, your neighbourhood, and your season, where ever you are in the world today. During this very unpredictable time in all our lives I have enjoyed reading blogs from all over the world, a reassuring and interesting way to find out about real people are dealing with the CV 19 roller-coaster!

I have started using Block Editor, so I’m just crossing fingers and hope it is all working!

Copyright Geraldine Mackey: All Rights Reserved.

Canberra’s autumn in Lockdown, rain, sunshine and birds

As the calendar pages turn towards the middle of 2020, uncertainty and Lockdown continues in Australia, and the world.  As if to compensate, autumn has been magnificent in Canberra this year…

After a dreadful summer of bushfires and thick smoke, it is wonderful to see trees, and plants flourishing with good rainfalls around Canberra in March, April and May.

The  weather looks wild through the Eucalyptus trees, but the trees are loving it….

not to mention the birds!

Photos could not really capture the sheer delight these cockatoos are having in some nearby Eucalyptus trees during the rain..

They are flying into the trees, calling (screeching) to each other..

….and sinking down gently into the rain-filled branches. A couple of them were hanging upside down on the outer branches, with wings spread out (I missed that photo opportunity)

Watching their games and delight, it is a reminder of how much they have missed the rain too.

The Crimson Rosellas are also back in the garden in bigger numbers than we have seen for a few years.. a little more sedate in their response to rain..

Here in Canberra  the autumn colours of the  landscape are often muted greens and soft greys, but this year, everything is looking very, very green.

Our Lockdown rules allow for a walk every day, and this one is a favourite of ours because it is not far from our house.

We follow this path until we come to what is known by locals as ”Heartbreak Hill” or ”Cardiac Arrest” Hill.  Actually it is not steep at all, with lovely views of the mountains, along the way.

One morning we were walking up Heartbreak Hill and we came across these two delightful young parrots… called Gang Gangs. A parent is watchful in the leaves behind them.

Does anyone know the ”Where’s Wally?” children’s books?

This could be “Where are the Gang Gangs?” amongst the autumn colour.

We have never seen Gang Gangs in our suburb, but, so much natural habitat in the bush has been lost in the fires, it is not surprising birds are moving into suburban areas for food.

They are most welcome!

Years ago I used to walk down this path almost every day. An elderly gentleman was always working in his garden and one day when I admired his roses, he told me I could come in and cut some roses to take home, at anytime!

He passed away some time ago, but he would love to see these roses continuing to flower.

It made me wonder how long do roses last?

Paul has been painting the cabin and the deck, and now to the garden!  My contribution so far was to ‘trim’ a very old Rosemary bush…once I started I couldn’t stop! Paul called it the ”Rosemary Bush Massacre”.

There is a large green grevillea near the deck called ”Wee Jasper”. This bush brings the Wattle Bird and also the elusive  Eastern Spinebill to our garden, because it flowers all through autumn and winter.

However, because it does flower for such a long period of time, and has birds and bees buzzing around,  it is seldom pruned.

While I had my garden clippers at hand, I decided to trim some of the older branches of the Wee Jasper..

As I reached into the branches of the Wee Jasper,  the Eastern Spinebill flew into the bushes and settled on a branch very close to me. I couldn’t believe how close it was, and how still. This is a bird almost impossible to photograph as he usually moves so fast and is very elusive.

I have just enough Irish blood in me to wonder if that tiny little bird was warding me off his bush…perhaps he was watching while I trimmed the Rosemary Bush..

…Eastern Spinebill one, Gerrie nil.

The Eastern Spinebill feeding from the Pineapple Sage, photo taken two years ago.

We are lucky to have one of our daughters working from her home here in Canberra, and it has been a few months now since we have seen our elder daughter, our son-in-law and our granddaughter.

Just after Christmas our granddaughter helped us pick this very cute koala for the garden. ..  a happy reminder of her.

We look forward to more State borders opening in Australia, so that we can get together again.

Many thanks for taking the time to read my blog posts, and thanks also to the nurses and health workers all over the world. ..what a service to communities they do!

Copyright Geraldine Mackey: All Rights Reserved.

 

 

Paul’s graduation, and days to be remembered ..

The first few months of this year have slipped away, unnoticed, since the global grip of CV 19. Yet February 2020 was quite a milestone for Paul, and for our family.

