Sydney and Canberra Lockdown walks, Reid’s Tiny Farm and spring is in the air…

My brother, Neil lives in Sydney and every morning, regardless of the weather, he walks with a small group of like-minded guys who are up early…usually a bit before dawn.

Sydney and Canberra are in Lockdown, and residents are allowed two hours of exercise (close to home) every day in both cities. Bondi beach, and the cliffs beyond make for ever changing views of the city and the beach, especially at dawn. How very lucky they are to have these views, at any time, but especially during a Lockdown period.

One of the walkers, Tim Read, regularly takes photos with various cameras, and has kindly allowed me to show these two. Many thanks Tim.

Bondi Beach and the Tidal Pool (Photos by Tim Read: All Rights Reserved)

Although Sydney is only a four hour drive away from Canberra, our climates are very different . I often envy my brother his walks as I sit shivering in my study in Canberra in winter and spring. However, our compensation is spring!

This year we had a long cold and rainy winter, and it was lovely to see the blossoms finally arrive on the plum tree..

and the almond tree..

The Wattle trees Paul planted a few years ago are enthusiastically flowering in the new garden.

We have become philosophical about the amount of blossoms lost to the birds…

In fact the King Parrot feeds on blossoms just above us, as we sit on the deck having coffee, blossoms raining down like confetti.

The Galahs look like Australian State Premiers trying to decide on a pathway out of this pandemic.

Canberra’s suburbs are surrounded by paths and bushland, and during these Lockdown periods many Canberrans have joined the Facebook Wildlife photography group, and are publishing a wide range of colourful parrots and birds.

A Crimson Rosella in a Eucalyptus tree

We live in one of the outer suburbs of Canberra, and McQuoids Hill, a nature park nearby, has become a very popular walking destination since Lockdown.

This landscape is very similar to the landscape of my childhood and that of my brothers, in Central Africa.

Paul in the distance walking down McQuoit Hill

We have only seen kangaroos on walks in this area, but people regularly take photos of Wallaroos (a cross between a wallaby and a kangaroo) so I’ll try to get a photos of them.

Kangaroos must be curious as to the increased human traffic on these paths.
Sulphur Crested Cockatoos are everywhere..

During winter we read an inspiring local story about Dimity May who has started a small business growing local organic seedlings tailored to our Canberra market. She called it Reid Tiny Farm. (Dimity was born and raised in Reid, a suburb of Canberra.)

Dimity May with some of her organic seedlings and vegetables..(Photo: Canberra Times)

Dimity had always been passionate about organic products, and has a Permaculture Design Certificate at Allsun Farm at Gundaroo. Later she completed a market gardener masterclass developed by a renowned farmer and regenerative agricultural advocate Jean Martin, based in Quebec. (an online course mainly for professional growers)

seedling -raising cocoon tunnel from Active Vista Tasmania (Photo Canberra Times)

She’s had a challenging start to her business, with baking hot days last year, followed by torrential rain this year. However she has moved her business to Pialligo’s Garden Lots, and now has a seedling-raising cocoon tunnel purchased from Active Vista in Tasmania. Dimity’s father built the frames for the seedlings. The whole family is involved in her business, and hopefully they can continue to help her during this Lockdown.

At the start of 2020 Dimity began growing seedlings organically and has gradually developed her business. Now a subscriber can get a small or large box of seasonal seedlings four times a year.

We had subscribed to Dimity’s project during winter, and when she emailed to say our spring seedlings were ready, we were thrilled… it was just in time to start planting new seedlings and, chance to get out of the house!

Unfortunately it was teeming down with rain the morning we went to get our seedings, so I haven’t yet taken any photos of Dimity and her surroundings, or the polytunnel.

However, here is our bounty! We chose to buy a small box of seedlings (4 boxes a year, one for every season) and this spring the seedlings we have are; beetroot, radish, broccoli, cos lettuce, red butterhead lettuce, English spinach, cabbage and pak choi. (some we have given to neighbours.)

Our seedlings look very healthy and happy, and in between the seedlings we have some small plastic white butterflies to chase away real white cabbage moth/butterflies.

Dimity has, on her website, a quote by Martin Fortier (a farmer educator and award winning author) and this quote seems just right for Dimity’s business.

What we need is food grown with care by and for people who care.

reidtinyfarm.com.au

Thank you for visiting my blog today, and I hope everyone can enjoy a bit of sunshine and small pleasures during these uncertain times.

Copyright Geraldine Mackey: All Rights Reserved.

Birds, Ouma’s Cookery Book, Raymond Blanc with Covid: are we changing?

We are back in Lockdown here in Canberra, as are many states of Australia. The Delta variant is a tough one, and Paul and I thank our lucky stars we are vaccinated.

