Category Archives: My Place

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Let me add, they are very resilient.

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

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

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

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

Not to eat, just because they can..

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

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

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

The flowers were lopped regardless of stakes or twine..

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

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

So….?

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

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

okay, so where have you hidden them?

So far, the flowers are gradually recovering.

I think I might have won the battle…..

Butter would not melt in my mouth

but  perhaps not the war….

 

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

 

Copyright: Geraldine Mackey  All Rights Reserved.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Zinnias evoke memories a long way from home…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

…and that is just how I remember them.

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

I could almost hear them saying

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

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

Orange Sparaxis

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

Copyright: Geraldine Mackey All Rights Reserved

 

 

 

Crimson rosellas, peppermint sage, and a guilty magpie

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

…. well may he hang down his head..

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

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

Quick!…. back home to my garden…

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

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

Copyright Geraldine Mackey: All Rights Reserved.

 

 

 

 

 

Season’s greetings and blogging in the Bush Capital

Season’s greeting from the bush capital of Australia.

I began blogging about 18 months ago, to write a low key kind of diary about our garden.

Before long I realised that the blog was really about my place in the world: Canberra, the bush capital of Australia.

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The National Arboretum in Canberra….. 100 trees in 100 forests

The word Canberra is often used to explain the workings of government….”Canberra raised taxes this year…”

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Parliament House Canberra

But of course, behind the workings of Parliament there is a city of people who call Canberra home.

Since I began blogging about green spaces in Canberra, I have met many gardeners, volunteers and ordinary Canberrans who are very knowledgeable and proud of their place in the world.

 

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Walter Burley Griffin and Marion Mahony Griffin. National Library Australia copyright

The gods were smiling on this lovely part of the world when Chicagoan Walter Burley Griffin won the competition to design Canberra, and his wife Marion Mahony created the beautiful drawings of his design.

He dreamed of a city in green spaces, and that is what we have today… a city in a big bush garden.

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Lake Burley Griffin and Parliament House

The land around the lake is reserved for all people to enjoy..

 

This kangaroo was photographed five minutes away from our house, on the edge of Mt Taylor. Not long after we moved to Canberra, 30 years ago, a kangaroo from Mt Taylor hopped down our suburban road. A great introduction to life in Canberra for our family!

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a young kangaroo on Mt Taylor

I’ve shared the blog with some big personalities

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A Sulphur-Crested Cockatoo

and some colourful ones ….

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King Parrots

 

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A Crimson Rosella

 

and some that are just plain cute.

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young Kookaburras

I’ve had the pleasure of following many blogs, in UK, US, Canada, Italy, France and of course, Australia and New Zealand. The Northern Hemisphere seasons, especially the autumn and spring are a delight to see. As an armchair traveller, I also enjoy the breath-taking snowy winter photos….happy in the knowledge that I won’t have to go and shovel snow at any time!

Thank you very much to the all the people who have visited and followed Canberra’s Green Spaces, over the past 18 months, I appreciate every visit, and every comment.

Geraldine Mackey: Copyright All Rights Reserved.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Spring flowers at the National Botanic Gardens

October is the perfect time to visit the Botanic gardens in Canberra…

 

Canberra has had very good winter rainfall, and now, at last, all the plants have sprung into life.

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Recently we took a guided tour of the Gardens, called ”Breakfast with the birds”.

It was absolute magic to be able to stroll around the grounds of the Botanical Gardens in the warm early morning sunlight, before the gates were open to the public.

This was followed by a delicious breakfast in the café. A great way to start the day.

img_6337-956x1024Our guide said  Wattle Birds have to check each individual flower in the Grevilleas and usually only find some nectar in about one in ten flowers.

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No wonder they are such busy birds. In spring they whiz about our gardens like streaks of light…my neighbour says it is like being in a Star Wars movie sometimes.

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This Wattle Bird has a nest just above her head in the Banksia bush.

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The ever alert Currawong is in the same bush…waiting..

(I’m pleased to say two Wattle Birds chased it away a few seconds later)

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I love looking out for birds, but the colourful native plants were the scene stealers on this day..

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The Proteas (Waratahs) look wonderful alongside the ghostly white eucalyptus tree.