On 12th February 2020 Paul was awarded his PHD in Health Policy. The ceremony was held at the Deakin University Campus at Geelong.

Our little granddaughter Joanie was not at all phased by her grandfather’s long gown, but nearly ready to take off in the wind, on this most exciting day!

Five years ago, Paul retired, and immediately began his PHD.  Both Paul and I have always loved learning, and we were both surprised at how many people were amazed that he should start a PHD at 60 years of age.

Paul’ s father and uncles were pharmacists, and many of his family work as health professionals of various kinds.

Not long after Paul was born, (the first child in a family of eight children) Paul’ s father, Frank bought a pharmacy in a small town, Oak Flats on the south coast of New South Wales.

Rebecca and I with Paul’s parents, Margaret and Frank.

Frank, a quietly spoken, knowledgeable man was the perfect pharmacist for a region not blessed with many  health facilities, doctors or clinics. At the end of every day he returned home only after he had delivered prescriptions to elderly patients. As the children grew, the older boys in the family delivered prescriptions  on their bikes on the weekend.

Years after Paul and I had settled in Canberra we met a middle-aged woman who came from Oak Flats. When we mentioned Paul’s father she said,

Oh, I remember Mr Mackey! I came from a big family and my Mum used to get us to ride up to Mr Mackey’s pharmacy when one of the little ones were sick. We couldn’t afford to go to the doctor every time, and Mr Mackey was just as good!”

I always relied on Frank when either of our daughters were sick, and trusted his judgement completely. He was a calming influence to all those who had young children. When we visited Frank and his wife Margaret, our daughters, (the first of many grandchildren) always remembered him making them toast and orange juice before changing into his crisp white coat and going on his long commute to work.

Our daughters Jessica and Rebecca with Frank, in retirement.

As young adults Paul and I left Sydney to work in Canberra. I began teaching, and Paul began his career in the Research Service at the former Provisional (for 60 years!) Parliament House. This building is now the Museum of Australian Democracy.

Over time Paul took over the portfolio of Health, a perfect fit for someone with his background.

As with many young families, we juggled life with one car. Much as I love the Walter Burley Griffin plan of space between suburbs in Canberra, it makes for a long commute home from the centre of the city.

I always parked along the edges of the building to admire the roses nearby.

Most days I would put the girls in the car, drive to Old Parliament House, and park almost outside the front door. I’d often sing songs so that our younger daughter, Jess, didn’t fall asleep while waiting for Dad.

During the time Paul spent at Old Parliament House, a Christmas party for children of employees was held in the lovely grounds of Parliament House every December.

The Christmas party was held in the cricket pitch!

The Senate gardens were spilling over with roses and irises..

What a mild and carefree time it was…

Now there are fences around the building and it looks quite different.

Once new Parliament House was built, Paul moved into this office in Parliament House.

When Parliament was sitting Paul often had to work until 10.00 pm. Our daughters were still young, and it was a long evening without Paul!

Occasionally I would take the girls into Parliament House and meet Paul in the cafeteria for dinner.  The car park we used would be completely inaccessible to the public now. September 11 changed many things over time.

Paul has worked in many sectors of Health since his early days at Parliament House. Throughout his long and varied career he has remained passionate about health care, and equality in our Health system.

Since  Paul retired and began his PHD he has enjoyed juggling studying, gardening, travelling and being a grandparent ….a perfect fit…

You are never too young to learn about sprinkler systems in Australia..

Paul has given papers at many conferences, and I’ve enjoyed going along, hearing and talking to Health professionals. As a bonus we have both enjoyed visiting gardens in various cities, places we may never have visited if not for Paul’s studies.

Brisbane, one of Australia’s northern cities, relaxed and warm in winter!

Auckland, the biggest city in New Zealand. A wonderful country to visit.

Paul and his supervisor enjoying a coffee in Palermo as he prepares for his conference in the city.

Palermo a vibrant and fascinating city, one we might never have seen. Salute to Paul!

On a very windy day in February, Paul graduated, and he wrote a wonderful acknowledgement at the beginning of his PHD, for the support of myself, our daughters, Rebecca, Jessica, and our son-in-law, Anthony, and he ended with this important acknowledgement:

I would also like to thank my mother and late father for all they did to start my learning journey many years ago. This thesis is dedicated to my granddaughter, Joanie, with the hopeful wish for an equitable future.

