Tag Archives: Magpies

Parliament House in Canberra…..fences going up…

This is the entrance to Parliament House in Canberra, and it was designed by the New York based architectural company of Mitchell/Giurgola and Thorp.

The Italian architect Romaldo Giurgola said:

Parliament House should nest with the hill, symbolically rise out of the Australian landscape, as true democracy rises from the state of things.

The building lies low in the landscape and is designed for the Australian climate, the landscape, and the beautiful clear quality of light. .

Early morning light in late winter

This 196 square metre mosaic in the front of the building has the inscription….

this place where we  come and meet together…these drawings are part of the country we live in.

Mosaic designed by Aboriginal artist Michael Nelson Jagamara

Until recently it was the only Parliament in the world where you could walk over the Legislature.

Many tourists, and local Canberrans will remember walking to the top of the grassy slopes, to view the city, to watch fireworks at New Year.

However, times are changing, and there is soon to be fencing around Parliament House for extra security measures.

Recently, many people and their families met on the slopes of Parliament House to roll down the wonderfully grassy hills….in protest at the fences going up.

photo by Buzz Feed

(I immigrated to Australia as a young adult, and I think there is something endearingly Australian about such a protest!)

The end of an era, and, sadly, I imagine our grandchildren will be amazed to hear that such a thing was ever allowed…a time of innocence.

In late winter, when we arrived to take photos, the temporary fencing was being put in place.

Meanwhile life inside the building continues as before.

The entrance to Parliament House leads to the Marble Foyer. The 48 marble columns are in muted colours of pink and green….very much the colours of the Australian landscape.

The stairs are clad in green Cipollino marble from Italy and salmon pink marble from Portugal.

The walls feature twenty marquetry panels depicting Australian native flora.

Paul and I had come to look at the copy of the Magna Carta, on the first floor, unfortunately it has been removed for restoration.

……never mind, the best view on this clear winter morning is from the Queen’s Terrace Café ….

The front walls are clad with Paradise White Carrara marble from Italy, and the entrance is Red Christmas bush granite, quarried near Oberon in NSW

From here it is easy to see Walter Burley Griffin’s original design for Canberra.

 Parliament House is built into Capital Hill and from this viewpoint we can see Old Parliament House (now the Museum of Australian Democracy), the War Memorial and Mount Ainslie  

The white building is Old Parliament House, (now the Museum of Australian Democracy) behind it is the War Memorial and Mount Ainslie

You are never far away from bird life in Canberra, and this opportunistic Magpie has taken the chance to take my Blueberry Muffin, while we take photos on the Terrace.

We should know better!

Parliament House has lovely courtyard gardens, and is surrounded by flourishing Australian native plant gardens, and even resident bee hives……

Paul and I have booked a tour with one of the gardeners of Parliament House, so I hope you can join me for future spring posts at Parliament House.

Copyright Geraldine Mackey: All Rights Reserved.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cockatoos and Australian King Parrots….waiting for spring

So, what to do in winter if you are a cockatoo?

Sulphur Crested Cockatoos living in Canberra have an abundance of food, and very few enemies. So there is plenty of recreational time.

…During the dreary winter days why not practice undoing knots, and a tennis net is just the thing….

Parrot experts say that the parrot family are the smartest of all bird families, they continue to learn as they grow, rather than relying on instinct.

Luckily humans leave tempting problems like street lamps and tennis nets, and almonds wedged in the roof of carports..

A Sulphur Crested Cockatoo looking for almonds on the carport roof..

The Little Corella is a cousin of the cockatoo, and has become a frequent visitor to the Canberra region in recent years….judging by the amount of lamp post covers swinging in the wind.

Members of the Canberra Ornithologist Group have noticed Corellas teasing rows of Crested Pigeons perched on power lines by pushing them off balance..(obviously the Little Corella has no problem with balance)

Little Corella Judith Leitch www.birdlife.org.au

There is something very sweet about these Crested Pigeons, who manage to keep their fine hairdos in place regardless of the weather…(or teasing going on)

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In June, the beginning of winter, we usually have cold crisp days, with blue skies…

Food is still in abundance…

The Crimson Rosella feasting amongst the grass seeds in our garden

Then comes the grey, cold July days, and life becomes a bit tougher..

