When I first came to Australia I went to university in a country town called Bathurst in New South Wales. Bathurst is a pretty town surrounded by rolling hills and golden fields. My new university friends offered to drive me to neighbouring towns, to get to know the area.
When I first saw a blazing purple and green field I was stunned by its beauty ‘‘Isn’t that a pretty field!”
My country friends were horrified, ”oh no, don’t say that, the purple stuff is Patterson’s curse!“
Patterson’s Curse comes from the Mediterranean, some might know it as Salvation Jane, Blueweed, Lady Campbell weed or Riverina Blue Bell. The plant began arriving through mail order catalogues in the 1840s in Australia and was sold as a cut flower in Sydney markets. From gardens it rapidly invaded farms. By the 1900s it was well established as a weed throughout South-eastern Australia.
Patterson’s Curse is toxic to livestock, particularly horses.
Many years later, we don’t have to deal with Patterson’s Curse in our garden, but like all gardeners, we have to deal with our share of unwelcome plants…..Valerium being one of them!
Since Lockdown, we have really had a chance to work on the garden, and, as always, the weeds come first. Some plants, like violets, were welcomed and loved in our garden, at first..
During my years of teaching in the Introductory English Centre in Canberra, our Teacher’s Assistant often brought little bunches of violets into office for us, especially on Monday,….in her words ”Monday is always a very unstable day”…and she was right!, We taught five to seven year old students, who had just arrived in Australia, and there were as many languages spoken as there were children.
Our garden is spread-out, and the violets had tucked themselves behind every nook and cranny. The violet roots are tough and can survive drought. As they so efficiently cover an plant bed, they cover up the soil and prevent precious plants like my Japanese maple from getting enough soil and water.
Paul has spent over a week pulling out violets, and has filled two trash packs with them…. no more violets!
I have long believed the Gardener’s Adage
“The best way to make sure you are removing a weed and not a valuable plant is to pull it out. If it comes out of the ground easily, it is a valuable plant.”
I hope you are enjoying your garden, your neighbourhood, and your season, where ever you are in the world today. During this very unpredictable time in all our lives I have enjoyed reading blogs from all over the world, a reassuring and interesting way to find out about real people are dealing with the CV 19 roller-coaster!
I have started using Block Editor, so I’m just crossing fingers and hope it is all working!
As the calendar pages turn towards the middle of 2020, uncertainty and Lockdown continues in Australia, and the world. As if to compensate, autumn has been magnificent in Canberra this year…
After a dreadful summer of bushfires and thick smoke, it is wonderful to see trees, and plants flourishing with good rainfalls around Canberra in March, April and May.
The weather looks wild through the Eucalyptus trees, but the trees are loving it….
not to mention the birds!
Photos could not really capture the sheer delight these cockatoos are having in some nearby Eucalyptus trees during the rain..
They are flying into the trees, calling (screeching) to each other..
….and sinking down gently into the rain-filled branches. A couple of them were hanging upside down on the outer branches, with wings spread out (I missed that photo opportunity)
Watching their games and delight, it is a reminder of how much they have missed the rain too.
The Crimson Rosellas are also back in the garden in bigger numbers than we have seen for a few years.. a little more sedate in their response to rain..
Here in Canberra the autumn colours of the landscape are often muted greens and soft greys, but this year, everything is looking very, very green.
Our Lockdown rules allow for a walk every day, and this one is a favourite of ours because it is not far from our house.
We follow this path until we come to what is known by locals as ”Heartbreak Hill” or ”Cardiac Arrest” Hill. Actually it is not steep at all, with lovely views of the mountains, along the way.
One morning we were walking up Heartbreak Hill and we came across these two delightful young parrots… called Gang Gangs. A parent is watchful in the leaves behind them.
Does anyone know the ”Where’s Wally?” children’s books?
This could be “Where are the Gang Gangs?” amongst the autumn colour.
We have never seen Gang Gangs in our suburb, but, so much natural habitat in the bush has been lost in the fires, it is not surprising birds are moving into suburban areas for food.
They are most welcome!
Years ago I used to walk down this path almost every day. An elderly gentleman was always working in his garden and one day when I admired his roses, he told me I could come in and cut some roses to take home, at anytime!
He passed away some time ago, but he would love to see these roses continuing to flower.
It made me wonder how long do roses last?
Paul has been painting the cabin and the deck, and now to the garden! My contribution so far was to ‘trim’ a very old Rosemary bush…once I started I couldn’t stop! Paul called it the ”Rosemary Bush Massacre”.
There is a large green grevillea near the deck called ”Wee Jasper”. This bush brings the Wattle Bird and also the elusive Eastern Spinebill to our garden, because it flowers all through autumn and winter.
However, because it does flower for such a long period of time, and has birds and bees buzzing around, it is seldom pruned.