The good news is, spring is on its way, and with it, come the birds. I took this photo of the Sulphur Crested Cockatoo from my study while I was typing. He/she has decided to walk along the road rather than fly. It could be that the roads are so quiet now, but as regular readers of this blog know, Cockatoos are a law unto themselves, and he is on a mission.

There is something endearing and reassuring about birds arriving in the garden during spring….. life goes on in the usual way, regardless of Lockdowns.

This Juvenile Kookaburra is a very welcome visitor, especially as a family of Kookaburras come to our garden every year in August, they are not regulars. I would like to think it is to show off the new baby, but in reality it is probably because we have plenty of birdbaths and veggie beds with worms in them.

The parent Kookaburra is taking his time at the blue birdbath.

Just before Lockdown began, we started moving all our books from a shelf near the kitchen. I pulled out a very old copy of my mother’s book, called Ouma’s Cookery Book. The first edition was published in 1940, in Pretoria, South Africa. My mother bought the seventh edition of this book in 1958. My sister-in-law has a recent edition. A publisher’s dream!

The book was compiled originally from recipes donated by women in South Africa between the first and second world wars. The first editions featured war-time recipes and gradually more recipes were added with each new edition. It is much more than just a recipe book, it has practical information on how to make do and feed a household, when times were tough. It is also full of quotes and comments and interesting social history, more relevant today with our current pandemic.

My mother, who’s own mother died when she was young, no doubt learnt all she needed to know from this book, especially when she and my father lived on a farm in a remote part of central Africa.

It is lovely to see Mum’s handwriting, she has hastily written her Lemon Delicious Pudding recipe, very popular with the whole family

Sadly it has been many years since I have used a recipe from this book, and it is only now that we are in Lockdown that I have time to go through it, and enjoy all the quotes, and perhaps try a recipe or two. (If I’m successful I’ll let you know)

I have also been reading an article in the British Edition of Country Living called To the Manor Reborn. It is the story of Raymond Blanc, a Michelin star chef and restaurant owner in London, who is recovering from Covid. He has had to work very hard to recover, and says during his recovery he thought of food and gardens, and remembered his childhood near Besancon in eastern France, where the family lived off homegrown vegetables and the odd rabbit.

The experience of Covid has changed his ideas of food.

‘I think the environment is going to define very much what we eat from now on, post-pandemic we’ll be all looking for local produce, there will be a re-discovery of lost skill. My mother created the full foundation of my food philosophy. She taught me about the soil, the environment, about joy, about sharing, about teaching.”

Since being interviewed, Raymond’s elderly mother died, and he has written a book called Simply Raymond: Recipes from Home. The book is dedicated to his mother.

It will be interesting to see how this pandemic changes us. I think there is already a rising interest in locally grown food, and we plan to increase our own garden beds with more of our produce in mind.

No matter how you get your food, the pandemic has shown me that sharing that food with friends and families is surely one of the most enjoyable experience in life. The recipe I distinctly remember as a child from Ouma’s cookery book was Koeksisters, a kind of doughy plait, exploding with syrup. Not the most healthy dish in the world, but a lovely plate to share with friends and family. South Africans are famous for their coffee, and I’m sure these Koeksisters are meant to accompany coffee or a Rooibos tea.

Koeksisters Recipe: photo by Introducing South Africa

Thank you for reading my blog today, and best wishes to everyone. May your garden, and your food and family and friends, sustain you during these Covid days.

Baby boom for birds amongst their favourite trees, scones and cream and a tree kangaroo

Crimson Rosellas in the shade of a Eucalyptus tree.

International Tree Day is coming up on Sunday 1st August. Time to celebrate all our beautiful trees in Australia. and the wonderful array of birds that rely on these trees.

The states surrounding Canberra (ACT), are either in Lockdown or just coming out of Lockdown, and everything is very wintery and quiet..

Despite a few blue skies you may see in some of today’s photos, don’t believe it…. Canberra is having a cold, rainy, windy winter.

The brightest colour in the garden this week was the cockatoo’s yellow crest.

Fortunately birds are still visiting the garden and we are also going for bush walks around Canberra, when the rain stopped. While we were walking along Coolamen Ridge, on a rare sunny day, we noticed the juvenile Kookaburra below calling for his family..

Why are we seeing juvenile birds in the middle of winter? Perhaps, as a result of the rain, there is an abundance of food… Paul suggested a bird baby boom. Well that would be something positive in these Covid times.

Two juvenile Rainbow Lorikeets exploring near the hollow in the tree…there’s always a daredevil isn’t there?

These magnificent Eucalyptus trees are providing a haven for the birds to feed on and nest in hollows. Imagine how safe and warm they would be on windy rainy days.