The pandemic today has shown us all how fragile and central health systems are in our countries, and our world…..and the importance of equity in the survival of us all.

I hope you are all well, and surviving in this new and restrictive world. Where ever you are in the world, I wish you sunshine and warmth, and if you have a garden, may it flourish!

Copyright Geraldine Mackey: All Rights Reserved.

 

Canberra Magpies on border patrol..

As we adjust to our ”new normal”,  Paul and I decided to make sure we went for a long walk every day, to help us keep fit, and sleep well.

Fortunately, Canberra has been designed to have corridors of bushland between suburbs, and there are many fire trails (backtracks) that skirt around suburbs.

Crimson Rosella

Life in the bush is thriving again since the recent rain, and to our delight, we saw quite a few birds as we walked.

Rainbow Lorikeets

I noticed a splash of colour and saw two baby Rainbow Lorikeets preening themselves in the hollow of a gnarled old Eucalyptus tree.

A juvenile Galah

and this endearing little Galah also resting and nesting in the same tree……all unhurried and blissfully unaware of world events around them..

The Brindabella Mountains are recovering from the dreadful summer fires and now there are only clouds overhead, rather than smoke rising from them.

In the distance we could see Sulphur Crested Cockatoos swirling and swooping through the suburbs like shining white kites. (unfortunately hard to capture without a good lens on the camera)

Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoos

Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoos are not very common in Canberra, but since the fires, many of these parrots have come to Canberra for the water and vegetation.

They are the smallest  bird in the Cockatoo family, and make a sound like a creaking door. They mate for life, and live in family groups, and they are very low-key compared with their cousins, the Sulphur Crested Cockatoo.

My mother used to say the black cockatoos bring the rain……we would welcome the rain and the cockatoos any day.

On the way back home we saw a group of Magpies; very familar to all Canberrans.

They stood together, warbling softly to each other..indignation written all over those intense stares…

There is certainly something going on here…

The problem is the Magpie in the nearby tree. She has long white markings on her back.

This Magpie is  a ”ring-in” …… an outsider. Her striking white markings suggest she is a coastal Magpie… and not from this area.

This Magpie comes from the State of New South Wales, not our state, known as the Australian Capital Territory.

She hasn’t heard the news…the borders are closed!

Never mind, the Canberra Magpies border patrol  are on to it!

We left them to it , and I hope all went well.

A day in the sunshine, walking and looking at the birds, cheered us up immensely.

Less news and more walking is our plan!

Hard not to smile at these two …absolutely no social distancing going on in the koala world. (photo from Pinterest)

Thank you for taking the time to read my blog, and may you enjoy at least a little of each day in these unpredictable times !

Copyright Geraldine Mackey: All Rights Reserved 

 

Canberra’s summer……heat, fires, hail and rain, and flowers..

The photos below seem like a dream to me now: this was our garden in November….late spring.

We had some rain, which made the garden look quite green.  I looked at these photos at the end of summer and I had to double-check the date on my camera to make sure it was just a few short months ago.

Despite the fairly calm conditions in Canberra in spring, the hot dry winds, the drought in much of Australia, and the early and unusual fires in other parts of Australia, were the warning signs of the terrible summer to come.

Australia’s Parliament House at midday in December. Photo AAP.

During December fires had spread across the country, and the winds blew the thick smoke through Canberra… some days the air quality was the worst of any major city in the world.

The agapanthus flowered valiantly, blue and white balls of colour through our smoky summer days.

The Gardenia flowered so gracefully on one of our hottest days…(40 degrees C) Incredible!

Our home is part of a group of suburbs not far from the Namadgi National Park, with views of the Brindabella Mountains…all mountain photos are taken from our garden or our street.

Inevitably the winds, and the searing hot temperatures spread the fires across the mountains.

Even more apocalyptic was the sight of the fires burning across the mountains at night.

During some of evenings, when our suburbs were on ”high alert” and it was hard to sleep, we shared meals and glasses of wine with neighbours…a memorable time.  There was an acute sense of camaraderie and community during  the  fires.

