Heronswood, the Digger’s Club, and Gardening Australia…..all on a summer’s day

Since the birth of our granddaughter last year, we have frequently travelled to Melbourne to visit our daughter and family.

In late November, we took a slightly different route to Melbourne, and spent a few days in the beautiful Mornington Peninsula.

On a sunny, almost perfect day, we visited a wonderful property called Heronswood at Dromana.

This historic property was established in 1864, and the Gothic Revival house was built in 1874.

Dromana  is a very scenic part of the world, but the wind and weather can be wild and unpredictable. A tough climate to establish such a beautiful garden.

William Moat was originally employed to develop spacious lawns and  gardens, and large trees were planted to serve as wind breaks. Some of these trees survive to protect the garden today.

 

Clive and Penny Blazey bought Heronswood in 1983, raising a family there while using the garden as a testing ground for new plant species and dedicated to preserving heirloom varieties for the business they established called the Diggers Club.

Like many gardeners all over Australia, Paul and I have benefited from being members of the Diggers Club, getting new seeds, plants and bulbs by mail order, and reading their excellent quarterly magazine.

The garden is layered on a fairly steep slope, and is directly above the beach where the explorer, Captain Matthew Flinders, landed on 27th April 1802.

The garden path winds gently between each part of the garden, showcasing the planting over the years.

It has evolved into a summer garden of perennials and subtropical fruits, shaded by lush mature trees..

 

It is inspiring to know that these colourful perennials can withstand heat of 40 degrees (Celsius)104 (Fahrenheit)

We had, quite by accident, chosen a day when the crew from the ABC series Gardening Australia were filming in the gardens.  They all looked relaxed, friendly, and professional, and we chatted to Jane and complimented her on the program.

 

The Subtropical Fruit Border

This section of the garden highlights the versatility of subtropical fruits in all climates…(who knew bananas could grow this far south?)

The Diggers  best selections are combined with hot coloured (red, yellow and orange) dahlias, to contrast with the lush green foliage.

 

Hidden away amongst the grasses and foliage we could hear frogs before we came to a small bridge and pond ….a great breeding ground for them in this lush garden.

 

This plant, with multiple blue flowers was a ”one stop shop” for many bees.

Clive and Penny Blazey have been amazing custodians of this property for years. Clive is an advisor for the Seed Saver Exchange in Iowa, USA, which was established around the same time as the Digger’s Club in Australia.

The  Digger’s Club has over 75 000 members, and the Blazey family give away a percentage of their profits each year. Penny is involved in many charities, both in Australia and abroad.

In 2011 the Blazey’s gifted ownership of The Digger’s Club and the gardens of Heronswood and St Erth (near Daylesford) to the Diggers Garden and Environmental Trust.

Clive and Penny succeeded in developing a wonderful collection of unusual perennial plants with open pollinated seeds to provide what they called

”…the gardener’s inheritance seeds you save, sow and share forever…”

After enjoying this lovely garden, the last words come from Clive Blazey ….

“”I’m obsessed with living plants. Gardening connects you to biology, archaeology and the environment. It’s a fascinating pursuit.”

I’m inspired!

 

Copyright Geraldine Mackey: All Rights Reserved

 

 

Canberra’s regional botanic garden..STEP

Canberra is known as the Bush Capital of Australia, as it is a city interspersed by bushland, and surrounded by forests and national parks.

However, the devastating bushfires of 2003 not only destroyed over five hundred homes in Canberra, but also burnt through forests around Canberra.

As a result the ACT government decided to develop the National Arboretum in Canberra, as a centenary gift to the city.

48 000 trees have been planted in 94 forests on a 250 hectare site.

View of Lake Burley Griffin, and surrounding mountains from the National Arboretum of Canberra

Amongst the developing forests of the National Arboretum is a wonderful regional botanic garden called STEP (Southern Tablelands Ecosystem Park).

I took this photo of STEP four years ago…and still flourishing today

We recently visited STEP early one spring morning…..

The Sulphur Crested Cockatoos have a dawn gathering at the small dam near STEP….

and feed on the grasses nearby. As usual, they are very noisy, but it is lovely to see them in their natural environment…

At STEP an enthusiastic group of volunteers have gradually designed and developed an area to represent the native plants and trees typical of the Southern Highlands.