One of the adult Rainbow Lorikeets is the ”scout” and she has a good vantage point.

The Australian National Botanic Gardens is a wonderful place for wildlife because there are so many Eucalyptus trees.

This Crimson Rosella has returned to a hollow in a Eucalyptus tree at the gardens
Gang Gang Cockatoos are quiet and elusive and never far from the protection of Eucalyptus trees

Australia has a wide variety of bird and animal life, and while we are on the topic of trees, there is a unique marsupial very much connected to trees, called the Tree Kangaroo.

While visiting my cousin in the Atherton Tablelands in Queensland in 2017 we stopped off at the Nerada Tea farm. This is the largest supplier of Australian grown tea, and not only do they have a lovely shop with lots of interesting teas and specially selected imported teas,

they also have a tea room with very inviting scones and cream.

As this is dairy farming country the lashings of cream on warm scones was delicious but messy!

After visiting the shop, we noticed a furry animal in one of the trees….a tree kangaroo! Very difficult to take photos of these shy animals, as it is very hard to see them. They look a bit like furry teddy bears with long tails. This was the first time for all three of us to see one in the wild.

Tree Kangaroos are kangaroos that live in trees. They have small ears and shorter legs and arms, their feet have curved claws for gripping and climbing. They are marsupials and are the largest tree-dwelling mammals in Australia. The Lumholtz Tree Kangaroos is the smallest of the species, and are found in the rainforest patches on the Atherton Tablelands.

Tree kangaroos feed on leaves and foliage and fruit and flowers of native trees in the rainforest.

This Tree kangaroo had a baby in its pouch.
A Lumholtz Tree Kangaroo: Photo National Zoo and Aquarium

Fortunately I was able to get a photo of a Tree Kangaroo from our own National Zoo. I must say this tree kangaroo is looking very well groomed and smart.

On this wild and wet day we stopped off at small cafes and shops selling delicious foods, specialist food products and coffee. A very satisfying day indeed.

Many thanks for taking the time to read my blog post today. With so many people in Lockdown or quarantine, or just being careful during these Covid times, I noticed a Zulu saying (undoubtedly meant for hunting) but true for us today ..

”To be clever is to be still”

Go well.

Geraldine Mackey: Copyright All Rights Reserved.

Canberra’s winter photos…. those that didn’t make the cut.

Well here we are in the middle of winter in Canberra, and I have left my camera in Melbourne.

Canberra, with its beautiful clear autumn and winter light, lends itself to photography. My Iphone is fine for family photos, but my camera is better for landscapes.

However, I do have many, many folders of photos that have not been used. I wonder how many bloggers are the same? I am better at de-cluttering the house than getting rid of photos. You just never know when you will need them.

So here are a few photos from these folders of my favourite places to walk, take photos, and have coffee in Canberra. Some photos have been used in previous posts, but many have been hiding in all those folders.

Ann Moyal, a writer, and an academic, had to say….

“I have been in love with Canberra for over sixty years. Its parched landscape, its ring of deep blue mountains etched against an iridescent sky. Its light and calming beauty…

Canberra’s suburbs are full of birds all year round, but in autumn and winter we start to notice some our most colourful visitors…the King Parrots.

T

The male Australian King Parrot is the only Australian parrot with a completely red head. The female King parrot has a green head and neck.

Australian National Botanic Gardens

The Rainbow Lorikeet is a beautiful splash of colour against the Eucalyptus tree in autumn.

Lake Burley Griffin

Early morning walkers and bike riders are dedicated…they are relaxing around the lake in every season ..even winter.

The National Library of Australia

This is my favourite building, one of the best places for coffee, and so warm and comfortable too!

The National Art Gallery of Australia sculpture: Floating Figure by Gaston Lachaise

I always enjoy the native gardens in Art Gallery gardens, and the sculptures change with every season.

The National Art Gallery of Australia sculpture: Cones by Bert Flugelman

Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve is not far from the city centre, and is full of wildlife..

I have many photos of kangaroos as a result of our visits during spring. However, for some reason this photo never makes the cut.

An Emu at Tidbinbilla.

When we first came to Canberra we went to Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve at Easter time with our two young children (after our Easter hunt back home). We found a picnic table and sat down to have our picnic and Easter eggs. Some Emus appeared out of nowhere and two of them snipped up the Easter eggs, and off they went into the bushes! Our daughters have had a very cautious approach to Emus every since.

One of my absolute favourite places for a walk in autumn and winter is around the suburb of Yarralumla.

Government House Yarralumla

This is the house where the Governor General resides, and has a wonderful view across the lake. There lines in the water are for rowing boats.

In summer time I sometimes meet friends at a coffee shop near here, and the mature shady gardens are a wonderful place to sit on a warm day.

