Monthly Archives: February 2017

Summer’s end in Canberra

Canberra’s summer has been hot and dry, and as a consolation, the sunsets have been stunning..

Hot Lips Salvias and Persian Ironwood Tree near the birdbath

A recent survey of birds in suburbia recorded that nearly 50% of households in the Canberra region provide water for birds in summer..

Birds in our garden have a choice of bird baths, and a sprinkler system occasionally which they can fly in and out of…(a five star bird friendly garden)

…..this provides us with daily amusement and joy.

Hot Lips Salvias (left) and Lavandula pedunculata hybrid (right)

Last week this tiny kookaburra appeared on the back wires…(a good place to check out the water situation in safety) I have never seen one so young in our area…..his Mum was not far behind..

Juvenile Kookaburra

All babies are beguiling, but this little kookaburra is at the top of my list for cuties…he hasn’t even got the Kookaburra crew cut hairdo yet!

Juvenile Kookaburra

In the nearby Eucalyptus tree is a juvenile Cockatoo….just waking up….look out…

When we came to Canberra, the house we bought  faced due west, which meant we got the punishing summer sun on all the living room windows. It was like living in an oven!

At that time we had a one year old daughter and another baby on the way! Fortunately we were young and just pleased to have our own home!

In those days no thought was given by planners or developers to siting houses to take account of the climate.

Over time we extended the house, and put insulation in the roof, and the walls. Eventually, we bought solar panels for the roof, and best of all, double glazing for all the windows.

What a difference all of that made!

In the meanwhile we built up shrubs and trees, especially in the front garden to give us shade and protection. We bought two water tanks for the garden, which helps, but is not enough during dry months.

We planted agapanthus because they are tough and drought resistant. I was once told they are the ”bully boys” of the garden, and when you look at their roots, this is certainly true. But they earned their stripes by surviving a drought and a nearby fire some years ago.

In the past couple of years we have had good spring rain, and this has set them up to flower very well this summer.

The garden is now shady and green, and the house is cool and quiet.

Having a simple, well functioning home give me a sense of wellbeing…it is a port in a storm.

I have mentioned the Chinese Tallow tree in previous posts, and this is our Chinese Tallow tree during summer, full of tassel like flowers which attract bees and butterflies by the millions (it seems)

I have read, in New South Wales, these trees are considered weeds because they sprout and grow prolifically. However, the up side is the bees are prolific here in summer. (we will get rid of new young trees appearing …one is plenty)

 

IN February we had about three days of extreme heat (41 degrees). At times like this the birds stay hidden in our thick bushes and trees, and come down to the bird baths in the late afternoon.

Now that we get more bees and insects in the garden, I noticed many of them coming for water too. In fact, after rescuing a bee swimming desperately in this small blue bird bath, I have put some small stones in the bird bath and reduced the level of water to give them solid places to land on when they need a drink.

The rest of the garden is now quite well established, and has held up well in the days of extreme heat.

Under the Chinese Tallow tree, daisies, a Grevillia ”Bonnie Prince Charlie” a blue Salvia (taking over the garden) and hidden behind the daisy is a Correa Bauerlenii

One advantage of heat is, the fruit is nice and soft to eat…

On Valentine’s day I heard these two galahs chatting away in the Eucalyptus tree. They are very sociable birds, and it looks like love is in the air on this summer’s evening…

I have so many photos of our lovely sunsets, so here is one more…..

May you enjoy your change of season, as we will be soon…autumn is my favourite season in Canberra and I look forward to hearing what yours is…

 

Copyright Geraldine Mackey: All Rights Reserved.

 

 

 

Rose gardens at Old Parliament House

If you love sunshine and roses….then a visit to the Old Parliament House Rose gardens in spring time is a must.

These photos were taken in November, during a gloriously wet spring.

In 1927 Canberra became the new capital of Australia.

The bush capital…. so beautiful today, was, in those days, a cluster of buildings on windswept limestone plains….

Empire Parliamentary Association tree planting ceremony in front of Parliament House 1926 (Mildenhall’s Canberra National Archives)

Just look at this old photo of a group of people trying to do some tree planting as they huddle together out in that windswept limestone plain ….

 

 

 

 

 

 

The newly formed capital of Australia was a compromise….neither of the two large cities in Australia, Sydney and Melbourne, wished the other to be the capital.

Old Parliament House, now the Museum of Australian Democracy

Therefore Canberra, geographically between the two cities, was chosen as the site to be a new capital.

It became the responsibility of parliamentary officer Robert Broinowski to build some gardens around the Old Parliament House and bring some relief to the new buildings.

The gardens included tennis courts, and a bowling green… much needed in those days when homes and families were so far away, and travel was long and hard.

I’m sure those early politicians  could not imagine how lovely the grounds of Old Parliament House look today.

The gardens, on either side of the Old Parliament House, consist of four rose gardens. Each garden was originally designed and laid out in a simple quadrant design, with roses in two quadrants.

This photo was taken in early summer, when the beautiful lilac and white wisteria on the white pillars had turned to green..

In this post I am writing about the House of Representative Gardens, which has two gardens.

The first is the Macarthur Rose Garden which is filled with one hundred red ”Etoile de Hollande” and shot silk roses donated by the great grand daughter of John and Elizabeth Macarthur. This gift marked the major contribution by John and Elizabeth Macarthur, to the early settlement of Australia in the breeding of Merino sheep at Parramatta and Camden. Many large farms from settlement to today, have lovely gardens and include roses.

The decision was made to plant roses in all the gardens. They provided colour to the unrelenting browns and greys of the Australian landscape, they reminded politicians of homes in the Northern Hemisphere, and lastly and most importantly, they were cheap to grow and very hardy.

Fortunately Broinowski was a passionate gardener, and, even during the Depression he kept up  the project of designing and planting by searching for donations far and wide.

He asked the wives of politicians to support the second garden, known appropriately as the Ladies Rose garden, and started gathering donations of one shilling and four pence per rose.

This garden has Hybrid Tea and Floribunda roses which were very popular at the time, and are an absolute delight to look at on a spring day….here are just a few..

 

Just Joey

 

Playboy

 

 

 

Lavender Pinocchio

 

Perfume Perfection

 

 

 

 

Hot chocolate

Gold bunny

 

Madam President

 

Peace

Once you start looking at these lovely roses, you are hooked, and there is no known cure!

Charles Weston had originally designed and planted Eucalyptus trees around the grounds of Parliament House, and these, and dense hedges keep the roses safe from hot dry winds.

This would not be a post about Canberra if I didn’t include some of our resident Sulphur Crested Cockatoos…….a number of them spend time around Parliament House, no doubt using the Eucalyptus trees for nesting, and the acorn trees for food.

Sulphur Crested Cockatoos eating on the grass around Old Parliament House in autumn.

I haven’t check with the gardeners, but I suspect the Cockatoos have a penchant for loping the stems of tender colourful plants, like roses,  and  may be a mixed blessing here.

….. but there is something endearingly Australian about having recalcitrant Cockatoos in residence so close to the seat of government.

 

Friends of Old Parliament House Rose Gardens

www.fophrg.au

Copyright Geraldine Mackey All Rights Reserved.