Then came a sudden chance of rain, which became a freak hail storm…

Paul rushed to get the unexpected hail out of the entrance of the water tank, before the water had a chance to overflow and/or hail damaged the tanks litter strainer.

Finally some nice, steady rain came! The whole garden looked as if it was having a bad hair day!

However, in many parts of Eastern Australia there were floods and road closures …

ABC news photo

…even more trauma and heartbreak for people and particularly wildlife.

Finally, in February the cooler weather and rain enabled the ACT Emergency Services to gradually reduce the fires in the mountains.

Miraculously, everything started to look green again. Canberra, at the end of summer could do with more rain, but all normal weather patterns do not apply this year!

Cautiously at first, the birds are coming back to the garden..

The almond tree had endured hot dry winds, leaves stripped from the hail storm, and reduced water…

but it has flourished and has a bumper crop of almonds this year..who know why?

”…and he said, and she said….””

The cockatoos are back….noisily cracking almond nuts and gossiping in the trees…..life is back to normal.

During the last few months many animals have been moved out of Namadgi National Park for their safety. Amongst them, platypus, koalas, rock wallabies and even Northern Corrobboree Frogs. I hope to do a post on their return soon.

After seeing the plight of so many koalas this summer,  here is a link to a video clip of an endearing young koala called Willow, and her first encounter with a butterfly. 

https://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-10-03/butterfly-photobombing-koala-joey-goes-viral/7897804

 

I hope your season, summer or winter, has been less traumatic than ours, and that you are ready, as we are, to enjoy the mellow days of autumn.

Copyright Geraldine Mackey: All Rights Reserved.

 

 

Akaroa: a bit of French magic in New Zealand

My previous post was of Fisherman’s Bay Garden, just 20 minutes away from the pretty coastal town of Akaroa, on the south island of New Zealand.

Akaroa is the Ngai Tahu word for Long Harbour.  The Maori, who were the first to occupy this Bay, took advantage of the abundant supply of “food from the forests, seas, river, and skies”.

No wonder the British explorer, Captain Cook, when he had circumnavigated both islands, sent word back to England that he had ”found Paradise”.

During our holiday in New Zealand we were charmed in every way….not only was the weather perfect, but our B&B was set in a beautiful garden.

The volcanic soil and plentiful rain makes gardening look easy in New Zealand. ( As you can see I have garden envy!)

In this bucolic environment the morning began with a slow walk through the green lush garden, and then a stroll down the hill to the coffee shop.

In 1838 a French whaler Captain Jean Francois L’Anglois was so impressed with Akaroa Bay that he  made a provisional purchase of the land in the Banks Peninsula from the local Maori.

However, by the time the French settlers arrived in 1840, the Treaty of Waitangi between the British Crown and the Maori chiefs had been signed.

However, the French still established a settlement with 60 French immigrants and the descendants of these original French settlers are still in New Zealand.

Today Akaroa is seen as both a historic French and British settlement.

The small French community has had an immense influence on wine and other imports from France.

 

 

 

One of my favourite buildings ..the Coronation Library.

We watched children (and young adults) jumping off the pier to swim…what an idyllic way for children to grow up!

Our B&B host had told us that the butcher sold very tasty baguettes at lunch time, and she was right!

Every day we bought some baguettes overflowing with cheeses, ham, salad, local pickles, and chutneys …we sat under the trees near the town square, and watched the boats coming in and out of the bay.

In the town square was a sculpture of a French artist and well known engraver, Charles Meryon whose later work in Paris reflects the influence of his stay in New Zealand.

Sculpture of French artist Charles Meryon

On our last evening we sat in the garden of a restaurant called Mandala, which had Pacific Indian and Asian fusion food..

After a delicious meal we walked around the beautiful bay..needless to say, I took more photos than I could ever use!

The combination of seeing the Fisherman’s Bay garden, and staying in Akaroa made this a very special place.

When we arrived back in Australia we faced a long summer of bushfires and unpredictable weather. (now coming to an end, hopefully)

It has been a lovely distraction looking through these photos, and Akaroa will always have a special place in my heart.

Copyright Geraldine Mackey: All Rights Reserved.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fisherman’s Bay Garden, Akaroa, New Zealand..

I first read about Fisherman’s Bay garden in a book called Dreamscape. This incredibly diverse garden is set along the rugged Banks Peninsula in the South Island of New Zealand.