During one of my visits, a very organised lady arrived with her greyhound and small dog. I asked if she would like me to keep an eye on them while she ordered her coffee. She thanked me, but said the little dog was the boss, and even with her restricted collar, she would not let the greyhound move away.

I could believe it!

Just as I write this today, Australia has experienced a spike in COVID cases in Sydney, and short Lockdowns have begun. This is a timely reminder to get vaccinated. Paul and I have had our first vaccine with no side effects and will have the second dose in August.

Thank you for taking the time to read my blog today, and may your garden, your home and family be happy and safe, where ever you are in the world.

Copyright: Geraldine Mackey: All Rights Reserved.

Koala hospital in Port Macquarie and …the weather!

We recently visited the pretty coastal town of Port Macquarie, in New South Wales.

Many years ago, my parents retired to Port Macquarie, and they lived in a small but comfortable coastal cottage surrounded by Eucalyptus trees.

The real bonus for every day living was that they lived across the road from a National Park and Wild Life sanctuary.

I have many memories of my parents, Paul and I taking our daughters to visit the park and the koalas. Tiny hands linked in ours as we crossed the road and walked slowly into the park. Time always seemed to slow down as we walked across the park, taking in the colours, the smells and the birds..

My mother would peel away a bit of bark from one of the trees and talk to the girls about the tiny insect world just below the surface of the tree. She always drew attention to the details..

The historic homestead Roto House is nestled into the park, hard to believe there are roads nearby…

My parents spent many years taking all their grandchildren for walks over to the park, and especially to the Koala Hospital, which was in the early stages of development.

The hospital became much better known during the dreadful bushfires all over Australia in December and January 2000.

These fires had a devastating affect on the local koalas, and the hospital also became the emergency ”go to” place for people far and wide trying to rescue koalas.

These photos show the koalas who survived and thrived, there were so many who did not.

I took this photo of the Koala Hospital theatre through the window, my apologies for the shadows..

Thankfully the hospital is now a much calmer place, and as a result of the generous donations from around the world, the Koala Hospital is actively working to keep local koalas healthy, increasing education programs and research into koala health and diseases.

The koala hospital is a series of outdoor large fenced ”wards”. Each ward has tree trunks, branches and Eucalyptus leaves, so koalas are in their natural habitat.

As the koala’s health improves, he/she is moved to a ”ward” closer to the bushland. These koalas have trees to climb, getting them ready for a return to the wild.

However, some koalas can never be returned to the wild, and these koalas remain permanent residents at the Koala Hospital.

The koala above is called Ocean Summer. Her mother was hit by a car and killed, but Ocean Summer survived, despite being only one kilogram when she was brought to the hospital. She was raised by home carers. Her eyes are normal, but due due to the accident she has some brain injury and cannot see. Summer has adapted well to her environment and will stay in the hospital permanently.

Tourists are taken in small groups around the hospital. Each koala has a chart with the koala’s name and biographical details giving the reasons the koala is here.

Some quiz questions for visitors are embedded in one of the local trees… here is just one..

Amazing!

There were many stories about koalas living in Port Macquarie, and Garage Girl was one of the most endearing.

While we were at the Koala Hospital, they had a sale on eucalyptus trees.

My parents died many years ago now, and it is always a trip down memory lane when we go to Port Macquarie. We try to come in May or June and enjoy the bright sunny days, and coastal walks..

but this time the weather turned from mild to wild in Port Macquarie, and it has been like that ever since!

The beach was battered by the storms during the night

With weather in mind, my last photo is not of Port Macquarie, but taken in Mareeba in Far North Queensland. This sign was at the Mareeba Museum, a wonderful place to go if you are visiting this region. North Queensland often gets cyclones in summer, and this endearing sign shows the resilience and humour of people…all over the world… who live with difficult weather conditions!

Thank you for visiting my blog today. Here’s hoping your weather is mild, where ever you are in the world today.

Copyright Geraldine Mackey: All Rights Reserved

Eagle’s Bluff: a garden in a unique Australian landscape

As some readers may already know, I love the gardening book, Australian Dreamscapes, and when ever possible we try to visit a Dreamscape garden on our travels.

I hope you have time to look, and enjoy, this stunning and unique garden called Eagle’s Bluff near Tenterfield in New South Wales, which is featured in Australian Dreamscapes.

Carolyn Robinson, a garden designer and plantswoman, had travelled to many parts of the world with her husband Peter, before they settled in the picturesque town of Tenterfield in New South Wales. Carolyn became well known for her garden design and for creating a lovely, more traditional garden called Glenrock near Tenterfield.

However, for the next chapter of their lives, Carolyn and her husband Peter fell in love with a a more rural property, Eagle’s Bluff, overlooking the Bluff Wilderness area near Tenterfield.