While I had my garden clippers at hand, I decided to trim some of the older branches of the Wee Jasper..
As I reached into the branches of the Wee Jasper, the Eastern Spinebill flew into the bushes and settled on a branch very close to me. I couldn’t believe how close it was, and how still. This is a bird almost impossible to photograph as he usually moves so fast and is very elusive.
I have just enough Irish blood in me to wonder if that tiny little bird was warding me off his bush…perhaps he was watching while I trimmed the Rosemary Bush..
…Eastern Spinebill one, Gerrie nil.
We are lucky to have one of our daughters working from her home here in Canberra, and it has been a few months now since we have seen our elder daughter, our son-in-law and our granddaughter.
Just after Christmas our granddaughter helped us pick this very cute koala for the garden. .. a happy reminder of her.
We look forward to more State borders opening in Australia, so that we can get together again.
Many thanks for taking the time to read my blog posts, and thanks also to the nurses and health workers all over the world. ..what a service to communities they do!
The first few months of this year have slipped away, unnoticed, since the global grip of CV 19. Yet February 2020 was quite a milestone for Paul, and for our family.
On 12th February 2020 Paul was awarded his PHD in Health Policy. The ceremony was held at the Deakin University Campus at Geelong.
Five years ago, Paul retired, and immediately began his PHD. Both Paul and I have always loved learning, and we were both surprised at how many people were amazed that he should start a PHD at 60 years of age.
Paul’ s father and uncles were pharmacists, and many of his family work as health professionals of various kinds.
Not long after Paul was born, (the first child in a family of eight children) Paul’ s father, Frank bought a pharmacy in a small town, Oak Flats on the south coast of New South Wales.
Frank, a quietly spoken, knowledgeable man was the perfect pharmacist for a region not blessed with many health facilities, doctors or clinics. At the end of every day he returned home only after he had delivered prescriptions to elderly patients. As the children grew, the older boys in the family delivered prescriptions on their bikes on the weekend.
Years after Paul and I had settled in Canberra we met a middle-aged woman who came from Oak Flats. When we mentioned Paul’s father she said,
‘Oh, I remember Mr Mackey! I came from a big family and my Mum used to get us to ride up to Mr Mackey’s pharmacy when one of the little ones were sick. We couldn’t afford to go to the doctor every time, and Mr Mackey was just as good!”“
I always relied on Frank when either of our daughters were sick, and trusted his judgement completely. He was a calming influence to all those who had young children. When we visited Frank and his wife Margaret, our daughters, (the first of many grandchildren) always remembered him making them toast and orange juice before changing into his crisp white coat and going on his long commute to work.
As young adults Paul and I left Sydney to work in Canberra. I began teaching, and Paul began his career in the Research Service at the former Provisional (for 60 years!) Parliament House. This building is now the Museum of Australian Democracy.
Over time Paul took over the portfolio of Health, a perfect fit for someone with his background.
As with many young families, we juggled life with one car. Much as I love the Walter Burley Griffin plan of space between suburbs in Canberra, it makes for a long commute home from the centre of the city.
Most days I would put the girls in the car, drive to Old Parliament House, and park almost outside the front door. I’d often sing songs so that our younger daughter, Jess, didn’t fall asleep while waiting for Dad.
During the time Paul spent at Old Parliament House, a Christmas party for children of employees was held in the lovely grounds of Parliament House every December.
The Senate gardens were spilling over with roses and irises..
What a mild and carefree time it was…
Once new Parliament House was built, Paul moved into this office in Parliament House.
When Parliament was sitting Paul often had to work until 10.00 pm. Our daughters were still young, and it was a long evening without Paul!
Occasionally I would take the girls into Parliament House and meet Paul in the cafeteria for dinner. The car park we used would be completely inaccessible to the public now. September 11 changed many things over time.
Paul has worked in many sectors of Health since his early days at Parliament House. Throughout his long and varied career he has remained passionate about health care, and equality in our Health system.
Since Paul retired and began his PHD he has enjoyed juggling studying, gardening, travelling and being a grandparent ….a perfect fit…
Paul has given papers at many conferences, and I’ve enjoyed going along, hearing and talking to Health professionals. As a bonus we have both enjoyed visiting gardens in various cities, places we may never have visited if not for Paul’s studies.
On a very windy day in February, Paul graduated, and he wrote a wonderful acknowledgement at the beginning of his PHD, for the support of myself, our daughters, Rebecca, Jessica, and our son-in-law, Anthony, and he ended with this important acknowledgement:
I would also like to thank my mother and late father for all they did to start my learning journey many years ago. This thesis is dedicated to my granddaughter, Joanie, with the hopeful wish for an equitable future.
The pandemic today has shown us all how fragile and central health systems are in our countries, and our world…..and the importance of equity in the survival of us all.