Needless to say, it was number one on my wish list, when we visited New Zealand in December 2019.

Fisherman’s Bay farm is just 20 minutes away from the pretty village of Akaroa, and includes 100 hectares (250 acres) of regenerating protected native bush in the two coastal valleys.

Jill Simpson, and her husband Richard have a farm and a garden in this beautiful but challenging landscape. Richard says it is just as well the native bush land is protected or they might find themselves making that into a garden too!

When  Jill and Richard moved to Fisherman’s Bay in the late nineties the house and the farm were their top priorities. However, over time, Jill went from drawing landscape designs to planting the garden intensely.

The day we arrived, both Jill and her husband Richard were very busy getting ready for Christmas, just 10 days away. Despite this, they were very welcoming, especially considering they were expecting their family….. including 10 grandchildren…to arrive soon!

They invited us to walk through the garden and take as long as we liked..and this is where we began..

In 2007, Jill and Richard cleared some areas near the farmhouse, and were originally thinking of planting a vegetable garden. However, Jill had always wanted a double flower border.

The plantings in these gardens are a fairly traditional mixture of roses, shrubs and perennials. Jill says ”as time has gone by, parts of the garden represent different parts of my life. This long border is a memory of cottage gardens popular everywhere when my children were young.’

The garden slopes down towards the coast, winding paths leading the way through a shady fern gully, to perennial gardens, to an exposed rock garden..all of it a feast for the eyes!

Jill has designed her garden with the structure and texture of New Zealand native plants combined with a diverse array of non-native plants.

Red Daylilies growing in and around the Smoke bush.

She has made sure that plantings become more naturalistic and less structured as you move away from the house.

The white flowering bush (Cornus) was creamy white when we were there in December, and now (looking at the garden on Instagram) it is pink. …which is just as striking.

The huge skies, the cliffs and the views of the sea, are all part of the garden, thanks to Jill’s skilful design.

In recent times, Jill has been influenced by European and American gardens seen on overseas holidays. ”As time has gone by, parts of the garden represent different parts of my life.”

How true this is of many gardeners….

 

She has taken the ideas from the new perennial movement in the UK…

and the Prairie style in the US and interpreted these ideas and plants into her New Zealand landscape.

 

Toitoi and a New Zealand grass Anementhele lessoniana on the right.

Despite the pleasant summer weather during our visit,  Richard said winters can be a challenge.

Akaroa and the Fisherman’s Bay are at the Southern tip of the Banks Peninsula, and are exposed to winds from the Antarctic ..

Looking across the sea from here, the next land mass is the Antarctic.  Well, at least that is one  weather problem Aussies do not have! (except in Tasmania)

Jill is a keen collector of native hebes, and the garden has more than 150 species (at last count) and cultivars.

 

Arthropodium cirratum in flower

We saw many of these pretty white flowers in parks and gardens in New Zealand. They are very hardy plants and flower for an extended time in summer.

Jill is also featured in a book called Flourish…which profiles some New Zealand gardens and their creators..

what I’ve learnt is that you can’t go against such an amazing landscape. The garden has to work with it..”

At the end of our stroll through this beautiful garden Richard invited us to sit and have some coffee in their barn, now used as a tea/coffee room, filled with gardening books and interesting magazines which Fisherman’s Bay garden has been featured in… A lovely end to the day..

Many thanks to Jill and Richard, for allowing us to visit their garden at this time. It lived up to all my expectations, and more.

It was a joy to look back at this garden during a summer of bushfires in Australia. It is a reminder of the pleasure and sense of place gardens bring to us all.

References:

Dreamscapes by Claire Takacs

Australian Dreamscapes by Claire Takacs

Jill Simpson Instagram:  fishermansbay.nz/

Claire Takacs: Instagram: clairetakacs

Copyright Geraldine Mackey: All Rights Reserved

 

Australian bushfires..you don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone…

The devastating bush fires burning across much of Australia has made this a long and sombre summer for most Australians.  The extent of the bush fires, and the ferocity of those fires is unprecedented.

Today’s  newspaper has a photo of an older man, former owner of a lovely home in a community he and his wife loved; he pointed to the charred rubble on the ground and said…

life was good, and then suddenly there was nothing.”

