Author Archives: germac4

Wellington: Botanic Gardens, fish pie, and a cyclone…

We recently visited Wellington, the capital of New Zealand, on the southern tip of the North Island. From the waterfront promenade we could see the craggy shorelines, dotted with houses and sailing boats.

Just as we arrived, we heard Wellington was expecting the tail end of a cyclone that had devastated the Pacific Island of Tonga.

However, all was calm, and we had a few plans..

One of the attractions of the city is catching the little red cable car that clatters up the steep slope to the top of the Botanic Gardens…you can then wander down through the gardens,  all the way down to the Harbour….

Paul took this photo on the way up the hill (in my view, a mountain). The weather, we had to admit, wasn’t looking great.

We began our Botanic garden walk in the tracks of the original forest..

As I mentioned in my last post, many parts of New Zealand were used for the filming sites for the Lord of the Rings trilogy….

and quite often we felt we were entering Middle Earth territory….

This map shows New Zealand, Australia, India, Africa, South America, and Antarctica once formed a land mass called Gondwana.

Gondwana broke up about 167 million years ago and trees from the Araucaria family were spread all over these countries and continents.

Today trees, including the South American monkey puzzle, the Australian Moreton Bay fig and the Norfolk pine, are found across the southern hemisphere. Many of these trees were found in the Botanic gardens.

Monkey Puzzle Tree

Wellington’s Botanic garden was established in 1868, and has native and exotic trees, succulent gardens, seasonal displays of bulbs and annuals……something for everyone! (and all growing on the side of the mountain.)

I felt as if I was in South Africa, in particular Cape Town, walking around the succulent gardens..

The Aloes plants are welcome source of food in winter for insects and native birds such as Tui,  they love the nectar.

My favourite flower, seen frequently in NZ, seems to grow wild in some places…

Kaka Beak

The  succulent below looks a bit space age to me…

Haemanthus (Blood Lily)


Dwarf Pohutukawa

There were bee hives tucked away in all the garden beds..

Paul took a photo from our path across to Druid Hill where we could see a large copper sculpture called Listening and Viewing Device: Andrew Drummond 1994.  When the structure was first built, the original plan was to lift the two pieces into place by a helicopter, but the weight was more than estimated, (over a tonne)  and another more heavy duty helicopter sent from New Plymouth had to finish the job!

..back into Middle Earth again with these wonderful tree ferns…

this path led on to curved shady borders of Agapanthus, Hydrangeas, Rhododendrons, Irises…sadly the flowers are mostly spent now that summer is nearly over..

Along with the spring bulbs this must be a wonderful spring/early summer garden to visit.

After that long and interesting walk through the gardens we felt we had earned an evening meal at the Waterfront.

Wellington is not only the capital of New Zealand, but is also a University town, so we were spoilt for choice when it came to choosing a place to eat.


Charlie Noble (Eatery and Bar) looked great…… local ingredients,  wood-fired  grills, and rotisserie, natural wine and craft beer…

I tried the House Pot fish pie, and no, I didn’t see the word large anywhere on the menu! ….actually the pastry gently deflated into the wonderful fish dish.

New Zealand wine and local craft beers…….. how could we resist!

Fortunately we did enjoy our meal on the Waterfront, because the next morning, looking out of the window of our hotel room, onto the Botanic Gardens….the rain and wind from the cyclone had hit Wellington. We were hotel bound for a short while.

Perhaps because I live in the driest continent on earth,  my first thought, when I looked out of the window was….”well at least the Botanic Garden is getting some rain”

…and some!

Copyright Geraldine Mackey: All Rights Reserved.



New Zealand, the land of the long white cloud..

A cloud, a cloud, a white cloud…a long white cloud!”

This saying is attributed to Kuramarotini, a wife of the legendary Pacific voyager Kupe, on first sighting New Zealand.

On a sunny February day, we flew into the North Island of New Zealand, and Paul took this lovely photo of our first glimpse of the long white cloud.

New Zealand is a three hour flight from Canberra, Australia…it is closer to us than many parts of Australia.

The landscape is a little like Scotland, or perhaps some parts of Europe….far far removed from the Australian landscapes.

Aussies are well known for thinking hills are mountains..

We are visiting the North Island of New Zealand for our 40th wedding anniversary (amazing really….and still so young!).

As we landed in Wellington (the capital of New Zealand) we faced the tail end of a cyclone, which had earlier devastated the Pacific Island of Tonga.

However, like most potential problems in life it turned out to be less dramatic than expected.

I will do a post on the interesting capital city of Wellington, but first,  our absolute favourite part of the holiday, a visit to Lake Taupo.

This lake (impossible to fit into one photo) was created 2 thousand years ago by a volcanic eruption so big there were recordings of it as darkening skies at that time in Europe and China. It is now the biggest lake in Australasia, and roughly the size of Singapore!

Today it is a holiday place for many tourists and locals alike…….many wanting action packed and active holidays, skydiving, jet boat riding, white water rafting…

……we opted for a quiet southern end of the lake….  this is the view from our self-contained accommodation. Absolutely stunning view of the lake and not a jet boat in sight!

