Monthly Archives: November 2016

Spring: wind, weeds and weary gardeners…

 

Canberra is having a very windy spring this year…

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Quite a few of us have had many bad hair days..

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The rain clouds rising from the Brindabella Mountains in spring

We have also had an incredible amount of rain this year. After ten years of drought, everyone is collectively holding our breath and hoping it will continue…

Canberra is cool Temperate and Alpine  Zone 8-9. In theory we have:

mild or warm summers (I would say, often very hot summers)

cold winters (heavy frosts)…Yes!

and spring is a pivotal event…Yes!

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Tim Entwisle, the Director of the Royal Botanic Gardens in Melbourne, has written a book about Australia’s changing seasons, called Sprinter and Sprummer.

He says we should adopt a five season approach, early spring should include August and be called Sprinter (August September)

And late spring should be called Sprummer (October, November)

He bases his seasonal categories on the timing of the plants, the activities of the animals, and the unsettled weather before we move into summer.

It is true that much of Australia has no real spring or a very short spring, and not many of the flowers and plants common to the European spring.

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However, in Canberra, as you can see, we do have a joyous spring, after a cold winter. (by Aussie standards, of course..)

Paul suggests that we have should have our own season called Sprindy because we do have a lot of  windy weather in spring.

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However, during our Canberra spring, we brave the windy, often cold weather , to plant and enjoy English cottage garden flowers like Jonquils, daffodils, aquilegia, tulips, Iris.

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Many flowers only come out in late spring, (November) and then we can smell summer in the air.

However, during the spring and summer the real stars of the garden are not the pretty spring bulbs and flowers, but the flowering long lasting, ”foot soldiers” of the garden. I’m coming to appreciate them more and more. For example..

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The Orange Sparaxis,  grows in poor soil and has survived through drought and wind and rain. They are striking  to look at, and these flowers, right by the walkway, are often admired by  passers-by.

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This is a Native Geranium  ground cover, which will flower and flourish in all conditions, and brings the bees. I have seen a photo of a Geranium just like this called Wild Geranium on Jason and his wife Judy’s  great blog called garden in a city  .

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The Lemon-scented Geranium is another plant that tolerates almost any conditions, and brings the bees and the butterflies too. Another foot solider.

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We have three Bottlebrush bushes in our garden, but this  one deserves a special mention, for hanging in there, behind the cabin for many years. The winter and spring rain have made it sit up and take notice and it is lovely to see its flaming red colour across the garden.

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And now for my spring change of heart……the Iris is lovely, but……. here today, and gone tomorrow. In autumn I spent ages re-planting the Iris into this part of the garden, and very soon the plants were leggy and falling over in the wind and rain. We were away for a week, and the flowers had died off, and the weeds had taken over.

Enough already! In autumn we will dig them up, and keep a select few and replace the rest with the hardy native plants.

Of course I’ll always grow some spring flowers, they are such a joy and sign of hope in a garden.

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As Peter Cundal, the previous presenter of Gardening Australia, said one day, as he bent over a some spring plants..

”when I see the first signs of a spring plant coming up, my heart gives a little leap!”

..and I feel exactly the same way.

This has been a big week for our family, as my older brother had a long and serious heart operation and is now successfully recovering. He is a dedicated reader of my blog, and is extremely knowledgeable about birds and plants. He lives in a beautiful part of the world (Port Macquarie) with no winter or sprinter, and I know he will be glad to be back there very soon, and I look forward to him being well and able to enjoy his own green spaces again.

Copyright Geraldine Mackey all rights reserved.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Canberra Nara Peace Park and the bird we share with Japan

This is the story of Canberra Nara Peace park, celebrating friendship, harmony and trade between Japan and Australia…….and a mighty little bird, the Latham Snipe, that flies between our two countries every year.

The park is set in the Lennox gardens on the edge of Lake Burley Griffin. Even at the end of winter there is a stark beauty to the gardens..

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Canberra Nara Peace Park opened in 1999, is a symbol of the friendship between the sister cities of Canberra, built as the National Capital of Australia in the 20th century, and Nara, the first capital city of Japan in the 8th century.

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This lovely little park is a joy to visit in any season, but especially in spring.

The dry stream bed is lit up once a year for the Nara Candle festival. We missed this wonderful festival this year, so I’ll keep that story for another spring.

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The young magpie in the photo is Canberra’s most well known bird. She is probably looking for insects, but magpies are also very curious birds,  so she could be just  ”having a stickybeak” as Australians would say…

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The park has a gazebo surrounded by Japanese maples and cherry trees.

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A relatively new addition to the park is a sculpture, Toku, commissioned to celebrate the1300th anniversary of Japan’s ancient city Nara.

The five storied pagoda form represents Canberra

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a floating stone represents Nara…

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and the lovely little sculptured bird represents a Latham’s Snipe.

This is a species of shorebird that migrates annually between Japan and Canberra.

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Latham Snipe arriving in Canberra for summer. Photo courtesy of Geoffrey Dabb

The Latham Snipe, weighing only 200 grams, spends half the year in Japan and then flies south to the warmth of Canberra and other parts of south-east Australia for the spring and summer.