The male Australian King Parrot with vivid orange and deep green colouring, and the female Australian King Parrot with a softer green and orange chest.

On cold winter mornings these King Parrots perch on the guttering of our cabin in the garden. There they drink the melted icy water after a frosty night.

We have a Japanese Maple growing between the cabin in the garden and our house. This year the King Parrots have come to feed on the dried seed pods…

.. giving us a perfect chance for photos as we sit in the sunroom having coffee..

The female Australian King Parrot

The male King Parrot

The male King Parrot spends a lot of time rearranging his tail so that he can eat in comfort.

The male King Parrot, finishing a good meal!

This magnificent Yellow-Tailed Black Cockatoo flew into my neighbour’s garden last winter, and used the Silver Birch tree as a viewing platform in the hunt for food..

(Despite their regal appearance,  I read recently that their cousins the Orange-tailed Black Cockatoo in Western Australia have suffered injuries from Raven attacks.)

A Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoo

A Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoo feeding from a Banksia bush..

And now, in mid-August, there is warmth in the air, and the skies are occasionally blue again.

We saw this Magpie on our walk this morning, and he began warbling…… a very familiar and much loved Australia Magpie call.

My Scottish father used to say the bagpipes brought ”a stirring” to his heart and I think a Magpie’s warbling brings a stirring to most Australian hearts.

and back home, here is another important member of our garden bird family ….one very noisy Cockatoo!

”I told you spring was coming…doesn’t anybody listen to me anymore?”

… it is true, spring is almost here!

Paul and I are also waiting for a very special event in our lives, my daughter and her husband are soon to have a baby, our first grandchild!

Lake Tuggeranong

With the early morning light increasing, I have been getting up early (hard to sleep in when waiting for baby) and reading and enjoying many blogs …a lovely distraction.

May you enjoy your season, and green spaces, where ever you live in the world…

Copyright Geraldine Mackey: All Rights Reserved

 

Happy Wattle Day and spring time in Canberra!

I’m a little bit late for this greeting…. Wattle Day in Australia is 1st September, the beginning of spring.

The Golden Wattle flower is our national floral emblem.

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Golden Wattle National Archives of Australia

It is colourful, full of hope, incredibly resilient, and regenerates easily after fire. The perfect Australian plant.

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There are more than 1000 species of wattle in Australia, and I am told, somewhere in Australia a Wattle plant is flowering every day of the year. How about that!

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Terry Fewtrell, the Wattle Day Association President says that wattles have been part of the Australian landscape for 30 million years,

“Wattles are like the great silent witness to the whole Australian story…”

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I walked around my suburb on Wattle Day, and some Wattles were flowering…

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Some parts were nearly finished…

and some were just starting to bloom..

IMG_5569 (1024x813)Flowering in the National Art Gallery spring garden is a more unusual Wattle, with  a cinnamon coloured flower. It is called Acacia Leprosa or Scarlet Blaze.

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No matter which Wattle plant you choose for your garden, Angus Stewart, from Gardening Australia, says you are onto a winner … (in a very expressive Aussie kind of way)

”because wattles literally grow on the sniff of an empty fertilizer bag”

I was having a very Australian bird kind of day on the first day of spring as I walked….

The Red Wattle bird is watching me from the garden.

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Our resident magpie is….looking alert. Magpies can be tricky in spring because they become very territorial and can swoop passers-by. I like to think I’ve built up some good karma by providing so many water bowls for them in summer, not to mention putting up with high maintenance babies.

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At the end of the day….a call from the two very cute new kookaburras who seem to have set up home in our area..

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And, as the sun is setting over the Brindabella Mountains, more rain is promised this week…

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What could be better for the first week of spring?