Built into the landscape is a rock amphitheatre. It is used as a gathering place for educational groups and others visiting STEP. On this cool morning, the smooth rocks ringed by the Eucalyptus trees make this a very peaceful place to visit..

The Eucalyptus trees are characteristic of those found in the region’s hills, slopes and valleys, and as it is spring it is wonderful to see some flowering Eucalyptus in the gardens ..

 

A wasp feeding off the flowers.

After a long dry winter, the spring blossoms have arrived, and not just on eucalyptus trees…the colours of the bush change from muted greens and greys to yellows, fuchsia, purples and whites..

 

Hardenbergia violacea

I took a photo of this wonderfully coloured  shrub, (Mirbelia xylobioides) on Sunday morning, and by the following Thursday it had finished flowering ….you have to be quick..

Shrub Mirbelia xylobioides

 

Solanum linearifolium (Kangaroo Apple)

 

 

Pelargonium australe

 

Ammobium alatum

 

Leucochrysum albicans

When I arrived on Thursday for a second visit,  the day after much needed rain,  everything looked fresh and green and shiny..

 

Carex appressa

Some shrubs have finished flowering and others have just begun..

Wahlenbergia stricta

 

Podolepis hieracioides

In recent years,  through blogging, and travelling,  I have read about and seen grasses being used in design and landscapes all over the world.  Now I have a new appreciation of grasses in Australia.

Carex tereticaulis

 

 

 

Cullen microcephalarm

One of the volunteers called me over to look at and feel these young grasses, Poa Induta. They are soft to feel with long silky stems and delicate seed heads.. my absolute favourite for the day…

Poa induta

The gardens have some impressive metal sign posts to mark various areas around STEP. Here you can see the flowers of the She-oaks (Casuarina) sculptured  into the metal.

Unfortunately I missed the opportunity to take a photo of the friendly and very knowledgeable volunteers sharing morning tea under the shade of some of the bigger trees.

However, here is a photo from my visit a few years ago, the shady trees have grown and are still a welcoming spot for morning tea.

The volunteers come to STEP every Thursday,  rain, hail or shine and work tirelessly to keep this wonderful regional botanic garden growing and developing.

STEP has a very interesting newsletter for Members, and it is very easy to become a member and/or a volunteer.

www.step.asn.au

Copyright Geraldine Mackey: All Rights Reserved.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Canberra’s spring: a garden, a cockatoo and a nervous gardener..

We’ve had some rain in spring, and the camellia is flowering beautifully.  I put the small elephant watering-can close to the flowers one day, and the Wattlebird began to use it for a perch while eating nectar from the flowers.

However, today a Sulphur Crested Cockatoo flew down onto our deck, which, as the nuns at my high school would have said, is a mixed blessing. They are such characters, curious and smart, but they can do a lot of damage in a garden with their strong beaks, and wilful personalities..

Fortunately this is a young one, and he has spotted some of the almonds that have fallen from the tree.

I have just moved these lovely Blue Dutch Irises into the pot…..fortunately the almond is keeping him happy, and it is a lucky thing that the Dutch iris is not flowering yet.

As I have mentioned in a previous post, Cockatoos sometimes take umbrage with flowering plants, and lop their heads off…

Fortunately the Dutch Irises survived and flowered….how lovely they are!

The pink and yellow tulips are true survivors…I confess this was such a busy year I didn’t lift any of my bulbs, and naturally most of the tulips did not flower this year ….So these pretty ones have taken pride of place in the garden…

The orange Sparaxis came from a cutting in my mother’s garden in Port Macquarie….18 years ago or more! However, this is the first year there are so few flowers, the combination of lack of water, and my neglect of the garden… I’ve apologised to them too.

We have Aquilegias flowering all through the garden, such a delicate flower, but yet tough, and a rewarding plant in the garden in our part of the world..

My favourite flower this year is Ixia, sometimes known as the Corn Lily plant, and I have read that it is an exotic member of the Iris family. A small but gorgeous spring plant, and it is surrounded by Salvias here ..

The succulents are doing well. The bowl on the top right is an old birdbath. Last year I described filling the birdbath with succulents, small smooth stones, and a miniature agapanthus. While I was eating lunch on the deck that day, a curious young Magpie flew down and pulled the agapanthus out! I had to cover the whole birdbath with the newspaper to distract him. Everything has survived. Birds and plants!

