Tag Archives: garden

Australian Homestead: Markdale…… endings and beginnings…

Markdale, a historic Australian homestead, has been in the same family for three generations.

Set in the rolling green hills around Crookwell, New South Wales, this sheep and cattle property was bought in 1920, by Mr James Ashton, a parliamentary member for Goulburn 1901-1908.

”our family have been living and working on this property since the 1920s.” said Mary Ashton.

The Shearer by Rix Wright

Today the house and garden are open because the property has been sold and there is to be an auction of the all contents of the house on Sunday.

We have come to look at the garden, designed by a pioneer of Australian landscape design, Edna Walling.

However, it is tempting to look inside the elegant homestead, with high ceilings, sitting rooms and a dining room, all filled with antiques, books and art.

Each room is decorated with original pieces of antique furniture…..

It is truly ”the end of an era” sale, right down to fur coats and a beautiful 1920s wedding dress…

Upstairs is a large room probably used as a playroom, or a school room. Many children on remote farms traditionally had a tutor or governess until they went on to boarding schools in the cities or larger farming towns.

Every room has its own private view of the garden…

 

In 1947 Edna Walling re-designed the garden, removing many existing hedges to make way for the natural scenery of the paddocks and hills.

Many of the hallmarks of her design are here….curved granite walls, gently dividing the garden, a profusion of roses, and hardy perennials…..and the paddocks and hills can be seen at every turn..

Edna Walling is said to have designed the garden around some of the original trees. Unfortunately I don’t know if these are still standing, but there are some striking Eucalyptus trees on the right of the homestead…

…and from these trees the sweeping lawns guide the garden

…..through a canopy of trees and greenery.

Stone paths lead to garden rooms, which are protected from the winds by hardy perennials ….

Plants in this garden have to survive extremes of weather, very hot summers, and regular snow in winter…

 

Wisterias, magnolias, weeping elms, and claret ashes, and a great variety of shrubs and trees lead the eye onwards to the depth of the garden and the small lake beyond….

 

Even in the fading light, the autumn colours on the water are wonderful..

Autumn shows the colours of the garden, but spring is just as grand I’m told.

A new family with young children are moving into Markdale to begin a next chapter in the life of this beautiful property.

…just think of the fun they will have with this bonfire!

PS….In true country style the family and local community had tea and coffee ready, and all the wonderful homemade cakes that you only see in the country…..scones and cream, lamingtons, lemon meringue pie, passionfruit slice, and of course,  Caramel slices, dripping with goodness ….be still my beating heart!!

I didn’t take a photo of all the wonderful cakes on offer, but here is a sample of an Aussie country favourite cake…a lamington.

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Lamingtons… photo by Taste.com

 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.

 

 

 

 

 

Autumn.. and I’ve got the empty bird bath blues

As soon as spring arrives, our garden becomes a playground for families of birds.IMG_8097 (1024x650)On this cold spring day the Cockatoos have perhaps given up on flying lessons for this big family……far too cold ….

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But on a brighter day, the babies are growing up…….. parents of all persuasions  are a pretty tolerant bunch.

This sweet looking Crimson Rosella, no doubt a parent, is watching on from the Japanese Maple, while the young ones enjoy the birdbath, and even better……..

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………a sprinkler shower as well!

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This little one is a Juvenile Crimson Rosella, and she is moulting and changing from green to red. At the moment she has nice red pantaloons, but is looking a bit awkward…just as most teenagers feel at times..

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This one is also changing colour, but she is a real water baby and spends all her time happily in the birdbath..

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The young Wattlebird is as hyperactive as her parents, and the mere thought of the water is sending her into a spin!

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Kookaburras are not that common in our area, but this young one has, perhaps, come down from Mt Taylor in search of water.

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She turned her head to give me her best side as if to say……”‘you’ll catch me soon @kooka.burra’

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Galahs are always found in family groups, but this little one has found his way here to our Bottlebrush bush on a very hot day…but waiting politely for his turn in the birdbath..

These young Eastern Rosellas are blending in nicely to the Japanese Maple

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Lovely to see these colours on a hot day..

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But the regulars in our garden are the Magpies, and this year a pair arrived with these three babies. Very soon it is obvious there are two fast learners…..

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and one High Maintenance Baby

 

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It was a long spring and summer with HM following Mum around plaintively calling for food, every morning and every evening. Mum seems young and anxious, and she gives in every time…

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One day, just for a little break, the whole family left HM up on the carport roof (plenty of grubs and fruit up there)

”I know you are down there!” she is calling

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Mum is just enjoying some peace and quiet in the veggie patch

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Dad’s having a bath…he’s had enough, he wants this baby off the payroll..

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As we drive away for our summer break, I wonder if HM is going to make it…she has to learn to feed herself…as Garrison Keiller says about difficult kids ”Just send money and pray”

 

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When we return from our summer holiday, the Magpies have gone…..in fact all the young birds have grown up and flown away…it’s very quiet here …I realise I’ve got the empty bird bath blues..

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Then, just as I write this, the three young Magpies come back for a visit….they poke around the lawn looking  for some worms, have a drink in the birdbath, and stay a while as we do some gardening..

HM Baby is turning her head to show she is listening for beetles, worms and grubs in the ground…she can feed herself!

IMG_1556 (1024x882)Just look at them!  So confident, these city slickers in their sharp Armani suits…all grown up and ready to go….when did that happen?

 

May they have a happy autumn and winter before their hectic turn at parenting begins..

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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