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I hope you are enjoying your green spaces wherever you are in the world.

 

Birds in a winter Canberra garden…

 

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It is always a delight to see birds like the Eastern Spinebill in the garden. They are the smallest of the Honeyeaters in Australia and a treat to watch.

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We have planted more and more Pineapple Sage near the deck in our back garden, and this year the flowers lasted well into winter.

Now we can hear the strong call of the Eastern Spinebills on a winter morning…they are very welcome!

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The Canberra Ornithologists Group has a useful and easy to read book called ”Birds of Canberra Gardens”. It has beautiful photos of all the birds in this area.

IMG_4293 (1024x834)The bird on the front cover is a Gang Gang Cockatoo, and it is my dream to get a photo of one of these parrots one day!

Paul took this lovely photo of our resident male Superb Fairy Wren….. isn’t he a charmer?

The Superb Fairy Wren is a local species of Fairy Wren, and has adapted well to Canberra conditions.

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The Pied Currawong is also very common in the Canberra region. They are magnificent flyers, and can fly across the garden in a few graceful sweeps and land on a tiny branch or wire.

Pied Currawong (C) Harry Charalambous 2014 www.birdlife.org.au

Pied Currawong (C) Harry Charalambous 2014 www.birdlife.org.au

They are efficient and intelligent predators for the little birds gathering in our garden. Over time, Paul and the currawongs have reached a truce;  they have strictly flying rights only over the garden…no settling into bushes and on wires to watch and hunt little birds. We live near Mt Taylor where they can hunt in their natural environment.

Grey Currawong (C) William Betts 2015 www.birdlife.org.au

However, while we were on holiday the Currawongs enjoyed the lack of supervision, and had a touch of Oppositional Defiance Disorder when we got home. This is a well used photo I know, but so expressive!

The Crested Pigeons are found in most gardens in Canberra….they seem to love sitting on the overhead wires of gardens, huddled together in winter

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Baby its cold outside..

….are they on the alert for predators? Not in Canberra I suspect..

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The description of the Sulphur Crested Cockatoo in the Birds of Canberra book begins

..”they are very conspicuous, noisy and gregarious birds commonly seen in Canberra gardens…. ”

What a perfect description of these birds!

One of our resident Cockatoos was sitting on the carport roof waiting to greet us when we got back from Italy.

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”Oh Hi! You’re back…..just let me finish eating the almonds and I’ll show you what we’ve done in the front garden

”We’ve stripped the Iron Bark Eucalypt of almost all its flowers….the nectar was nice..”

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and the whole street is littered with small branches…it looks as if a shredding machine has been through the street….

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Canberra’s suburban streets are lined with corridors of natural bushland and so the Cockatoos and other wild birds have a choice of homes

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This hollow has been a nesting place for young cockatoos over the years…

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Australian Magpies are described as;

”boldly marked, confiding and abundant, one of Australia’s best known birds. They feed on  insects and other invertebrates on lawns and open ground, and may become tame if fed.

Here is one of our local Magpies….the water baby, regardless of the weather!

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Look at this industrious Magpie…is she collecting bits for a nest already? In mid-July?

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In spring I hope to bring you more photos of some of the many birds in Canberra gardens.

…… in the meanwhile, enjoy the birds in your neighbourhood where ever you live.

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.

 

 

 

 

A grand site for a city…

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In 1913 Walter Burley Griffin, a young architect from Chicago was the winner of a design competition for the new capital city of Australia. His wife, Marion Mahony did many of the design drawings for the project. She was the first woman in America to become a licensed architect. They made a remarkable team.

On his first visit to Australia, at the site for the future capital city, Canberra, Walter Burley Griffin told the Melbourne Press,

”I think this is a grand site for a city. Of course I’m pretty familiar with the layout of the land, but drawings and photos can give you no real idea of the contour of the country and its charms

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Views of the Brindabella Ranges from our house on the south side of the city of Canberra.

The morning and the evening lights at Canberra are wonderful.