 

After a day of rain we went for a walk along Lake Tuggeranong. The azure sky and soft blue Brindabella Mountains looked lovely…it is beginning to look like summer..

However, the birds around the lake were still very much on parenting duty with young ones…

The Purple Swamphen is on guard by the nest, and the other adults are venturing further afield with the young ones….it was hard to get a photo, but they did look very cute!

I would love to say the water below is an Australian icon…a Billabong, but it is really a very large puddle!

In the water is a Red-rumped Parrot, (male). Usually a quiet unobtrusive member of the parrot family, today he was splashing about and loving having a bath.

It’s been a long time since he’s had the joy of a bath as big as this…..and he doesn’t care who is watching!

The Red-rumped parrots are always found in pairs and small groups in grassy areas..

The male Red-Rumped Parrot

 

The Female Red-rumped Parrot..

….and back home, we are soon to welcome our daughter and  granddaughter for a visit. This will be our granddaughter’s first visit since she learnt to walk.  The world looks so different when you are up on two feet…. …. and I wonder if she is up to a holding a watering can yet?

I hope you are enjoying your green spaces, whatever part of the world you live in ..and to paraphrase David Attenborough

”The natural world is the greatest source of so much in life that makes life worth living”

Copyright Geraldine Mackey: All Rights Reserved.

 

Lambing Flat, the Gold Rush, and a Garden

The pretty country town of Young, about 3 hours drive from Canberra, is known for its beautiful cherries in spring.

Many Canberrans make an annual trip to Young to pick their own cherries, or buy boxes of them at a very reasonable price.

NSW Tourism

However, our visit was not for cherries (this time),  we came to see the Chinese Tribute Gardens at Lambing Flat, on the outskirts of Young.

The name Lambing Flat came from the first European settler, James White, who farmed in this beautiful valley, in 1826. He reserved this well-sheltered valley for lambing ewes.

However, the gold rush changed the peaceful valley…

Mark Twain (apparently) famously said ”Whiskey’s for drinking, and water is for fighting over”

He might as well have added that when gold is found, greed, fighting and prejudice follow

Within  12 months of the discovery of gold in the Lambing Flat region, approx. 20 000 gold seekers, from all over the world, arrived, and amongst them were some 2000 Chinese miners.

Disagreements arose over the use of water, land ownership, and racial tensions…leading to an appalling riot destroying the Chinese camp and injuring many of the Chinese miners.

A large contingent of NSW police were sent to Lambing Flat, and eventually peace was restored.

With this history in mind, we arrived  at the Chinese Tribute Gardens early in the morning.

This garden has been designed and built in recognition of the contribution of the Chinese community to the settlement of Young.

It has been a true community effort, started by the Young Rotary Club, supported by local and regional businesses, grants from the Federal Government and the Cherry Festival and by the Sydney Chinese community as well.

A White Egret, a Sacred Ibis, and two very white ducks!

It is a warm morning with birds moving softly, reflected in the still water..

The gardens are ringed by bushland, and She-Oak (Casuarina) trees in the distance provide a wind break for this beautiful garden.

The rocks were sourced from a quarry near the neighbouring  town of Boorowa, and were worked on by a stonemason from Harden…

The Bronze Galloping Horse is a special feature in the garden. Known as the ‘Matafeiyan’, or “‘galloping horse stepping on a flying swallow”. It is modelled on the original which is preserved at the Gansu Province Museum in China.

In this peaceful setting the Galloping Horse may be galloping on a flying swallow, but is also a resting spot for early morning birds..

The Crepe Myrtles and Oleanders are all in flower… and the palms seemed perfectly placed between the rocks.

In this pool of tranquillity the rocks provide balance and harmony.

Early morning Dusky Moorhen

There are winding paths around the rocks, and benches, inviting us to sit and enjoy the plants, the birds, the water and reflections…a lovely way to spend a morning.

Lambing Flat, a beautiful valley, had experienced the worst of human behaviour during the gold rush.

Now it has been transformed by all the people in the community and beyond, coming together to build this quiet and peaceful place….a joy to visit.

Unfortunately we did not have time to stay long in the town of Young itself….(next time for the cherries)

However, on our way home we couldn’t resist stopping at the town of Wombat.

Also established during the gold rush, Wombat has a population of 120 people (no parking problems) and is surrounded by cherry and stonefruit orchards.

We stopped off to buy some “Fair Dinkum” eggs. (Fair Dinkum….the real thing)… freshly laid farm eggs.