A young kangaroo stops in its tracks as we drive up to the house.

In a remarkably short space of time, they built a house, surrounded on three sides by a river with a backdrop of hills in this rugged landscape. Equally remarkable, Carolyn has planted an expansive garden, full of native and exotic plants, trees and gently swaying grasses.

Carolyn says in Australian Dreamscapes, ”At Eagle’s Bluff the landscape was far more imposing, I could open my mind to the landscape and flow with it. It is a wonderful feeling of being free and not hindered by traditional gardening styles.”

The house has magnificent views from the large windows, looking out onto their pond which reflects the sky, the clouds and the mountains.

The view encourages the eye to look further into the garden and across to the river and the mountains.

Amongst her many talents, Carolyn has been collecting stones and rocks for twenty or so years, and uses them to make stone walls to provide structure in the garden. When she and her husband Peter bought the property, she was delighted to find that there was a jumble of rocks, many of which were flat sided, and able to be used in her new garden.

Carolyn says the stone walls act as a ha-ha foreshortening the distance to the river. Sweeping gardens by the pond are filled with low-growing shrubs and perennials…..absolutely breath-taking on this glorious autumn day.

Pennisetum advena Rubrum in the foreground.

The paths and the soft green lawns lead us on through a wonderful series of gardens. Carolyn is renowned for her appealing plant palettes, using a variety of shapes, colours and textures.

The gardens spread out like an amphitheatre for the surrounding hills. There are Salvias, Westringa, Lavenders, Grevilleas and many more well chosen plants for the climate.

Salvia leucantha Red Harry

Another of Carolyn’s quotes from the book ”Foliage colour is more important than the flower colour, and the use of purple foliage is a signature of my design because it works well with glaucous shades in the native vegetation and acts as a foil for the harsh Australian light.”

self sown Gaura & Salvia leucantha (Red Harry)
Buddleia ”Lockinch”

Carolyn and has planted to encourage the bees, butterflies and birds, and all were in abundance the day we were there.

Buddleia ‘Lockinch’
Burgundy Berberis thunbergii ‘Atropurpurea Nana and Kniphofia
Autumn flowering Kniphofia and a tiny New Holland Honeyeater

Tenterfield has cold frosty winters, (occasionally light snow), and moderate hot wet summers. However, as with many parts of Australia, there can be floods and droughts and fires….all of which have occurred in the last few years.

The Robinsons’ main water supply comes from the river, but mindful of the vagaries of the Australian climate, they also have a small dam and two large tanks in case of drought. There is a sprinkler system through the garden, a feat in itself!

Carolyn also plants with drought hardiness in mind and says it is crucial to put plants with similar water needs together.

Deciduous trees, claret ash, golden ash, pistachio, pear and crabapples and prunus are all grouped together, and give shade, but on 40 degree summer days they can be given a drink if needed.

Most of the garden beds are covered with pebbles or crushed rock, and even small amounts of rain can soak through the gravel and stones.

Pennisetum advena Rubrum, Gaura, lavenders, David Austin roses surrounded by paddocks and hills

Carolyn loves a mix of plants, massing ground covers, shrubs and formal hedges contrast against textured foliage, spreading natives and flowing ornamental grasses..

A splash of colour from the Gladiolus
I love the soft green ground cover, Santolina.

To soften the look of the hill on the south side, which was sadly denuded of trees some years ago, Carolyn has added eucalypts and chosen companion plants that would be able to handle competition as they matured.

One distinct lesson Carolyn has learnt from her previous garden, is to plant everything together, when the Eucalyptus are tiny. That way, all the plants around have a chance to develop their root zones and get their defences going before the Eucalyptus dominate. She says ”I always see it as roots waging war under the ground!”

Santolina for ground cover and Yucca rostrata ”Sapphire skies” in the distance.
a better look at the Yucca rostrata ”Sapphire skies” in the above photo

Carolyn expressed her wish for this garden: ‘‘I wanted to create a garden in harmony with the wider landscape, and , in a small way, enhance the spirit of the place”

Carolyn and her husband Peter kindly offered us coffee and cake when we had finished taking photos. As we sat chatting, looking out across the pond, the gardens and the blue hills beyond, I felt that Carolyn had indeed enhanced the spirit of this captivating landscape.

Eagle’s Bluff is a private garden and not available for general viewing, however, the first garden Carolyn created near Tenterfield, called Glenrock is often open during the year.

There are two Dreamscape books, one called Australian Dreamscapes, and another simply called Dreamscapes, featuring gardens all over the world.

