Tag Archives: water

”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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

Lake Crackenback, kangaroos, canoes and cool air..

Canberra is just a short drive away from the Snowy Mountains… the highest alpine wilderness in Australia.

The Lake Crackenback Resort, near Australia’s highest mountain, Mount Kosciuszko, is the perfect cool summer place for us to celebrate our 39th wedding  anniversary….where did the time go?

On our early morning walk we saw this beguiling little kangaroo….she waited patiently while we took about five photos. Can you believe that pose?

Meanwhile we noticed her mother had taken the younger Joey and was waiting anxiously for the star to finish her photo shoot…parents the world over can recognise that anxious look (and blissfully unaware younger brother/sister)

Our young star seems to be saying…

”well, maybe  I will….. maybe I won’t”   (she must be a teenager!)

Phew, she’s hopped down to join her family.

Off to shoot the breeze on the golf course..

Australia is the driest continent on earth, and since the 19th century with expanding settlement and farming, there has been a critical need for irrigation, and a water supply to combat droughts.

The Snowy Mountains, with melting snow and flowing rivers, was ideal for hydro-electricity. Thus began, in 1949 one of the biggest post WW11 projects, the Snowy Mountains Scheme. This scheme changed the course of Australian history in many ways, and definitely deserves its own post, later this year.

In the meanwhile, I’m passing on the canoeing (easy for some)….. but we are ready to try out the excellent pizzas in the Alpine Larder.

Look at the wonderful soft grasses!

I was brought up in Africa, running through grasses trying not to attract snakes and bugs, so I’m a latecomer to how beautiful they look in a landscape like this.

There are fences and gates between the kangaroos and houses, but ….

I bet it is hard to keep all the animals and insects away from new plants..

I loved the use of stone and timber in the house below, for a split second I think how nice it would be to live here…

But…. we are happy just to be here.

So, a toast to our 39th Wedding anniversary, and to having the good fortune to be able to stay in the lovely Snowy Mountains.

…and looking out over this most precious and elusive resource in Australia…water.

Copyright Geraldine Mackey All Rights Reserved.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Palermo’s English garden

 Paul and I have been in Italy  for a month, and we have enjoyed many wonderful Italian green spaces, so I’m turning Canberra’s Green Spaces into Italy’s Green Spaces for a month or so.

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this stunning Cathedral in Palermo was built in 1184 and has been transformed and re-built many times over the centuries.

Two years ago Paul retired to begin a PHD, and eighteen months later he was accepted to give a paper at an International Conference in Palermo, the capital city of Sicily. He is a good example of how retirement can bring a new and rewarding chapter to your life…and I’m very much enjoying being his support team and blogging about green spaces at the same time!

Palermo is a teeming colourful city with a grand history reflected in its buildings. It was once known as ”the garden city” because of its parks. These parks are centered around the city and are well used, and much needed with a population of city dwellers.

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Whenever we travel, I look for the parks to restore my energy….no more so than in  Palermo. This beautiful and well kept park is named The English Garden (Giardino Inglese) after a style of landscape that emerged in England in the 18th Century and spread across Europe.

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This style, typically, presented an idealised view of nature, and usually included, a lake or water feature, and gently rolling lawns set amongst groves of trees.

In the background of the photo below, a gardener is hand watering the lawn. Palermo has very hot summers and water must be precious.

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In the 18th Century parks were a sign of power and wealth, and were designed to compete and impress. Plants from all over the world were imported to create an exotic environment.

The banana trees do look exotic in this park, and fig trees are wonderfully sheltering and cool on a hot summer’s day.

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This English garden has many sculptures and a temple designed by Ernesto Basile, inspired by Arab-Norman architecture.

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Unfortunately, not all the fountains were active the day we were there, but what a peaceful cool place to sit..

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There is an impressive statue of Guiseppe Garibaldi  on the opposite side of the Viale della Liberta sculpted by Mario Rutelli in 1891.

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I often notice people reading in parks, and this fig tree is giving wonderful shade and protection to its readers.

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In cities teeming with millions of people, where living conditions are often cramped, parks are such a vital part of the city. Here in Palermo  they are used all day long …

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And here we have a group of young school children, being brought to the park by a wonderful young teacher and her assistant…as the children held onto a rope, the teacher sang a song all the way across four lanes of crazy traffic….what a class act!

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We visited many parks in Palermo, not all as well kept as this one, but all being used and enjoyed, probably more today than at any other time.

Copyright Geraldine  Mackey. All rights reserved.

 

I hope you can join me again soon to look at Villa Giulia in Palermo…this park had many plants very similar to the ones of my childhood home in Zambia (Central Africa) Nothing like plants to bring back memories!

 

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 desert in the heart of Canberra..

The city of Canberra is by no means a desert, however, at the National Botanic gardens, the stunning Sturt Desert Pea is flowering..

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I’m visiting the National Botanic gardens on a very hot day in February, to look at the amazing Red Centre garden, and then stroll down to the Fern Gully…to cool off..

IMG_0531 (1024x698)The Red Centre garden is designed to showcase the dramatic landscapes, sand dunes and rocky escarpments of central Australia, known as The Red Centre. The soil in the Red Centre is rich with iron oxide which gives it this distinctive colour.

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Central Meeting Place features Indigenous artist Teresa Pula McKeeman’s artwork and evokes Northern Territory women’s ceremonial dancing.

Canberra often has frosty, temperamental weather, so to design and plant a desert garden is, ”a well considered experiment” according to David Taylor, curator of the Botanic Gardens Living Collections.

Desert plants can be seen here that belong in the desert….many thousand kilometres away from Canberra in Central Australia. An area of research in the Gardens is using micrografting techniques to help plants survive in a different climate….. for example the Sturt Desert Pea uses New Zealand’s Clianthus Puniceus as stock….as a result it can survive the Canberra winter.

IMG_0692 (1024x627)David says ”this garden is as much about the landscape and the colours, the textures and the forms of Central Australia as it is about the plants.’

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On this hot day I am very drawn to this beautiful desert pea, what a symbol of life and hope for desert people and travellers.

This flower is named after the explorer Captain Charles Sturt and he is quoted as saying”one of the greatest ornaments of the desert regions of the interior of Australia.”

All flowers are something of a miracle in this desert country

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desert hibiscus

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Gossypium sturtianum Malvaceae

 

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A model of a Thorny Devil (Moloch horridus)

Here is a very life-like desert dragon on the children’s trail… (I can’t help thinking many of my younger students would surely have been terrified of this guy..)

However, this lizard, found in the desert, is perfectly designed to survive the harsh conditions. A system of tiny grooves between its scales channels water from all over its body to the mouth of the lizard. It can drink by just standing in the rain or from dew that settles on its body overnight.

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A water dragon

Here is a much more low-key real life water dragon, very well camouflaged on the rock.

I’m leaving the Red Centre as the temperature climbs to 35 C and going where it is wonderfully green and cool. The fern gully is one of the most popular places in the National Botanic  Gardens on a hot day, and I can see why…this fern gully is rich with stories for another time…

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