We are close to Tongariro National Park,  and Mount Ruapehu….

New Zealand’s summer is at its peak in February, and during this time, many European walkers come to New Zealand  to do the most popular all day walk, the Tongariro Alpine Crossing…(perhaps some are just coming to escape the winter!)

We did a shorter very beautiful walk to a waterfall….

No wonder this area, along with other parts of New Zealand were filming sites for The Lord of the Rings trilogy…

Our reward was late morning tea/coffee in the Chateau Tongariro ….a reminder of genteel bygone days.

New Zealand is the land of rich and wonderful dairy produce…the cream  (and ice cream) is delicious!

On our last evening we decided to have a meal sitting on our lovely deck, looking at the sunset..

I’ve never seen so many black swans in one place….they fitted into the landscape perfectly…

Across the river was a small Maori village, with an elegant small church steeple just slightly in view. It was Sunday, and the local choir came and stood by the water, facing the church, as they sang most beautifully…..

We had smoked salmon, fresh baked potatoes and salad, locally baked bread, and some of New Zealand’s lovely wine….and our own choir..

A day to be remembered…

Copyright Geraldine Mackey: All Rights Reserved



Venice: the secret gardens of Guidecca.

We had a wonderful holiday in Italy in May 2016, and one of my favourite days was our visit to the gardens of Guidecca.

I thought it would be interesting to re-post this, as Venice, known and loved for so many reasons…is not known for its gardens and green spaces.

Guidecca is a pencil thin island not far across the water from St Mark’s Cathedral.

As we arrived on the vaparetto, the rain stopped, the sun came out, the coffee shops opened and the touches of greenery could be seen along the canal.

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We were lucky enough to meet up with Tudy Sammartini, a long time resident of Venice, a designer and passionate gardener, and author of three books; Secret Gardens of Venice, Floors of Venice and the Bell Towers of Venice.

We began in the private garden of the Fortune Factory, an old red brick factory, that Tudy had been restoring with specialist architect Maria Forti.

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In the 16th Century Guidecca was the centre of trade and horticultural discovery. The whole region was very fertile, and full of orchids, vineyards and gardens of rare exotics.

I took endless photos of each garden, but in this post I have concentrated on the two gardens of Guidecca we had mainly come to visit…… the private gardens of Hotel Bauer, and Hotel Cipriani.

The first garden had been restored to its former glory by Francesca Bortolotto Possati, the owner of the Hotel Bauer on the island.

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A very old olive tree still thrives in the grounds of the hotel, testimony to its historic past.

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Historic documents record orchards and vineyards too, and fruit trees can be seen around the gardens today.

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The lawns are cut at three different heights, the first is closely trimmed for visitors to walk along, the second is slightly higher, and the third is left to grow wild as a meadow.

IMG_2577 (1024x808)There are over 200  different kinds of ancient roses throughout the garden, and together with all the other blossoms on this sunny spring day, the birds and the bees were enjoying this garden as much as we were.

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There is a pergola with Isabella grapes and roses. At the base is lavender, and the rest of the garden is full of  Iris, catnip, columbine roses, and grasses.

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What a surprise to see these glorious gardens so close to Venice.

Small herb gardens surround the pergola.

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Here is another ”room” to the gardens. The tall trees and greenery make this a place  of peace and reflection.

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Nearby is the Hotel Cipriani where the wife of the CXVIII Doge designed her Renaissance garden.

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The vineyard of ‘Refosco’ Merlot and Cabernet grapes still thrives in the rear garden of the hotel, and the grapes  provide plenty of wine for the hotel cellars.

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Casanova was said to have courted the young novice Caterina Capretta in this very vineyard.

The vegetable and herb gardens of this hotel were well looked after……here is a member of the kitchen staff snipping herbs for the lunch time menu…. impossible to get much fresher than that!

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Around the pond is a statue of the young Sea God Triton, on his sea horse, looking out onto the waters of Venice.


And so ended our tour of the gardens of Guidecca.

Here is a last glimpse of the island as we crossed the bridge to wait for the vaparetto.

This was a day to be remembered.

IMG_2461 (1024x799)Our warmest thanks go to Tudy Sammartini, her affection and passion for the Guidecca gardens was obvious.

Salute Tudy!

Farewell to a wonderful country, and salute to the people, the places, the food, and of course….the green spaces.

Copyright Geraldine Mackey: All Rights Reserved.






Hillandale: a garden for the Impressionists

This is a flashback to November 2017, to my absolute favourite garden of the year…. spring time at a country property called Hillandale in Yetholme, near Bathurst, New South Wales.

This farm and garden , set in bucolic fields and distant hills, is a credit to the owners, Sarah and Andrew Ryan.

In 1999, they purchased the property from the Wilmott family who were responsible for planting most of the mature trees, rhododendrons, (as tall as trees)  azaleas, hydrangeas and maples.

A turf-covered stone bridge leads over a little creek, and into the slopes down to rolling hills below.