In December and January many holiday makers go to the pretty NSW South Coast of Australia, and this year we too, intended to meet up with our family there for Christmas.

We cancelled our holiday just before Christmas, and stayed at home. Luckily we did. We had a lovely time at home, and cleaning birdbaths and watering was a daily occurrence.

In early January the fires tore across the south coast, destroying homes, and communities, and with some loss of lives.

The Brindabella Mountains during a hot summer.

Canberra too, is in a fire prone area, and, in January, as the fires continued to burn in National Parks and along the coast, we had to prepare ourselves for the possibility of leaving our homes at short notice.

What do you take when you may be leaving your home for good?  

A suitcase of clothes, essential documents, water, a full tank of petrol in the car, photos, and sleeping bags (where did they go…given away years ago?) USBs, chargers, torches, batteries, candles, matches, the list goes on.

If there is no power, we are back to torches, matches and candles…. the real world!

We have lived in Canberra for over 30 years, and those of you who follow this blog know that one of the joys of living in Canberra is that almost every suburb is surrounded by bush, and the birds, the kangaroos, wallabies are part of every day living for us.

A young kangaroo watching us as we walk up Mount Taylor is spring. (before the drought)

A very important looking Cockatoo, on his/her way to Mount Taylor..

However, this comes at a price during droughts and bush fires season.

Two young Galahs who always stay in family groups, or in pairs.

Communications during bush fire threats are much better these days, it brings a chill to all Canberrans to remember how poor the communication was during the 2003 fires.

These days we have a helpful app called “Fires Near Me” which gives daily and hourly updates on fires in our region.

During the really hot days, everything is quiet,  and the smoke from the surrounding fires is thick in the air. A quality index reading above 200 is considered hazardous to health. On one particular day the reading in Canberra was 5,000, the highest level in the world for that day.

It is a great relief when a cool change comes,  the smoke haze improves (for a while), and the birds come back again.

As the weather clears, the cockatoos fill the skies with their screeching as they swing confidently into the garden to check the almond tree..(miraculously full of fruit).

This  gives us an endearing sense of normality.

Cockatoos feeding in a nearby garden.  Paul says the cockatoos have an App called “Food Near Me”

Needless to say, they and all animals and birds are welcome to any food we can give them.

We live near Mt Taylor, home to many kangaroos, wallabies, birds, butterflies, lizards, insects, indeed, a smorgasbord of animal and insect life. Now, in the early morning and the late evening some kangaroos, one with a joey, come down our street to drink from the birdbaths, and buckets of water we leave out for them.

A group of volunteers called Water our Wildlife put stations of water in the same place daily so that the animals know where to go for predictable water supplies.

 As I write there are no active fires in or very near Canberra, however, we have been in a state of alert since the beginning of  January.  So much has been written about the fires, and so much sadness,  that I decided to just show some photos of our two most loved holiday destinations, both of which are also on high alert..

Kosciusko National Park ..(some contained fires in the higher regions)

This is an area rich in flora and fauna……

A sign near this beautiful Snow Gum (Eucalyptus trees) says “these grandfather trees are two and three hundred years old. Aboriginal tradition says that the spirit of ancestral travellers live in these warraganj (old snow gums)

During all the fires, there is the devastating loss of wildlife, flora and fauna, and loss of habitat for those who survive.

However, this little Pygmy Possum (a mouse sized marsupial) is capable of surviving for almost two weeks by bringing its body down to the low temperatures during times of extreme cold or heat. The biggest threat to this little possum is clearance of the land…another story.

Our second frequent and much loved holiday destination is:

The NSW South Coast ..also on alert..

We have spent many happy days with friends  walking along these pretty beaches solving world problems .

The bird life in this part of the world is amazing, and to see the birds fly between these beautiful spotted Eucalyptus trees, with jet pilot  precision,  is both stunning and a privilege.

The Rainbow Lorikeets are very noisy in spring when they feed off the flowers from the Spotted Eucalyptus  trees…and then reverse into the bird bath for drinks…ever cautious..

 

A walk through a wooded area near the sea..

I hope this young Swamp Wallaby, and others, have found safety..

Firefighters are often fighting for long days with extreme temperatures…no wonder they are sleeping on the ground.