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And here are more Grevilleas and other spring flowers.

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Isopogon formosus

 

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Eastern Spinebill feeding on a Grevillea

 

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Grevillea Flexuosa Zig-Zag Grevillea

 

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I hope you are enjoying your plants, gardens and green spaces in whatever part of the world you call home…

I’d love to know if you have a favourite amongst your own plants.

Copyright Geraldine Mackey  All rights reserved

 

Do cockatoos seek revenge? Bulbs, blossoms and birds..

Cockatoos are frequent visitors to our garden, especially when the almond tree flowers and the almonds grow and drop onto the ground.

They spend a lot of time collecting the almonds from the ground, cracking open shells, and eating almonds on the carport roof, while socialising…

They are pretty good at putting on a show for the camera too..

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The almond tree has beautiful flowers and is much loved by many birds.

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The Wattle birds enjoying the almond flower nectar..

However, there is seldom harmony amongst birds and gardeners in spring.

Recently a couple of the cockatoos hopped onto the almond tree and started shredding the leaves and the flowers. Earlier this year, they had successfully shredded our flowering Eucalyptus tree of many of its smaller branches, so we hoped this wasn’t going to start a new trend…

Paul waved the broom at them and politely said ”shoo!”

Well! We’ve never heard that tone before!

For our resident cockatoos, even implied criticism is hard to take…they collected their almonds and flew off to the neighbouring telephone wires….

and turned their backs on us!

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….. and if you think you are going to get a photo opportunity from us…you can go sing for your supper…

They disappeared for a few days, but, sadly, the plot thickens.

Last year, I took most of these perfectly good tulips out of the front garden and put them in pots on the deck in the back garden.

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Cockatoos frequently fly over the deck to get to the almond tree, and very occasionally they behead a daffodil or two along the way, usually the ones that have the temerity to flower early.

However, sometime after our falling out with the cockatoos, we came home one evening to find some of the early flowering tulips, and some crocus had been pulled out of their pots, and half eaten…. what a mess, what destruction!

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The culprits had very large beaks…

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Cockatoos are known to be curious and intelligent birds…so, were they sampling new bulbs for taste or bearing a grudge?

As my neighbour said, perhaps….”Revenge is a dish best served cold”

The cockatoos did not come visiting for a while, but we enjoyed seeing some of the other springtime youngsters…

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Young kookaburras ”Oh did you hear what they did? We would never do that!”

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Baby Eastern Rosellas…

 

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I was wondering if I could come down and have a drink?

 

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Baby galah…or Elvis impersonator..

Recently we went to Sydney for a wedding, and this time I hid my (remaining) flowering bulbs behind the camellia on the deck…better safe than sorry…

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All quiet on the home front when we got home…

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At least we have a few surviving tulips for the deck, so all is not lost.

There is not much chance to enjoy anything in the garden at the moment, because the rain has been tumbling down all week.

Except of course if you are a cockatoo. Word is out that the almond shells are lovely and soft, and have been lying around on the ground for some time now.

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Well, okay you’re forgiven. We’ll just sit here in the rain and enjoy the bounty ….

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I guess every gardener has some challenges, and at least ours are mighty big personalities!

Since I started blogging and reading gardening blogs, I’ve learnt all about a the hazards of nearby  rabbits, possums, deer, squirrels and other invaders in the garden…do you have yours?

Copyright Geraldine  Mackey. All rights reserved

 

Yarralumla in spring; blossoms, birds and kangaroos….

Can the centre of government be fifteen minutes walk away from this bay?

I often think our grandchildren will hardly be able to comprehend this innocent time when Parliament House is surrounded by quiet suburbs like Yarralumla, where people walk dogs, ride bikes, and play golf.

Yarralumla is named after the Indigenous people’s term for the area, and means ”echo”.

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Yarralumla has lovely walking tracks with views of the Governor General’s residence.

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The Governor General’s House and the beautiful Brindabella Mountains as the backdrop…

This is a working property where heads of state, and royalty visit, and many events are hosted during the year.

Despite the grandeur, one of the challenges of the Governor General’s House and garden is the ongoing problem of  the resident cockatoos and kangaroos….