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The shadows of the clouds and mists as they cross the mountains are very beautiful indeed.IMG_0747 (1024x622)

Walter and Marion believed that good planning and architecture could improve the quality of life of the people living in a city.

With their vision, Canberra is designed to have several town centres,  with corridors of greenery and bush in between, and several small lakes…

Rodney Moss, former Professor of Architecture at the University of Canberra and Director of Cox Architecture says,

”Canberra is a city designed within a landscape setting..”

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It is possible to go rowing before work..

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or keep an eye out for the sleeping cockatoos as you drive to work…

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or walk along the backtracks behind our suburbs..

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The corridors of bush means that wild birds and kangaroos live in a companionable way around  us….

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one of the many young kangaroos watching us as we walk up Mt Taylor

Magpies are part of the family…(sometimes not in spring, but that is another story)

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These parrots visit our cabin in the garden for some unfrozen water in winter …

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In summer our fruit trees are given over to the birds

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They are worth it!

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Early on a hot summer’s  morning the sun shines through the gum (eucalypt) trees…

..as Walter remarked……it really is all about the light.

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Once Walter Burley Griffin had seen the site he said he was reminded of a great American artist, George Innes..

he said every one of his paintings reminded him of Canberra.

Thanks to the magic of the internet, I’ve looked up some of his paintings, and I agree, the light in many of George Innes’s paintings is very similar to the light in Canberra.

Walter never did see his design completed, and he died unexpectedly while working in the north eastern Indian city of Lucknow. Fortunately Marion was at his side when he died, and she did make the journey back to Canberra to see it as a fledging city. …but that is a much bigger story..

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Summertime with the birds

Here comes trouble…

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I wonder how long it would take me to undo that?

IMG_3281 (909x1024)       Just waiting for my buddies…

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Time to crack open a few almonds sitting on the carport roof……

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and he said and she said…

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Meanwhile, early morning in the garden on a very hot day, all the birdbaths are ready…

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magpies always wait their turn….

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Wattle birds are in and out like a flash, drying off on the camellias…

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Softly, softly, with parrots, much too shy to come out if the cockatoos are around

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and for the sheer joy of living, here is our baby magpie enjoying the sprinkler…

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Oh the sheer anticipation of that sprinkler…here I go….

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..adrenaline rush…..Quick back up on the pot to do it all again..

Where would we be without them?

 

 

 

Canberra’s native gardens around Parliament House

Parliament House in Canberra covers an area of 33 hectares on Capital Hill. There are 10 hectares of turf (easy to see) and 13 hectares of garden beds. I have written a post on the courtyard gardens, but native gardens around the building actually make up about nine hectares of the gardens.

IMG_5637 (640x390)In 1988 the native gardens were originally planted as a dense understory beneath the canopy of trees.

Canberra suffered a very long drought, starting in 2003 ….the native gardens were watered until 2006 when the whole region began severe water restrictions. To achieve a 45 per cent reduction in water use, the irrigation of the native gardens was stopped. As with many gardens in Canberra, some plants were lost,  others adapted well, and some were replaced by shrubs that could tolerate drier conditions.

Here are some of the native plants that have survived and thrived…..

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Hairpin banksias (Banksia spinulosa)

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Eriostemon

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An early flowering Bottle brush (Callistemons) in this part of the garden

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Grevillea ground cover

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Grevillea shrub

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Purple Mint Bush (Prostanthera ovalifolia)

The gardens fit into the landscape so well that it is surprising to find paths winding throughout the shrubs and trees, it is easy to forget we are walking between Parliament House and a busy road!

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Tennis courts, for use by all parliamentary staff, are almost hidden amongst the trees..

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and a Senate oval is used for volleyball, football and touch football. The hedge of Bottlebrushes are unfortunately not flowering yet, we’ll come back later for them.

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The plants at either side of the Senate oval steps are hairpin banksias and white Correas

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Natives grasses are used as boundaries between one garden and another….unfortunately the snowy river wattle (Acacia boormanii) has almost finished flowering (behind the native grasses)

I love the white barked gum trees which can look spectacular in the evening or early morning light.