There is a lush, green almost English feel as we walk through the first part of this diverse garden.


The spring-fed water winds down to the lake, and opens out into a wonderful country property.

The garden has many parts to it, but we started with  Sarah’s herbaceous perennial border. It is 120 metres (390 feet) long and designed to walk through and enjoy…”to delight the senses”

This border is on the sunny northern side of the garden. (Unfortunately by the time I took these photos it was midday on a very bright day, so some of the photos are a little hazy..)

Sarah became interested in perennials about twenty years ago, influenced by the naturalistic planting style pioneered by the Dutch and was also inspired by wonderful herbaceous borders in the British Isles.

She has experimented with many different plants over the years, and now has 300 different species. They all help to create movement, structure, texture, which is Sarah’s aim.

These soft golden coloured grasses were waving in the morning sunshine… and I’ve never seen Love-in-the-Mist planted so well between other groups of plants..

The winding path changes perspective every time you walk along it…..

and we walked up and down quite a few times, finding more interesting surprise plantings every time.

With the slightly steamy sunshine look, (and my slightly hazy photos) this perennial border starts to look like an impressionist painting doesn’t it?

Sarah has also planted to attract birds and insects to the garden…

….and yes, she even manages to work around the Cockatoos, and several other birds …..all part of the rich  tapestry of country living. I’m sure she could tell us many stories about all the birds that visit this garden…for a later post perhaps…

Incidentally we saw this Australian King parrot in the car park of a nursery not too far from Hillandale..

You almost need your sunglasses on to see him on this bright sunny day…

This area has rich soil and a good rainfall (most of the time) so would be the envy of most gardeners I know…

The vegetable patch is also flourishing, but I think Sarah and Andrew make everything look easy..

This glasshouse was a present to Sarah from Andrew, he reassembled it piece by piece from a property where it was no longer wanted.

It is full of plants like geraniums and succulents that need to be protected from the cold,……

It is hard to believe on this warm spring day, but  Yetholme is one of the coldest regions in Australia, at about 1150 metres above sea level, and has regular snow in winter.

We spent a long time in this garden and chatting to Sarah. She encourages people to stay as long as they like, have picnic, or just enjoy a coffee and look through photos of the garden through all seasons.

In fact, we spent so long talking that I forgot to take a photo of Sarah, this knowledgeable, and talented plants-woman. Gardeners are such nice people aren’t they?

But we will be back to see this extraordinary garden, hopefully through all the seasons.

We found out about this garden when we were browsing through a book shop in Melbourne. I picked up a beautiful book called Dreamscapes which features gardens from all around the world….. Australia, NZ, USA, UK, Europe and Asia.  All of them are glorious. There was only one in New South Wales (our region) and it is Hillandale.

Paul then went back to the book shop and bought the book as a surprise for our wedding anniversary.

Dreamscapes by photographer Claire Takacs

So now we can go on a trail of glorious gardens forever!

Hillandale is open on the last weekend of each month until March 2018… and I’m sure will be open again next spring.

Copyright Geraldine Mackey: All Rights Reserved.








































Australia Day…and seeking the sunshine..

Today is Australia Day, and while the most appropriate date for Australia Day is still being debated, and not all of us know the second verse of the National Anthem ……

….the good news is……  there’s still a lot of sunshine out there!

Although it is reasonable and important to have debate for change in a democracy….. let’s not forget all the reasons for loving Australia, or where ever you live in the world..

Here are some of my reasons for loving where I live….


The National Library of Australia and a small electric boat that cruises around Lake Burley Griffin almost every day..

The gardens of the National Gallery of Australia.  Bronze statue of Penelope (isn’t she grand?) by Emile-Antoine Bourdelle  1912 (cast in 1984 by Susse Foundry Paris )

Looking out from the Australian Parliament House towards Anzac Parade and the Australian War Memorial, on a clear blue day…

A winter’s day in the city of Canberra, statue of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi

An autumn day at Lake Tuggeranong, in the suburbs of Canberra

Lake Tuggeranong on a very cold winter’s day for these Buddhist monks from a nearby temple.

A Crimson Rosella eating Peppermint Sage on our deck on an autumn morning..


a golden wattle flower, the floral emblem of Australia.

A Sulphur Crested Cockatoo on his way to Mount Taylor, near where I live..

Kangaroos at sunset on the playing fields at Lake Crackenback

Holidays amongst the Melaleuca trees in Palm Cove, North Queensland.

The Atherton Tablelands in Far North Queensland, with the best food and coffee in the state, thanks to a multicultural community.

St Mary’s by the Sea, a heritage listed non denominational church at Port Douglas, Far North Queensland…

Palm Cove, Far North Queensland….what can I say?

I enjoyed picking a few photos out of so many of this beautiful world…

In the ending words of Desiderata verse

“with all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world.

Be Careful

Strive to be happy.”

Found in Baltimore 1692..

Do you have a favourite place in your part of the world?


Copyright Geraldine Mackey: All Rights Reserved.



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


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…

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 (

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:


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.