We put the money in the Honesty Box, and hoped that life will remain the same in this part of the world for many years to come.

I hope you are enjoying your place in the world, where ever that may be…we enjoyed this weekend very much.

Many thanks to Paul for his photo contributions.

 

Copyright Geraldine Mackey: All Rights Reserved

Canberra in spring: Tulip Top

Can you believe this stunning property, called Tulip Top, is designed, planted and cared for by two people… Pat and Bill Rhoden.

Twenty years ago, when they lived in Canberra, Pat and Bill had won awards for their suburban garden…so when they retired they decided to find a bigger property and to really indulge their passion for gardening.

They now have a wonderful spring garden on 10 acres (four hectares) just north of Canberra at Sutton.

It seems incredible to me that Pat and Bill manage this property on their own, their son helps with some gardening, and their daughter organises the administration when Tulip Top opens in spring.

They are now 70 years old, and still propagating, pruning, weeding, mowing, sowing, and doing all the other maintenance jobs

……so I can just stop complaining about my knees after a day of gardening!

Twenty years ago they began by planting various trees. To form a canopy for the garden they have English and Chinese elms, conifers (excellent wind breakers) and eucalyptus trees are all in the mix..

Weeping willows give an early spring lace green effect..

The one thousand flowering trees took my breath away…

They have crab-apple, peach, cherry, apricot, quince and plum trees.

A particularly eye-catching tree is the Double Flowering Peach tree..

The Australian Garden History Society has showcased the progress in the garden with photos and articles near the entrance to the gardens..

…here is  a short summary of Pat and Bill’s year of gardening..

The garden is open to the public for four weeks in spring (the last two weeks of September and the first two weeks of October)

In November they lift the bulbs, which are labelled and stored in crates. (500 000 bulbs at last count).

Then two weeks worth of pruning trees..

After a Christmas and holiday break, Pat and Bill begin again in February. They re-shape the beds, add fertilizer, and make sure the PH in the soil is right.

They check bulb catalogues, and trial about 10 to 12 new cultivars each year.

In mid March seedling trays of annuals arrive, including pansies, primulas, and English Daisies, amongst others.

In early autumn the tulips go into cold storage.

Tulip planting begins in May for a six week period….right into our winter, June. As they can’t plant until the soil thaws in the winter mornings, Bill says sometimes they have to work in the dark to make deadlines.

Tulips are planted en masse, with early, mid and late varieties.

Everything is covered in sugar cane mulch…this offers protection against the birds and frost, and saves on watering and keeps the weeds down..

Pat says that World Favourite has always been a good performer for them. In the evening light, the red and yellow tulip looks as there is a light burning inside it.

World Favourite

 

Paul took a photo of this beauty, but unfortunately we don’t know its name…

This lovely apricot coloured tulip is called Actrice

Do you have a favourite tulip?

I just love all red tulips, and they bloom in the most difficult parts of our garden..

Red Apeldoorn

and the white tulips….

One very good reason to plant white tulips in our garden is that cockatoos don’t pick white flowers quite as readily as others (apparently)

…..and if you are looking for some bling, how about this one, aptly named Fabio!

One of the many kind volunteers said that Bill and Pat don’t get much sleep the week or two before opening but they are quoted as saying “just seeing the joy visitors get out of coming to Tulip Tops is the biggest reward for us”

Many thanks to Bill and Pat for a wonderful day..

The gardens are open in the last two weeks of September, and the first two weeks of October. (the beginning of spring in Canberra)

 

 

Canberra’s spring: birds, plants and a BraveHeart..

Canberra in spring, sunshine and flowers…. it is enough to make your heart sing.

Every day during winter the beautiful little Eastern Spinebill came to feed from the remains of the Peppermint Sage in our garden.

The Eastern Spinebill is an important pollinator of many native and non-native plants.

The Eastern Spinebill is a Honeyeater, and its long curved beak can reach nectar from native and non-native flowers.  They are often mistaken for Hummingbirds, (including by me) as they can hover over a flower in the same way a hummingbird does, but generally they perch on branches like other Honeyeaters.

The Eastern Spinebill: Photo by Ian Wilson (c) www.birdlife.org.au

The moment spring arrived, so did the Red Wattlebird. This bird is amongst the largest of the Australian honeyeaters. Despite the Eastern Spinebill’s loud call, he didn’t stand a hope and soon disappeared, and the Wattlebird took possession of the flowering Grevilleas, Camellias, and indeed, the whole garden..