Japan and Australia are working together to find out more about these mighty little birds.

On the foreshores of a wetland in Hokkaido in Japan, five birds were skilfully fitted with trackers, before they began their amazing voyage.

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Early data showed the birds travelling more than 5500 kilometres in six days of continuous flight from Hokkaido in Japan to Papua New Guinea at an average speed of 40 km/hr.

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The Latham Snipe. Photo courtesy of Geoffrey Dabb

The visiting birds are starting to arrive in the south east of Australia, to settle in for the spring and summer.

During the summer four more birds will be fitted with trackers to observe their movements here in Australia, and their long return flight.

I’ll never complain about the long flight back to Australia again!

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The Nara Peace park is full of colourful trees and blossoms in spring, and shady peaceful places to sit in the hot summer months.

If you are wandering around the park, or just sitting and contemplating the beauty of spring, give a respectful nod to the symbol of the tiny bird near the top of the sculpture, Toku.

…. and wish the Latham Snipe well for summer in Canberra.

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To follow the flight progress of these fearless little birds visit the Jerrabomberra Wetlands site and look for the Latham Snipe project.

I hope you are enjoying your season and birdlife where ever you are!

Copyright Geraldine Mackey  All Rights Reserved.

 

 

 

 

 

Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve …fire, rain, water and new life…

This is Tucker, the first koala to be born at Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve for a long time.

He is looking hale and hearty, and living up to his name, (Tucker is an Aussie slang word for food.)

Tucker, oblivious of his local fame, is munching his way through branches of Eucalyptus leaves with gusto!

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Tidbinbilla, set in a beautiful valley about 30 minutes drive from Canberra’s CBD, is part of the Namadgi National Park. It has been a Nature Reserve for 80 years.

This year we are having record breaking spring rainfall and the countryside has never looked so green.

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The very last of the snow in early August

Brett McNamara, the Regional Manager with ACT Parks & Conservation said this is the first year he has ever seen the remarkable occurrence of snow on the Brindabella Mountains……

and a flooded river below.

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In 2003 Canberra and the surrounding region, including the Namadgi National Park,  suffered devastating bushfires.

Those of us living on the southern side of Canberra remember the surrounding mountain fires raging for days afterwards. Wildlife and vegetation was decimated. One koala survived in the Tidbinbilla Reserve and his name became Lucky.

Although the photo below was not taken during the Canberra bushfire, it is, sadly, as poignant  as many images we saw during that time around Canberra.

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While fighting a fire in the neighbouring state of Victoria, this firefighter noticed an extremely distressed koala, and spontaneously offered him a drink from his water bottle.

I kept this photo in my classroom for a few years after the fires…a great discussion starter on many topics, especially how interconnected we are with all that happens in our world.

Now, many years later, such are the vagaries of weather, in spring 2016 here we are driving  over the bridge near Tidbinbilla and heeding warning signs for flooding! This is the Murrumbidgee river, and  the name is derived from the Aboriginal word for ”big water”.

img_6201-1024x740So much rain, so much water….it is a frequent talking point in Canberra this spring. Our annual rainfall is approx. 620 mls (around 25 inches) annually.

This year we have had more rain than usual….and the dams are at 100% capacity.

We’ve come to Tidbinbilla today to enjoy the beginning of spring….and to look for the second star attraction at Tidbinbilla…another baby koala!

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Hardenbergia (Happy wanderer)

 

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Early Nancy (Wurmbea dioica) It gets its name Early Nancy from its early flowering in winter (between July to Oct)

New foliage and new life everywhere!

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Paul took two great shots of a kangaroo and her joey. Isn’t that an efficient way of managing a baby while teaching him how to eat!

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We were standing a good distance away, … but this is a lovely moment of a curious baby being pushed back into the pouch for safety. This sensible young kangaroo is ready to hop away …. Look at those powerful legs, tail and feet!

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Early morning in the bush, and this kookaburra is enjoying a slow start in a shaft of warm spring sunshine.

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Here is a brush-tailed Rock Wallaby. I have read that they survived the fires by hiding in rock crevices.

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This is the plaque for the only koala to survive the fires. . Since Lucky died in 2008 there have been no koalas at Tidbinbilla, until in 2013 when the state of Victoria donated some koalas of breeding age to the Reserve…..

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….along came Tucker in early spring, and now here is the second baby koala.

The Reserve held a competition in the local paper (The Chronicle) for the naming of this little fellow. Two families won the competition because they entered the same name…suggested by the children in both families…

The winning suggestion was  Ghanbi which is an local Aboriginal name for fire.

Best wishes to Ghanbi and Tucker, and the future koala population of Tidbinbilla.

In the words of Walter Burley Griffin designer of Canberra,

The shadows of the clouds and mists as they cross the mountains are very beautiful indeed. As I have said before, it is a grand site for a city.”

I hope you are enjoying your green spaces in whatever part of the world you are living.

Copyright Geraldine Mackey :  All rights reserved.