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These kangaroos are having a charmed life near the entrance to the Governor General’s House with all the lush greenery around …meanwhile a strange sounding hooter is attempting to frighten away the cockatoos from the main gardens….although I imagine it would take more than a hooter to frighten a determined cockatoo.

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Walter Burley Griffin, the talented architect from Chicago who designed this garden city, could not have imagined that kangaroos and cockatoos could be such a problem in the future!

Along the walking track at Yarralumla is the Royal Golf Club. A few years ago, this photo below made headlines  in many parts of the world……

Australian Open Interrupted by Kangaroos

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Courier mail.com.au

In 2013 golfer Karrie Webb waits for the kangaroos to clear the fairway during the Australian Open….

I believe someone kindly lifted some fencing for this mob to jump out of the limelight!

Meanwhile on this spring day in Yarralumla…

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Amongst  the great variety of trees we saw many birds feeding..

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The young Australian King Parrots almost disappearing into the oak leaves…

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The adults are watching over them from above….

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Crimson rosellas feasting on spring flowers..

We pass the Heritage Nursery…this is a place where plants just leap out to be bought,  but today I’m going to show restraint with plants (and chocolate!)

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…..and to end a lovely day’s walk.. here  is a view of Telstra Tower on Black Mountain..

This tower is disliked by many, but for me…and I know for others, when we are travelling back to Canberra after a long car trip…the sight of the Telstra Tower silhouetted against the sky means we are nearly home..

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and there is no place like home….

I hope this is true for you too.

Enjoy your home and green spaces where ever you are in the world…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Happy Wattle Day and spring time in Canberra!

I’m a little bit late for this greeting…. Wattle Day in Australia is 1st September, the beginning of spring.

The Golden Wattle flower is our national floral emblem.

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Golden Wattle National Archives of Australia

It is colourful, full of hope, incredibly resilient, and regenerates easily after fire. The perfect Australian plant.

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There are more than 1000 species of wattle in Australia, and I am told, somewhere in Australia a Wattle plant is flowering every day of the year. How about that!

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Terry Fewtrell, the Wattle Day Association President says that wattles have been part of the Australian landscape for 30 million years,

“Wattles are like the great silent witness to the whole Australian story…”

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I walked around my suburb on Wattle Day, and some Wattles were flowering…

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Some parts were nearly finished…

and some were just starting to bloom..

IMG_5569 (1024x813)Flowering in the National Art Gallery spring garden is a more unusual Wattle, with  a cinnamon coloured flower. It is called Acacia Leprosa or Scarlet Blaze.

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No matter which Wattle plant you choose for your garden, Angus Stewart, from Gardening Australia, says you are onto a winner … (in a very expressive Aussie kind of way)

”because wattles literally grow on the sniff of an empty fertilizer bag”

I was having a very Australian bird kind of day on the first day of spring as I walked….

The Red Wattle bird is watching me from the garden.

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Our resident magpie is….looking alert. Magpies can be tricky in spring because they become very territorial and can swoop passers-by. I like to think I’ve built up some good karma by providing so many water bowls for them in summer, not to mention putting up with high maintenance babies.

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At the end of the day….a call from the two very cute new kookaburras who seem to have set up home in our area..

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And, as the sun is setting over the Brindabella Mountains, more rain is promised this week…

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What could be better for the first week of spring?

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I hope you are enjoying your green spaces wherever you are in the world.

 

Reflection on last summer’s garden….sometimes you just get lucky…

July is a very dreary winter month in Canberra, and it seems a perfect time to look back at photos of the garden over the spring and summer months of 2015/2016. This might give some inspiration for the coming spring…

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In Canberra sweet peas need to be planted around my birthday, mid-March. My father-in-law was an enthusiastic gardener and he always reminded me to plant them.

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Sweet peas also remind me of my Mum who loved all flowers and growing things, but sweet peas were one of her favourites.

I think of them both in a companionable way when I am in the garden…

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During the summer I read a little book called ”Six Square Metres” by Margaret Simons. Margaret is a journalist and gardening enthusiast, and some years ago, she wrote a thoughtful, often humorous, gardening column in The Australian newspaper.

One of her quotes sums up a season of gardening….(and our year of gardening)

Sometimes you reap what you sow.