The Red Wattlebird is known to be very assertive, noisy, and tenacious. It is difficult to tell the male from female, but both are extremely territorial in spring.

This year’s Red Wattlebird chased the sweetly twittering Silver-Eyes out of the plum tree, and the Crimson Rosellas out of the apricot tree.

..and the Blackbird, minding his own business searching for worms by the veggie patch…

It’s not as if they are all searching for the same food. ..the Wattlebird mostly feeds on nectar, and occasionally eats insects, either in the foliage, or caught mid-air….but is not a dedicated worm eater like the Blackbird!

Our garden felt a bit like the Australian parliament last week, there was a sudden shift of power!

Yesterday, to Paul’s amazement,  he saw the Red Wattlebird chasing a young Currawong…. David verse Goliath!

Currawongs are highly intelligent birds, with a distinctive and melodious call. They eat fruits and berries as well as small vertebrates, and in spring they sometimes attack nests for bird’s eggs.

No wonder the Wattlebird has turned into BraveHeart!

Pied Currawong: Photo by Harry Charalambous (c) www.birdlife.org.au

This spring we are choosing native plants to go into our newly cleared garden beds. Canberra had half our annual rainfall this year, and surrounding areas have been declared drought affected, so we are looking for frost resistant, and drought tolerant plants.

We would also like the plants to be bird-attracting (we can enjoy the birds and they are such good pollinators.)

Here are some we could choose:

(I took all these photos at our Australian National Botanic Gardens here in Canberra, a wonderful place to visit in spring.)

Grevillea

Grevilleas have been very successful in our garden so far…

Correas

Correas, are very easy to grow, and the bell-shaped flowers attract nectar feeding birds throughout the year.

Bottlebrush bush

The Bottlebrush is a hardy rewarding shrub, we have some in the garden already, but they are so reliable, we’ll add more.

Wattles (Acacia)

We had a Cootamundra Wattle Tree, beautiful while it lasted, but fairly short lived. We will plant another one.

A New Holland honeyeater on a Banksia flower.

I have not succeeded in growing a Banksia in our garden despite their hardy ability to survive in drought, once established.

Sturt Desert Pea

Who would not wish this lovely and unique flower in the garden, but I have only seen them thriving in the Australian Botanic Gardens, rather than gardens around Canberra.  I’d love to know if anyone is growing them successfully in Canberra.

I hope you are enjoying your season, and your place in the world at this time of the year, and may the sun shine and the rain fall on all the drought affected areas, in Australia, and elsewhere.

Many thanks to the photographers at Birdlife Australia, who generously allowed me to use their photos for the Eastern Spinebill and the Pied Currawong. This is a great organisation to support.

www.birdlife.org.au

Geraldine Mackey: Copyright, All Rights Reserved.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mystery Bay, birds, beaches, a swamp wallaby and signs of spring!

There’s some foot tapping going on here…..

Crimson Rosella

The seed bowl is taking a while to arrive today..

We are back in one of our favourite places, Mystery Bay, visiting friends.

Canberrans are not very far from the pretty south coast of New South Wales, and it is a wonderful place to visit for short holidays and long weekends (and is usually warmer than Canberra in winter, and cooler in summer).

Mystery Bay beach

Regular readers of this blog may recognise the sharp-eyed Kookaburra and lovely Spotted Eucalyptus (Gum) trees from a previous visit to this garden…

Kookaburra in Mystery Bay

The King Parrot, always a gentle and welcome visitor to a garden, looks as if he has been colour co-ordinated to fit with this birdbath..

The King Parrot in Mystery Bay

On the first warm afternoon, we walked to Mystery Bay beach and watched the soft winter sky turn pink. On the way home we noticed Wattle shrubs beginning to blossom… a sure sign that spring is on the way.

Wattles are Australia’s National Flower, and, as I remember it,  Wattle day used to be the 1st August, but now is 1st September….

During the weekend, we went with our friends to a music concert in the neighbouring town of Narooma. On the way home we saw this lovely flower, but I have no idea what it is…I’m sure someone will be able to help me out here.

The weather was taking a turn for the worst, but we still ventured a walk through the forest, to look at the Burrawang Cycads growing amongst the ghostly looking Spotted Gum trees.