Amongst all that is lost, and fear of what may be lost, is the absolute admiration and out pouring of gratitude for the fire-fighters.

They are the first port of call for wildlife too

this firefighter nearly missed the birth of his son.

The son of fallen volunteer fire-fighter Geoffrey Keaton receives a posthumous award on his behalf, from RFS Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons. Photo NSW RFS

Some firefighters have been killed, most with young families. These families have to grow up without a father, which is a life long sentence.

There is so much more to say about the generosity and kindness of ordinary Australians, the leadership and calmness of RFS Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons, and the heartfelt worldwide response, but I will leave that for another post.

Jessica, (blog:  Rusty Duck) will have seen that Kangaroo Island has suffered badly in every way from the fires, and has lost most of its Ligurian honey bees, believed to be the last remaining pure stock of bees found anywhere in the world.

Many thanks to all of you who have sent good wishes, it is lovely to have a blogging community across many worlds.

PS I will write about the gardens in New Zealand in February.

Copyright Geraldine Mackey: All Rights Reserved.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Season’s greetings and blinded by greenery in New Zealand..

Looking back at this photo,  taken in November this year, it hardly seems possible that the mountains were so blue and the trees so healthy looking just a month ago.

The Brindabella Mountains near our home in Canberra

During December Canberra has had strong hot winds, and no rain….it is a bone dry brown city.

Although Canberra is not directly affected by bush fires at the moment, there are many bushfires (large and small)  burning across the country, most contained…..for the time being.

Depending on the winds, the grey clouds of smoke from nearby bush fires creep through the city most afternoons.

It was heartwarming to look back through photos and see this lovely King Parrot in spring, eating happily in our plum tree.

In November we also had a new group of Galahs coming to the birdbaths every morning.

Since this early start to a very hot summer, we keep the birdbaths full, and put little pebbles in the smaller bowls, to help the bees and and other insects land on the pebbles, before drinking. All need shade, and water is paramount.

Paul was due to go to conference in Auckland, New Zealand, in early December.

We were somewhat apprehensive about leaving home during these uncertain times, however, we took all the precautions we could before we left, and also had someone to come and water the garden.

photo by Affordable Travel Club

Looking at the above map you can see we are closer to New Zealand than to many parts of Australia. The map below shows that it only takes three hours to get to New Zealand from our region.

Despite our proximity to New Zealand, it is a very different country to Australia.  New Zealand  is lush and green with an abundance of water.

After leaving our smoke-filled city,  we landed in New Zealand, and as we  got off the plane we were almost blinded by the light and the greenery everywhere!

Water…water everywhere..

New Zealand is full of friendly people, magnificent scenery, National Parks, and wonderful gardens..

I intend writing a few posts on New Zealand after Christmas….but spoiler alert..

our Air BnB in Akaroa ..surrounded by a wonderful garden

The pretty little French town of Akaroa on the South Island is  a delight  to  visit…..

….and I have a few tempting photos of an incredible garden which will just take your breath away, Fisherman’s Bay Garden…

Jill Simpson, a keen gardener, has, with the help of her husband Richard, created a garden along the rugged and dramatic coastline of the Banks Peninsula. (New Zealand’s South Island)

In more recent times she was influenced by the new perennial movement in the UK and Europe, and the Prairie style in the US.

The garden has something for everyone…and to think they are at the Southern tip of the Banks Peninsula and are exposed to the winds from the Antarctic…..there is no excuse for the rest of us!

This is a garden that will make you want to jump onto the next flight to New Zealand, and if you can’t do that, well, at least you can read my blog posts early next year on this garden and more..

Meanwhile, back home, it has been a very tough week for most of Australia. Record high temperatures, fires and smoke in almost every state. Thank goodness the temperatures are due to drop next week…and hopefully in time for Christmas.

I know what Australians would love most for Christmas……… rain!

Many thanks for reading my blog today, and during the year. I enjoy writing about green spaces, and I love reading blogs from all over the world….a little slice of life from other people, who may be far away, but share ideas and ideals…. how similar we all are despite our differences.

Season’s greeting to you all, and may Christmas and the New Year, bring peace, harmony and some common sense to the world in 2020.

Copyright: Geraldine Mackey: All Rights Reserved.