Hillandale: a garden for the Impressionists about Sarah Ryan’s garden at Yetholme in New South Wales, Australia. (Dreamscapes Australia)

Fisherman’s Bay Gardens As much as we would like to make gardener Jill Simpson an honorary Australian, her garden is set in beautiful Akaroa in New Zealand, and therefore Jill is featured in the first book called Dreamscapes.

All three gardens are featured on Instagram.

Thank you for reading my blog post today, and may you enjoy your garden or nearby greenery, near or far, summer or winter.

Copyright: Geraldine Mackey: All Rights Reserved

Autumn in Canberra: The National Arboretum, garden flowers and birdlife.

The poet Mary Oliver liked to go out walking early in the morning. Although her landscape in the USA is undoubtedly different to mine, her poem has universal appeal to all who go out early in the morning.

Softest of mornings hello. And what will you do today, I wonder with my heart…

The National Arboretum of Canberra is a wonderful place to see the sun rise on a soft autumn morning.

Autumn is a very busy time for us, and we are trying get as much planting and tidying done in our garden, before we go and visit other gardens.

So here are just a few photos of our autumn garden…. and of course, the birds that come to visit…

A King Parrot feeding a young chick
Easter daisies are a welcome addition to the autumn garden, the flowers are still attracting the bees
The Chinese Lantern loves an abundance of rain, and has flowered all through the autumn
Charlie cooling down amongst the Japanese anemones
The Crimson Rosella is checking up on the last of our almonds
Our granddaughter loves putting water in the apron of this little statue…
The Pineapple Sage almost covering the window!

The tiny Eastern Spinebill is a regular visitor, feeding on the Pineapple Sage, which has almost taken over this part of the garden.

It is a most elusive little bird, but Paul just managed to get a photo of him with his phone.

My neighbour’s beautiful Banksia shines at us every morning
It is amazing that cockatoos do not electrocute themselves!
Job done!

Thank you for visiting Canberra’s Green Spaces today, and I hope your autumn or spring days are bright and sunny, where ever you are in the world.

Geraldine Mackey Copyright: All Rights Reserved

Sydney: The Royal Botanic garden, the Harbour, and the North Head Quarantine station

Early morning at Balmoral beach

We recently spent a couple of days celebrating our anniversary in a beachside area of Sydney.

Sydney on a summer’s day is full of sunshine, colour and birds. I had fun taking photos of the suburban gardens and our ferry trip into the city..

Frangipani
Red flowering eucalyptus Corymbia ‘Summer Red’ It is a hybrid between two different Western Australian species (C.ficifolia and C.ptychocarpa

This small tree is one of the most widely planted ornamental eucalyptus trees in Australia. It only grows about 5 metres tall so is suitable for gardens in Sydney. It has a pretty cluster of flowers dripping with nectar for the birds…..a win/win for any garden.

Purple Fountain Grass Pennisetum species advena Rubrum

This grassy ever green (and purple) plant is used in many gardens in Australia. (alas not Canberra as it is not suitable for cold winters.)The wispy feathery grass is also often seen in public parks and gardens or embankments, but I have rarely seen one so healthy and well placed. It was tempting to run my hands along it every time we passed by…

Relatively speaking Sydney did not have many COVID cases or lockdowns during this last year, however the lack of tourists and people moving around the city was very obvious. Only three people boarded the ferry with us, and we chose to sit outside…absolute bliss on a sunny day!

After the ferry ride, we went to an art exhibition, had a quick lunch, and then a stroll through the Australian native section of the Royal Botanic gardens .

Canna Lilies ”Yellow Giant”
Spider Lily Hymenocallis
Grevillea ”Molly” Proteaceae
Kangaroo Paw The common name for a number of species. (Haemodoraceae) They are unique, bird attracting flowers
Banksia robur (swamp banksia).

Banksias are well suited to Australian conditions, not only do they provide food for birds, but they can re-sprout after fire! A fellow gardener told me that after the Canberra fires, a Banksia in her garden, quickly re-grew, and two or three gardens in the street also found they had new Banksias in their gardens too!

A glimpse of the Opera House, and the Harbour Bridge

The Royal Botanic Gardens of Sydney spreads from the city centre to the edge of the harbour.

How very enlightened were the city planners to save this slice of heaven for all to enjoy!

Once we were back at Balmoral beach we stopped off at a small restaurant, and had some lovely fresh fish and dessert.

This photo was taken from the restaurant window. The Manly ferry rocking and rolling into the Harbour.

When I showed Paul the photo he pointed out that I had also taken a photo of the old quarantine station.

North Head is known as Car-rang-gel by the Gayamagal People and was once used for spiritual ceremonies and rituals. This land was part of the setting for the earliest interaction between Aboriginal people and early European settlers and explorers.

here is an aerial view of North Head coastline in Sydney, and the longest operating quarantine station.