The forest is part of the National Park, and provides a home for many birds and also smaller Australian animals like swamp wallabies.

We picked a wild and windy last day to go for a walk along 1080 beach…

No matter how windy the weather, the beach is still a good place for solving world problems..

However, the icy wind that day drove us back to the car….whose idea was this anyway?

Just as we left the car park we spotted this Eastern Yellow Robin, and he seemed to come down to greet us…

As we were driving back through the bush, we spotted this Swamp Wallaby munching on some Eucalyptus leaves….

A Swamp Wallaby is a small macropod marsupial. It lives in forests, woodlands and swampy areas…

Luckily he wasn’t going anywhere until he had finished his lunch..

I wish I had been able to take a photo of his long tail…quite remarkable..

Sadly we had to leave all this wonderful wildlife, and the good company of our friends to return to Canberra…

As we drove over Brown Mountain, we noticed it had been snowing…not unusual in this part of the world, but a first for us.. (and I think this would be called a dusting of snow in the Northern Hemisphere!)

This is a picnic spot on the edge of a little town called Nimmitabel. it had been snowing since Saturday, and the children nearby were having fun with toboggans…

picnic and rest stop at Nimmitabel

We chose to have our coffee in the warm new coffee shop at Nimmitabel on this day…

When we arrived home in Canberra, our regular King Parrots ( a pair) were having a much needed drink from the birdbath….

and, spring must be on its way because they had brought a baby King Parrot along to feed on the Japanese Maple..(I think this is a female as the male has an orange head)

The baby seems to be saying…….it is very cold for a first outing…

Such a cute baby!   I felt very pleased that the King Parrots had trusted their youngster to our garden for her first glimpses of the world….

Thanks for visiting  Canberra’s Green Spaces, and I hope you are enjoying your place in the world, whatever season it may be..

For anyone who missed my first post on Mystery Bay, and is interested in the area, here is the link….

http://www.canberrasgreenspaces.com/category/new-south-wales-south-coast/

Copyright Geraldine Mackey :  All Rights Reserved.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Brisbane: Southbank, sun, shade, food and green spaces..

We recently left our lovely garden visitors, the King Parrots, and flew to Queensland to escape Canberra’s cold weather and to enjoy a family holiday …

Queensland has a tropical and subtropical climate, and for those of us who live in the southern states, winter is the perfect time to visit this part of Australia.

Our first stop was the city of Brisbane, a friendly and relaxed city of about 2.4 million people.

We stayed at Southbank, overlooking the city and along the Brisbane River.

Southbank has restaurants, gardens, river walks, ferry rides, water play for children….something for everyone.

Here along the River Quay, we arrived just in time for the last day of a local festival celebrating the food grown around this area. I wish we had been here earlier to write more about this festival…another time.

Despite the Canberra winter, I am always looking for shade in hot weather, and this was a perfect promenade for people to sit, walk or ride bikes along the river.

After my accident earlier in the year, ( being knocked over by a rogue cyclist in Austria)  I am, for the first time, a bit nervous of bikes.

However, Southbank is designed for all. There is a second extra wide path, easy for walkers, and prams and strollers, and people who just want to stroll along with a camera, or to sit under the trees and watch the world going by….

I loved the curved paths around the water features, space for children to play and splash in water fountains, and for adults to sit close by and enjoy some food and the subtropical warmth and greenery.

The town planner’s attention to shade was obvious….(Australia has a very high rate of skin cancers)

This Arbour is a shady walkway going the whole length of Southbank, made from 406 curling galvanised posts, all covered with Bougainvillea..

My photo shows some flowering bougainvillea but the photo below shows just how lovely this walkway can look, and how cool in summer…  it is used constantly by the locals and tourists alike as a connection between the ferries going to and from the city..

The Arbour : Photo by Tjunction Media -Oz Roamer

Mature trees have been used for shade and design

 In the centre of Southbank there is the Epicurious Garden, for foodies, garden enthusiasts and children …

This garden, with lots of herbs and vegetables, is for people to see, feel and smell and taste all that is in the garden.  All plants are grown organically and there are volunteers available to talk about the gardens and methods used.

Every Tuesday to Thursday morning, free produce is available from the gardens….this is done on a ”first come, first served, basis”.

