Category Archives: Sydney’s Green Spaces

Sydney’s Royal Botanic Gardens: summer display called Pollination

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Grevillea

Flowers attract pollinators through different ways

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

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

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

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

White Moth Orchid (Phalaenopsis)

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

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

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

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http://www.aussiebees.com

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

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

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

Copyright Geraldine Mackey: All Rights Reserved.

 

 

 

Sydney, Bondi Beach and hidden treasures..

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

Sea Hibiscus Hibiscus tiliaceus

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

Even the beetles in Sydney are pretty cool…

Cotton Harlequin Beetle

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

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

These cliffs deserve their own post, one day soon!

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

Copyright Geraldine Mackey: All Rights Reserved.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sydney’s Hyde Park…shade, rest and music!

Can a city ever have too much greenery?

We recently spent time in Sydney with my Scottish cousins….

It was nice to take the time and see the city centre through tourists’ eyes

Captain Cook, born in Yorkshire, landed in Australia in 1770…..what a contrast to the city we see today..

We walked through Hyde Park every day, and we were grateful to have these enormous trees giving us so much shade in Sydney’s hot summer.

Jane Jose in her book Places Women Make says… liveability means being able to walk to a park, near where you live, have shady trees and seating and ”accidental connectedness” to your neighbourhood or city…. 

an early morning yoga class..

This part of Hyde Park is very familiar to me as I came here every day when I first arrived in Sydney, from Africa, aged 19. I sat in the park and waited for my brother to finish work. (my two brothers were the only people I knew in Australia at that time.)

The park gave me a connection with people,  and I began to feel part of the city.

The Domain is near Hyde Park, and has some great playing fields for groups to use at lunch time in the city…

I love this sign, ”A place for people” …what a great reminder for all big cities!!

The flowers boxes in the city this summer are wonderful, and I have never seen parsley used so well in a flower bed…

Most of all I love buskers and music in the city….I always give some money to someone who is providing music….it is the food of life!

I’ll end with another beautiful, but exhausting city, Rome…we were there in May last year.

 

Even a glorious city like Rome can become too much, and one day we found this wonderful park. We sat in the shade of some big trees and listened to a busker playing the trumpet

soft melodious jazz never sounded so good …I can hear that music as I write…

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

 

Sydney’s Royal Botanic Gardens

‘Have you ever noticed that botanical gardens often make you think of Paradise?”  Francis Halle French botanist 2004

Welcome to the Royal Sydney Botanic Gardens, a little piece of paradise in Australia’s largest city.

….who would be anywhere else on a lovely summer’s day?

Sydney Harbour, Royal Botanic Gardens, Harbour Bridge

The Royal Botanic Gardens were established in 1816 and cover an area of 30 hectares along the foreshore of Sydney harbour.

Plants, lawns, trees and bush line the edge of the city right up to the Opera House and give views of the Harbour Bridge.

Can you imagine trying to preserving that amount of prime land for the public today?

Salute to our visionary forebears!

The Gardens are home to nearly 9000 plant species from all over the world, with a focus on Australia and the South Pacific.

A sign near the sculptures says…

‘ Before European settlement this foreshore was a mud flat. Seeds, flotsam were washed up by waves. Ships arrived in the tide in 1788 and crops were planted soon after. This area has been dedicated ever since to the introduction and propagation of plants reflecting the changing culture and horticultural needs of the day.”

Palm by Bronwyn Oliver

 

 

 

 

 

 

Magnolia by Bronwyn Oliver

These sculptures symbolise the seeds washed up by the tide, blown by the wind, eroded by the water, and laden with potential for vigour and transformation.

The huge older trees, like this fig tree have been given space and time to grow, and now they provide plentiful shade in summer. (They say the shade of a big tree is worth one air-conditioner)

The flowers of the mature Magnolia trees are magnificent at this time of the year.

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This tropical garden has lush colourful foliage, and flamboyant flowers and plants…orchids, hibiscus, palm….sensory overload while I sit nearby drinking iced coffee!

Cannas

 

Frangipani

Our home in Canberra, a four hour drive away, is a world away in terms of  plants and climatic conditions. We have hot dry summers and cold, frosty winters. The Sydney climate of long humid summers and mild winters is a big contrast.

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The Botanic Gardens provide habitat for wildlife….colourful birds, fruit bats and water dragons..

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Rainbow Lorikeet

The Herb gardens, not far from the city streets, have blossoming herbs, sunflowers and all kinds of bee attracting flowers…

…what a bonus to have so much variety in such a big bustling city…

 

 

 

This beautiful sundial was fascinating for tourists and especially children…..imagine the sun directing our time rather than our Iphones ….incredible!

I love visiting big cities like Sydney…but, thank goodness for gardens like this glorious one…..

I return to my favourite quote….(one day I will find out who wrote it..)

”when the world wearies, and society does not satisfy, there is always the garden”

Salute again to those generous forebears who had the wisdom and energy to started this wonderful garden… for everyone.

Copyright Geraldine Mackey All Rights Reserved

 

 

 

Wendy Whiteley’s garden, bringing solace and joy

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Early on New Year’s Day 2016 Sydney was a very quiet place after a big night of fireworks and parties.

We took advantage of the quiet to visit a wonderful public garden with an extraordinary story.