This quarantine station was in operation from August 1832 to February 1984. It was established to regulate the risk of disease, with the arrival of free and convict Europeans and the merchant trading ships.

1920s. Mrs N. Skinner, 11/31 Wycombe Rd, Neutral Bay

The practise of quarantine began in the 14th century in an effort to protect coastal cities from plagues and epidemics. The word quarantine was derived from the Italian words ”quaranta giorni” which meant ”forty days” Ships arriving in Venice from infected parts were required to sit at anchor for 40 days before offloading on shore…at least the ships coming to Australia did not have to wait quite so long!

During the period 1910-1950 the facilities increased and improved and in 1918-19 the centre held the maximum number of people following the influenza epidemic.

Despite our beautiful surroundings it was a timely reminder of the epidemics of the past and the fragility of the world we live in.

sun rising over the headlands of Sydney
Are you talking to me?Cockatoos rising above it all….as usual!

Thank you for visiting my blog today, and I hope your days are filled with sunshine and gardening, and perhaps some left-over chocolate from Easter.

Geraldine Mackey Copyright: All Rights Reserved

Hartvale: a country garden in the Blue Mountains

stunning views of Mt Clarence.

This is a trip down memory lane for Paul and I, we often drove through the Blue Mountains on our way to Bathurst, the town where we met while at university (now known Charles Sturt University)

That was a long time ago, but the views of the mountains are just as beautiful and the people as friendly and hospitable as ever.

Hartvale is a country house and garden, nestled on five gently undulating acres at the base of Mount York, with wonderful valley and escarpment views to Mount Clarence.

The beautiful Hartley Valley is sometimes shrouded in mist in the mornings, has winter frosts, occasional snow, and warm to hot summers. In other words a bit of everything!

The owners of the property are Pete Kube, a builder, and his partner, Jennifer Edwards, an artist. They were inspired by the views to build this lovely house and garden, and their energy and artistic talents are obvious in a garden that is only three and a half years old!

The wide driveway leading up through the garden is edged with colourful cottage garden flowers. All the building materials used are recycled, giving the garden a sense of history.

The soil is clay based and needs plenty of compost, organic matter and regular bales of straw to protect against the heat and frosts.

The greenhouse has a big crop of tomatoes, and the surrounds are full of vegetables, and salvias, marigolds, Californian poppies..

Nasturtiums, salvias, marigolds, roses, daisies, dahlias….colour and greenery for our heart’s delight. The lush greens and colours are especially pleasant to see, this has been a year of abundant rain and a mild summer, and plants are not worn out from the heat!

Pete Kube said during the 2020 COVID year, he built a poly-tunnel, and installed a water tank…a very impressive and productive way to spend a COVID year!

The poly-tunnel will be used for all the winter vegetables..

I think, both the poly-tunnel and the tank are amongst the biggest I have seen in a country garden. They are well prepared for severe cold and most importantly, drought.

It is a universal truth that with gardens come opportunists! I did hear a conversation amongst locals about the problems of keeping the cockatoos away from the apple and pear crops….(can’t you just imagine?) Not to mention kangaroos eating the lush sweet grass and rabbits eating vegetables, possums competing with the bird life for fruit!

Along the winding driveway is another small shed in the potager garden.

Here is a place to sit and look at the garden, watch the birds…. or just to rest from the heat of the day during summer…

Looking down from the house, the upper and lower parts of the garden are divided by Eucalyptus trees, shrubs and Royal Gala apple trees espaliered along the fence.

We admired the apples on the fence, but neither of us took a photo of it, perhaps too busy with our coffee, which was offered on the front veranda of the house.

Another inspiring part of the garden is Jennifer’s artist’s studio. She takes inspiration from her surroundings….

Her studio is full of oil paintings of birds, flowers and landscapes.

While we were in the artist’s studio Paul took a photo of the view through a large window… no wonder Jennifer is inspired to paint…

It reminds me of a lovely quote by Monet ;

my wish is to stay always like this, living quietly in a corner of nature”

It was a pleasure to wander through this country garden, with so much colour, space, and the gentle feeling to time slowing down, far away from the worried Covid world.

Thank you for reading my blog today, and where ever you are in the world, may you enjoy your autumn or spring weather, and be inspired by gardens such as this.

Copyright: Geraldine Mackey: All Rights Reserved

Victoria border closes, a hurried trip home, and happy birthday Marion Mahony Griffin.

We arrived in Melbourne, in the state of Victoria, last Tuesday to visit our family and grandchildren.

On Friday, as a result of new UK Covid cases in Melbourne, the Victorian government decided to have a short five day Lockdown. We watched the news at midday, and made the decision to pack up and come home, as the borders between states were closing at midnight. This could possibly mean not being able to get home for some time….much easier to come for a return visit in more settled times.

