Tag Archives: Australian National Arboretum

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.




”I love a sunburnt country” ….

This was going to be a post about sculptures at the National Arboretum in Canberra ….but I digress…..

As you drive up to the Arboretum there is a most imposing sculpture along the ridge of the hill.

The metal words in cursive, say..

wide brown land….

These three scripted words were taken from the diary of an Australian poet, Dorothea McKellar. Her poem is called My Country .

I didn’t know until  recently that Dorothea was only 22 years old when she wrote that poem. She was living in England and missing her home country.

I was 19 years old when I came to Australia (from Africa)

…and I was 22 when I came back from a holiday in England and realised that Australia was my home, a place I love.

Perhaps we need to leave to learn how we feel about our place in the world.

I have always loved Dorothea McKellar’s poem, and here are the words of one of the verses that lend themselves to some photos I have taken over the last few years……

My country

I love a sunburnt country

A Land of sweeping plains,

..of ragged mountain ranges

Of droughts…and flooding rains…

I love her far horizons..

I love her jewel sea

Her beauty and her terror..

The wide brown land for me..

I feel very lucky to have a place in the world….what is your favourite place?

Copyright Geraldine Mackey: All Rights Reserved









A morning walk at the National Arboretum

Recently the National Arboretum of Canberra opened new walking tracks and these have already become very popular with walkers in Canberra.

The Arboretum has more than 48 000 trees in 100 forests, and has been under development since 2003.

We started at a midpoint along the track…..at the top of Dairy Farmer Hill….seen in the distance in this photo. The Village Centre is on the right, the Margaret Whitlam Pavilion on the left, and a grassy amphitheatre for concerts in the centre.

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The Village Centre is on the right and the Margaret Whitlam Pavilion is on the left, and a grassy amphitheatre in between the buildings. Dairy Farmers Hill in the distance

Standing at the top of Dairy Farmers Hill is a sculpture called Nest III, welded from discarded steel objects, mostly abandoned farm machinery found on farms around the region. The artist is Richard Moffatt.

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the eagle looks out over the Arboretum, Lake Burley Griffin and the city.

While we were there a magpie was feeding her chick perched on the nest alongside that formidable looking eagle. Nice to see.

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The Smokebush trees, the Saharan Cypress and the Canary Island Stawberry tree

This is a view of three of the forests below our path, leading down to the Village Centre.

Here is the purple-leaved Smokebush. Jackie French, a well known gardener and writer in Canberra once said that the Smokebush in her garden was the most asked about plant in her extensive garden!

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The Smokebush is a garden hybrid and is widely used in parks and gardens, particularly for colour contrast.

In spring, fruits begin to form, hidden amongst a network of fine fluffy stems, giving the effect of clouds of coral pink smoke, hence the name Smokebush. During November the ”smoke” will turn dark red, and the stems will loose their fluffiness as the tiny dark red fruits appear.

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Smokebush with tiny dark red fruits appearing. Further down the path are the Saharan cypress. In the distance is Black Mountain Tower.

As we walk down the hill we come to the Saharan cypress, considered to be endangered, with only 230 naturally occurring trees known to exist. In the Sahara, nomads shelter under the trees and their herds eat fallen cones, which in turn leads to fewer cypress trees growing.

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Cupressus dupreziana, common name Saharan cypress.


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The guide with me was pleased to see cones appearing on one of the trees, a sure sign they have adapted to life in Canberra!


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Mediterranean Red Bud

Just before we reach the Village Centre we come to a forest where the trees are commonly called Judas Trees, or European Red Bud. This species grows in the Middle East and southern Europe, in woodlands, on stony arid slopes, and along banks of rivers. Here they are surviving well on a sloping part of the hill.

There is a long standing belief that  Judas Iscariot hanged himself on one of these trees, thus the name, but it could also have come from the French common name, Arbre de Judee, meaning the ”tree of Judea” referring to the hilly regions of the country where it is most common.


As we arrive at of the Village Centre, I took a photo of the beautiful stone walls with Acacias and grasses growing happily in the front. Very low maintenance!

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There is an lookout right next to the Village Centre and these two beautiful trees were planted nearby.

I was not surprised to see they were the oldest Japanese black pines grown in Australia from imported seeds, and styled as Niwika, similar to Bonsai.


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Meanwhile, on this sunny spring day, a family is already taking advantage of the grassy amphitheatre to fly a kite.

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Another lovely green space in Canberra!