Brett Whiteley, a famous Australian painter and his wife Wendy, also an artist, settled in Lavender Bay, a secluded inlet on Sydney’s north side.

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Brett Whiteley called this place ”optical ecstasy” and many of his paintings reflected these scenes.

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Brett Whiteley died in 1992 aged 52, and tragically the couple’s only daughter, died of a rare cancer in 2001.

After Brett’s death Wendy, in her grief, began clearing an overgrown dump of derelict public land below their house.

Over 20 years she poured her money, creative skills, energy and emotion into transforming  the wasteland by the harbour into a public garden.

The Moreton Bay Fig is the feature point of the garden, and its magnificent trunk and branches seem to reach protectively over the garden.

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It is a challenging steep site, but over time, steps and paths have been built, first by Wendy and some faithful gardeners, and now by many volunteers as well.

Sydney has a wonderful climate for many different plants, and gradually the plants have almost engulfed the paths in some areas.IMG_7925 (1024x857)Wendy, has no background in horticulture. However, she has the artist’s eye for colour, shape and texture and design.

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IMG_7881 (1024x771)As a child Wendy loved the book by Frances Hodgson Burnett called The Secret Garden. This garden began as her secret garden, a place where the physical needs of the garden gave her a distraction from grief, but also a place of solitude, and in time, replenishment.

As the garden developed it gradually became more than Wendy’s garden, it became a haven for many people who come to sit for a while in the cool dappled shade, read a book, or simply enjoy the lush green plants…. away from noisy city life.

the power of the garden….

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Wendy says ”Loss is something all people end up dealing with one way or another. Sometimes it can be too much, but I have learnt we must give ourselves time to get over the stages of grieving. The amazing thing about life is that deep sadness can, in its own time eventually lead you on the path to renewal and discovery….

IMG_7947 (1024x738)………This garden started as therapy, but it’s gone way beyond that, into a joyous celebration of life and nature, and a desire to share. I transformed an ugly wasteland into a beautiful garden, and along the way, the garden transformed me.”

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As this is public land, the future of the garden was precarious, but in October 2015 the NSW government gave the garden a 30 year lease with a 30 year renewal option.

Many thanks to Wendy for building a garden such as this in a time of grief, and now it is available for all to share, in a quiet and caring way.

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Sydney turns on the charm at Strickland House

This year we spent the Christmas break with family and friends in this most beguiling of cities, Sydney. A perfect time to look at some of Sydney’s  green spaces.

IMG_7805 (1024x623)My brother suggested we visit one of Sydney’s best kept secrets, Strickland House, Vaucluse.

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This house was designed and built in the 1850s, with a looped carriage entrance, pathways and a backdrop of wonderful mature trees. It was originally called ”Carrara”‘IMG_7641 (1024x660)
Some of the trees include Himalayan chir pine, stone pines from the Mediterranean, hoop pines, Port Jackson (or rusty fig), a giant bamboo, African Olives, a large mature tuckeroo, a Canary Island date palm and on site is a Tipu tree from Bolivia.

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These trees now provide a wonderful buffer against the outside world.

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Strickland House was originally the home of John Hosking, Sydney’s second mayor. It is a Victorian Italianate mansion, made from three storeys of sandstone and featuring verandahs with Doric columns.

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There are two trees on the right hand side of the building, and the smaller one (slightly hidden) is an evergreen magnolia from the Southern USA…flowering gloriously while we were there.

From 1879 to 1888 the owner of the house, Hon Henry Moore MLC had 12 children, and the youngest son, Verner, said they were invited on board ships anchored in the bay and would return the hospitality by having people visit them in Strickland House.

The long lawns of the property  take us down to the bay and a small beach. (Milk beach)

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In 1914 the Foreshores Resumption scheme in New South Wales bought back land along the foreshore of Sydney for public use.

Oh how wonderfully enlightened they were!

IMG_7647 (1024x601)To the left of Milk Beach is the harbour walk to Rose Bay.

However, today we are taking the path to the right of Milk Beach to Nielson park.

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IMG_7744 (1024x802)With sandstone stairs and magnificent rock formations on one side, and wonderful views of the harbour on the other.

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A short pleasant walk and we are at Nielson ParkIMG_7784 (1024x737)

This beautiful little beach is at Nielson Park. It is early in the morning, and swimmers are enjoying the soft white sand and gentle sunlight before the crowds get here.

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Paul has a swim and then we sit under the shade of the Port Jackson fig tree and sip some coffee as we watch the harbour slowly waking up.

The busy Manly ferry goes by taking people into the city, many returning to work after the Christmas break.

We feel slightly as if we have died and gone to heaven…

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On the edge of Nielson Park is another historic home, Greycliffe House, also built in the 1850s, looking splendid in Rustic Gothic style.

We take a small local road back to our car, amazing trees and shrubs to the left of us, and unparalled views of Sydney Harbour to the right.

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An early morning  yacht sailing past Shark Island.

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IMG_7637 (1024x610)Not far from Strickland House we take another look at this unbelievable view on such a wonderful day. The gardens and the grounds of the Strickland House site make one of the finest habourside parks in Sydney.

It makes sobering reading to see how many times Strickland House and grounds have almost been sold off by successive state governments….congratulations to the Woollahra Council and the communities who have fought to have this historic home and grounds remain public for all to enjoy.