This is the world we live in these days!

We left at 3.30 pm for the eight hour drive back to Canberra. We usually stop at our favourite country town coffee shops, and occasionally at a really pretty nursery, where you can buy plants, and delicious cakes and coffee….all at the same time.

This time we stopped at a Roadside Service station for petrol, sandwiches and coffee. Everyone looked tired and preoccupied, manners were in short supply, understandably.

It was good to see the lights of Canberra through the bush as we got closer to home. We arrived at 11.30…. we made it by 30 minutes! Although we share the driving, Paul did all of the night driving, and he did a great job navigating trucks and semi-trailers, which seem to loom out of nowhere in the evening.

The lights from Telstra Tower can be seen as we drive into Canberra, it is a landmark for Canberrans.

Now that we have settled in back home I’m beginning my long term plan to write a few posts about Walter Burley Griffin, who designed the city of Canberra, while his wife Marion Mahony Griffin, played a significant role, not only as a fellow architect but as an artist who drew up the beautiful watercolour sketches of the city. Recently these two Chicagoans have been getting a bit more of the attention in Australia, at last, as it is richly deserved.

The Griffin design has allowed for more than one city centre, and more than one lake for recreation.

Today I’ll just write a little about Marion Mahony Griffin, as it was her birthday yesterday, (Aussie time). She was born on the 14th February 1871, in Chicago.

As we have precious few photos of Walter and Marion I’ll add some of my favourite photos of Canberra, some of which may have been in earlier posts.

I took this photo just before we left for Melbourne. Lake Tuggeranong on a fine summer’s day, the shops, library, College tucked into the landscape.

In the summer of the year Marion was born the family were caught in one of the worst fires of that time in Chicago (1871).They survived the fire, but decided to move out of the city, and took their children along Lake Michigan to a place called Hubbard Woods. Marion grew up exploring the woods and forests, and she later said it was ”the loveliest spot you could imagine.”

Her mother, Clara was a Unitarian, and the church provided a social connection, and a sense of social justice for the family. Marion had a talent for art and an interest in architecture, and in 1894 she became the second woman to graduate with an architecture degree from Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the first woman in America to become a licensed architect.

It is always very peaceful on the lake in the early mornings

Her skill as a graphic artist was already well known at university, and once qualified she began working for Frank Lloyd Wright. There she met Walter Burley Griffin, a young idealist architect, who shared many of her ideals and values. They eloped in June 1911 (Walter’s family had reservations about Marion, as she was older than him, and ”too bohemian”). However, theirs was an equal match of values and talents. Two months later, an international competition for the design of the new capital in Australia was announced. Walter entered the competition, but was a well known dreamer and procrastinator hence to quote by Marion…

For the love of Mike, when are you going to start those plans for the Australian capital? Do you realise it takes a solid month to get them over there. That leaves exactly nine weeks now to turn them in. Perhaps you can design a city in two days, but the drawings take time and falls to me…”

Making Magic The Marion Mahony Griffin Story by Glenda Korporaal.

Despite the universities recently opening architecture to women, Marion, at that time, could not apply to enter the competition herself, as a woman. How frustrating for a talented feisty woman like Marion.

Commonwealth Place.

The plans were done in nine weeks, and there was a mad dash one winter’s night to get the last train able to meet the last boat to Australia. The Griffins’ entry was the last to arrive.

View from Mount Ainslie, the War Memorial looking down onto Anzac Parade to Parliament House across Lake Burley Griffin.

In May 1912 Walter received a telegram stating that he had won the competition. There were to be many hurdles ahead, but none the less.. what a wonderful day for future Canberrans!

View from Reconciliation Place across Lake Burley Griffin to the War Memorial.

Both Walter and Marion’s philosophy was that architecture and city planning should work for the environment, not against it. Rather than looking to the past for their inspiration, they looked to a future.

It is amazing to think that Walter could be in an office in Chicago and design a city in a such a contrasting country as Australia, and Marion in turn was able to draw beautifully detailed sketches of the plan. What a team!

Marion, I think would have been pleased to see wild birds happily eating acorns outside Parliament House.

Marion’s story is as rich and varied as Walter’s and in the words of the fascinating book called Making Magic The Marion Mahony Griffin Story by Glenda Korporaal.

She was also a botanist and an idealist, an astute social observer, a loyal wife, and a woman very much ahead of her time.”

150 years later, I hope Marion and Walter would be happy with their city. Happy Birthday Marion.

In March we are going to an exhibition in Sydney about another part of Walter and Marion’s life, their time in Sydney. I’m looking forward to that.

Copyright Geraldine Mackey: All Rights Reserved.