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This is the perfect habitat for birds, but, today, we’ve only seen the larger birds around…. ravens, magpies, and of course…..a currawong being swooped by poor swallows as they try to defend their nest.

It must be spring!

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a Magpie studiously ignoring the frantic call of a Plover.

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a Currawong looking out for the swallow’s nest…

The Senate gardens are slightly different to the House of Representative gardens, so I’ll write about that in a new post.

Canberra’s spring festival…..the South African Embassy

As part of the spring festival in Canberra, many Embassies have opened their doors and gardens to the public, and South Africa is one of those Embassies.

IMG_5145 (640x367)The South African Embassy is one of the oldest in the diplomatic circle in Canberra. The beautiful Cape Dutch building was established in 1956, and the gardens were designed at this time. The elegant buildings and grounds reflect the era in which it was built.

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It is surprising these lovely long lawns have survived the drought. Nowadays many embassies, including this one, have very large water tanks to store rain water. Some years ago, Canberra suffered 10 years of drought, and since then there have been permanent water restrictions for watering gardens.

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However, this year we have had plenty of winter rainfall and everything is looking very green and lush.

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The Galahs have found some tasty seeds in the lawns of the Embassy, and, a Magpie is making a nest in one of the many trees nearby.IMG_5154 (640x480)IMG_5150 (640x368)During nesting times, Magpies become very territorial, and I’m watching her, watching me…..

In the front of the building is a wonderful bush full of proteas, the emblem for South Africa. My mother spent her childhood in South Africa, and she felt homesick every time she saw a protea…(or a Red Hot Poker, or Flame Lily)

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The plants in the garden are a mix of those that grow well in Canberra and those that represent South Africa..

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colourful, frost tolerant salvias..

 

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Loropetalum

 

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African daisy

and some flowers that seem to have strayed in from Monet’s garden…

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We visited South Africa a few years ago and enjoyed the markets, the colourful fruit and vegetables and the lovely fresh food served in restaurants…….IMG_5050 (634x640)

As one of the South African waiters said to me…when I mentioned that she had given me a very large serving….

“‘ What are you worrying about?……you can go on a diet when you get home….”

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I’m using this logic today at the Embassy cupcake stall…even though home isn’t very far away.

 

 

 

A cottage garden in the inner city

gardenpathEighty bags of manure a year, plenty of mulching, slow release fertilizer, a couple of water tanks, an artistic sister, a sense of humour, and a whole lot of love for gardening….that is all you need to have a garden like Christine Fernon’s.

 

In February this year I visited this wonderful cottage garden in the inner city of Canberra. Christine bought the property ten years ago, and although it is hard to believe now, the garden was completely overrun, and she began from scratch to re-build it. Now the garden is crammed full of plants, flowers and vegetables. In a space smaller than many Canberra gardens, she has four vegetable beds, and another area where she grows rhubarb, strawberries and chives.

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There is espaliered fruit along the driveway with almond, feijoa, crab apples and quince trees.

The rest of the garden is packed full of colourful flowers and shrubs. Her sister has taught her ceramics and the garden is dotted with ceramic figures, pots and whimsical garden labels.

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She  has three slimline water tanks, two aerobin compost bins, plus a worm farm. The water tanks are mainly for the veggies and potted plants, and no pesticides are used in the garden.

 

But I’m sure the key to this lush and healthy looking garden is the end of winter ”energy drink” of cow manure/mushroom compost/blood and bone, and slow release seaweed solution and mulching during summer. …….very hard to sustain that kind of dedication!

Every bit of the garden is inspiring and needless to say the bees and birds abound. Christine has 6 birdbaths in all; one show-off magpie was taking his daily constitutional despite all the Open Garden busy-bodies in his garden.

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Christine has included a birdbath on the nature strip in the front of her property and it is used in summer for the kangaroos who stop off at night-time for a drink….so very close to the Parliamentary Triangle.

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