I enjoyed seeing plants I haven’t seen since my childhood…(I was brought up in Central Africa)

Here is the Guava tree…..I had a flashback to the many long hot afternoons I sat with friends under shady trees just like these, eating Guavas.

I believe guavas are very high in Vitamin C…..who knew in those days!

The Goodwill Bridge is shaped to capture the views of the Brisbane River and the shoreline.

 

There is a pedestrian walkway which links Southbank to the city’s Botanic Gardens. There is even a coffee shop at midpoint if you are walking across the bridge.

Photo by Visit Brisbane

After a hard day of walking and looking at gardens…the food choices in Southbank were wonderful……..such a positive refection of a multicultural city.

So here are the decisions we had to make every night… Italian, Turkish, Mexican, Indian, Creole, French, Vietnamese, fish and chips, and burgers.

We tried a few, all good, but the Turkish was up there with the best…

This dessert was called Baklava (better known to me as Lady Fingers) with wonderful soft pastry, dripping with nuts and honey, a glass of wine and a refreshing apple tea to finish it off.

….which restaurant would you choose?

The perfect end of the day spent in Southbank….. the city’s green spaces,  designed and built by town planners and architects for the people.

Copyright: Geraldine Mackey: All Rights Reserved.

 

 

 

Canberra in winter: Parrots, the Lake, and Edmund Barton, first Prime Minister of Australia

Canberra has a crisp blue-sky beauty in winter…..and for those of us who live in leafy suburbs, it is all about the birds that visit our gardens, and brighten a cold day.

Winter is the time for King Parrots in our garden…. and this year they are searching, in particular, for fresh water. Almost every morning they check the gutters of our cabin for frosty water pools warmed by the morning sun.

Although King Parrots are relatively large, they are sweet, shy birds, always in pairs, and easily frightened away..

Once they have had a drink, they often fly to the Japanese Maple, right near the sunroom window…

Look at the beautiful red and dark green markings on the tail and underbelly of this bird, as David Attenborough says, the natural world is so full of beauty…

Our regular Sulphur Crested Cockatoos are also looking for water..

…and, rather like school inspectors, they investigate the garden thoroughly

and we are found wanting …….

Where are the bird baths?

What happened to all the almonds?

I have the feeling we are getting zero out of ten for this old bird bath..

Hardly any water, shabby looking, almost toppling over..

The only reason we are here is because your neighbours are neglecting theirs…

The birds are great fun to watch while I am resting and waiting for my wrist to mend. Many thanks for all the well wishes, my wrist is now almost back to normal, and all is well.

Apart from watching birds from the sunroom window, I have been catching up on some reading,

This book, called ”The Good, the Bad, and the Unlikely”  is a very short history of Australian Prime Ministers.

It is written by the irreverent and humorous journalist Mungo Maccallum.

Commonwealth Avenue Bridge. Some of the flat stones from London’s Waterloo Bridge (when it was demolished) were donated to this bridge when it was built in 1963.

Inspired by my reading, I wanted to take a photo of the statue of Edmund Barton, the first Prime Minister of Australia. His statue is appropriately in the suburb of Barton, and we decided to incorporate a walk around Commonwealth Park, near the centre of the city, before taking the photo.

Despite being a clear winter’s day, there was a biting cold wind, and all walkers and cyclists have long abandoned the Lake and are warming up in coffee shops all over Canberra.

Commonwealth Avenue Bridge, Lake Burley Griffin, and the Captain Cook Memorial

The Captain James Cook Memorial is combination of the water jet, and a terrestrial globe, and commemorates the bicentenary of Captain Cook’s landing on the east coast of Australia in 1770. The three routes of Cook’s voyages, are inscribed on the surrounding handrail.

The stunning jet  of water always attracts the eyes of tourists, especially children.  Many years ago, as a young teacher in Canberra, I met up with friends and we hired a little boat, and rowed around the fountain.

We were thrilled to get thoroughly wet by the jet spray……they seem such innocent times now!

The above photo was taken in winter a few years ago…the photo below was July 2018, absolutely freezing…..even the resident pelican looked downcast.

However, a pair of Crimson Rosellas were steadily eating their way through some scattered seeds from overhanging trees.

Across the lake from Commonwealth Park there is a view of Old Parliament House (now the Museum of Democracy) and behind it,  Parliament House today (under repair as the roof has been leaking).

Here is another, much closer, photo of Parliament House. Much clearer without the repair work tent over the roof!