We certainly did that last summer, this pea crop went on for months, above and beyond the call of duty…

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Sometimes you reap what other people sowed..

We bought this tomato as a sapling at the markets in spring. It is called ”Mortgage Lifter” and the tomatoes grow to an enormous size. Every few weeks Paul and I would put more stakes in for reinforcement as the plant grew bigger and the tomatoes grew wider. The beauty of this tomato is that it is very juicy, with a wonderfully rich flavour. I made tomato puree with the left over tomatoes in February, and now we add them to soups and stews. A taste from our own summer garden in winter.

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Sometimes you haven’t got a clue what you are sowing.

….at the markets in spring I thought I was buying a new kind of chard with lovely purple stalks…and it was beetroot! I can’t believe I’m admitting to this….

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and sometimes you just get lucky.

….this Gardenia really does not like the Canberra climate, especially the cold weather. This year we nursed it through the winter and then gave it plenty of fertilizer in spring and summer, and now some beautiful, perfectly formed scented flowers…

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We were very lucky to have an abundance of tomatoes, and the best garlic in three years of trying to get it right..

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or unlucky….

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Much as I love the cockatoos, they sometimes just come by to pick the top off a rose stem, very very annoying…….. ”Who me?”

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All these things are true of life, as of gardening…

I hope this year has been a lucky one for you and your garden…

 

 

 

An autumn walk around Old Parliament House in Canberra

This building, affectionately known as ”The Wedding Cake” is Old Parliament House, first opened in 1927.  It is now home to the Museum of Australian Democracy.

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Paul worked in this elegant old building when we first came to Canberra, in 1983. The building, and surrounding gardens hold many memories for Paul and our family…especially the children’s party held in the gardens every Christmas.

Today we are taking advantage of the beautiful autumn weather to walk around the building and then down to Lake Burley Griffin for coffee.

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The Oak trees on the right of the building are just turning into autumn splendour and,

….where there is an acorn, not far away are the cockatoos.

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This is a common sight on the lawns around the Parliamentary buildings

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This monument celebrates the important role of the 13th Century English Magna Carta.

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The monument is sited close to Parliament House and the High Court because the Magna Carta established the framework for the Australian legal system, Constitution and Parliament.

We walked around the building and came to the statue of two Prime Ministers who were also good friends. John Curtin (PM from 1941-1945) on the left, and Ben Chifley (PM from 1945-1949) on the right.

IMG_1894 (995x1024)I have read that Ben Chifley, in the early days of his campaigning, did so on a shoe string. He travelled by train whenever he could, and when he couldn’t, he drove himself. His wife Liz always packed him a lunchbox and he also took his billy to make some tea along the way. He loved stopping by the wayside, gathering a few twigs, and boiling his billy at any time of the day.

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During Parliamentary sitting times the two men lodged in a small hotel nearby, called the Kurrajong, not far from Parliament House, and often walked this path together.

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When Ben Chifley died there was a wonderful quote attributed to Oliver Hogue:

”He understood the human heart, the ideals, the ambitions, the follies, the passion of men and women. Chifley put tolerance amongst the highest virtues, and had it in large measure himself.”

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Walking along the paths of the Parliamentary Triangle on such a fine day, it is particularly special to see the variety of trees…the Eucalypts look very striking amongst the contrasting colours of other species.

The galahs are having an autumn feast amongst the leaves.

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Further down the path towards Lake Burley Griffin are the beautiful Claret Ash trees….and Black Mountain Tower in the distance.

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The autumn days are warm and sunny and there is usually no wind, most people are out and about as much as possible. (and yes, I know, winter cometh…)

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The Manchurian Pear trees along the edge of Lake Burley Griffin are a much loved sight in autumn.

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About a month ago we took a boat ride around the lake, unfortunately the weather was hazy and cloudy that day. However, Paul took this great photo,  of the National Library…this is undoubtedly my favourite building..

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and looking back on it, we were surprised to see that the Claret Ashes were turning red, even in mid March.

As it is time to head homeward, we walk back to the car..

…well hello, you are never alone near an Oak tree…

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I wonder if he is searching for something to eat, or, merely breaking off a few branches… just for fun….?

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Happy weekend everyone!