And here is the handsome statue of Edmund Barton….

According to Mungo Maccallum, Australia’s first Prime Minister, Edmund Barton had one unique quality…he managed to unite a fractious group of politicians and colonies into creating a federation… in Mungo’s words..

Like most of their descendants, this motley bunch (the politicians at the time) were driven by a combination of idealism and self-interest, and getting them to agree on anything substantial was like herding a football team into a temperance meeting room.

Politicians all over Australia, agreed to become… as Barton says,

”a nation for a continent, and a continent for a nation

What a talent! I wonder how successful he would be if he tried that today!

Here is another sculpture of Edmund Barton, which is in The Prime Ministers’ Avenue, set in the magnificent Horse Chestnut Avenue of the Gardens in Ballarat. Well worth a visit, in every season.

https//ballaratbotanicalgardens.com.au

 

 

I hope you are enjoying your green spaces, where ever you live in the world….each season has a beauty of its own.

 

Copyright Geraldine Mackey: All Rights Reserved

 

Vienna, Stadtpark…and an untimely end to our holiday…

In June, we left Canberra on a chilly winter morning for a long planned holiday.

Paul was giving a paper at a conference in Switzerland in early July, so why not go to Austria and Switzerland in June? Paul had not been to either of these countries, and I had only been once, many years ago.

Photos of Vienna

Vienna was very high on the list of places to visit, and after an interesting tour of the city, we stopped off at Stadtpark .

This beautiful park is divided into two sections by the Vienfluss (Vienna River)

Photo by Trip Advisor

The park was designed in the style of English gardens and opened in 1862.

Scattered through the park are statues of famous Viennese artists, writers and composers…

The plants in the gardens were chosen to provide colour and interest in all seasons…….some groves are, Ginkgo, Honey Locust, Pyramid, Poplars…

The Kursalan is an opulent building in the historic style of the Italian renaissance.

A wide Terrace built into the park is attached to it.

Amusements were initially prohibited, but in October 1868 Johann Strauss gave his first concert, in the Kursalan…

Johann Strauss wrote some of the waltz classics  (The Blue Danube) and, although this music was, at first considered “frivolous” by serious musicians, it was, gradually, through its growing popularity, given the respect it deserves.

Statue of Johann Strauss

In fact we were told on a tour, that waltzing was so popular, and women so reluctant to give up dancing while pregnant, that special rooms were made available nearby in case a woman needed to give birth while dancing! (and frequently happened, apparently)

Seems extraordinary !

We strolled through this beautiful park on a gloriously warm day, watching the people of Vienna enjoying their weekend.

 

Everyone seemed to be eating ice-creams, but this time I settled for a Vienna-Styled Iced Coffee (without the Baileys!)

….What a lovely day…so far..

 

…unfortunately soon after that, while standing in the pedestrian lane at a busy intersection by the station, I was knocked over by a cyclist.

An ambulance ride and long hospital visit later, we learnt I had a broken wrist which would need to be operated on as soon as possible….

Naturally we wanted to come back home to have this done…and so began the long journey back to Australia….

We had landed in Munich, and spent a few days there, and then visited Vienna for a few days. Goodbye to Salzburg, Switzerland and Paul’s conference.

Back in Munich for the flight home

During times of unexpected trouble and stress it is easy to forget all the kind people who are there along the way….we will be contacting all to give them our thanks.

The biggest thanks of all goes to Paul, who spent all night cancelling accommodation/train travel and that was just the beginning… getting us back to Munich for our new flight was a mission in itself…

.. and he missed out on the Swiss conference….what a pity!

I shudder to think how it would have been if I was in charge of getting us back home!

 

Bike riders and big cities

I have friends, and know people of all ages who ride bikes. They enjoy riding and are very responsible riders. I am greatly in favour of cutting down pollution levels in cities, and my general impression in Munich and in Vienna was that bike riders were courteous and rode well in the city.

However, since arriving home many friends and fellow travellers have mentioned being frightened by bike riders (especially in Amsterdam).

Popular destinations now have immense pedestrian tourist traffic, especially at major city intersections where traffic meets. Is it reasonable for bike riders to cycle at the same speed coming towards these major intersections?

If cars are registered…why not bikes?

It is a modern day dilemma and hopefully can be resolved.

 

Copyright: Geraldine Mackey: All Rights Reserved