I hope you are all well, and surviving in this new and restrictive world. Where ever you are in the world, I wish you sunshine and warmth, and if you have a garden, may it flourish!
As we adjust to our ”new normal”, Paul and I decided to make sure we went for a long walk every day, to help us keep fit, and sleep well.
Fortunately, Canberra has been designed to have corridors of bushland between suburbs, and there are many fire trails (backtracks) that skirt around suburbs.
Life in the bush is thriving again since the recent rain, and to our delight, we saw quite a few birds as we walked.
I noticed a splash of colour and saw two baby Rainbow Lorikeets preening themselves in the hollow of a gnarled old Eucalyptus tree.
and this endearing little Galah also resting and nesting in the same tree……all unhurried and blissfully unaware of world events around them..
The Brindabella Mountains are recovering from the dreadful summer fires and now there are only clouds overhead, rather than smoke rising from them.
In the distance we could see Sulphur Crested Cockatoos swirling and swooping through the suburbs like shining white kites. (unfortunately hard to capture without a good lens on the camera)
Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoos are not very common in Canberra, but since the fires, many of these parrots have come to Canberra for the water and vegetation.
They are the smallest bird in the Cockatoo family, and make a sound like a creaking door. They mate for life, and live in family groups, and they are very low-key compared with their cousins, the Sulphur Crested Cockatoo.
My mother used to say the black cockatoos bring the rain……we would welcome the rain and the cockatoos any day.
On the way back home we saw a group of Magpies; very familar to all Canberrans.
They stood together, warbling softly to each other..indignation written all over those intense stares…
There is certainly something going on here…
The problem is the Magpie in the nearby tree. She has long white markings on her back.
This Magpie is a ”ring-in” …… an outsider. Her striking white markings suggest she is a coastal Magpie… and not from this area.
This Magpie comes from the State of New South Wales, not our state, known as the Australian Capital Territory.
She hasn’t heard the news…the borders are closed!
Never mind, the Canberra Magpies border patrol are on to it!
We left them to it , and I hope all went well.
A day in the sunshine, walking and looking at the birds, cheered us up immensely.
Less news and more walking is our plan!
Hard not to smile at these two …absolutely no social distancing going on in the koala world. (photo from Pinterest)
Thank you for taking the time to read my blog, and may you enjoy at least a little of each day in these unpredictable times !
The photos below seem like a dream to me now: this was our garden in November….late spring.
We had some rain, which made the garden look quite green. I looked at these photos at the end of summer and I had to double-check the date on my camera to make sure it was just a few short months ago.
Despite the fairly calm conditions in Canberra in spring, the hot dry winds, the drought in much of Australia, and the early and unusual fires in other parts of Australia, were the warning signs of the terrible summer to come.
During December fires had spread across the country, and the winds blew the thick smoke through Canberra… some days the air quality was the worst of any major city in the world.
The Gardenia flowered so gracefully on one of our hottest days…(40 degrees C) Incredible!
Our home is part of a group of suburbs not far from the Namadgi National Park, with views of the Brindabella Mountains…all mountain photos are taken from our garden or our street.
Inevitably the winds, and the searing hot temperatures spread the fires across the mountains.
Even more apocalyptic was the sight of the fires burning across the mountains at night.
During some of evenings, when our suburbs were on ”high alert” and it was hard to sleep, we shared meals and glasses of wine with neighbours…a memorable time. There was an acute sense of camaraderie and community during the fires.
Then came a sudden chance of rain, which became a freak hail storm…
Finally some nice, steady rain came! The whole garden looked as if it was having a bad hair day!
However, in many parts of Eastern Australia there were floods and road closures …
…even more trauma and heartbreak for people and particularly wildlife.
Finally, in February the cooler weather and rain enabled the ACT Emergency Services to gradually reduce the fires in the mountains.
Miraculously, everything started to look green again. Canberra, at the end of summer could do with more rain, but all normal weather patterns do not apply this year!
Cautiously at first, the birds are coming back to the garden..
The almond tree had endured hot dry winds, leaves stripped from the hail storm, and reduced water…
but it has flourished and has a bumper crop of almonds this year..who know why?
The cockatoos are back….noisily cracking almond nuts and gossiping in the trees…..life is back to normal.
During the last few months many animals have been moved out of Namadgi National Park for their safety. Amongst them, platypus, koalas, rock wallabies and even Northern Corrobboree Frogs. I hope to do a post on their return soon.
After seeing the plight of so many koalas this summer, here is a link to a video clip of an endearing young koala called Willow, and her first encounter with a butterfly.
The devastating bush fires burning across much of Australia has made this a long and sombre summer for most Australians. The extent of the bush fires, and the ferocity of those fires is unprecedented.
Today’s newspaper has a photo of an older man, former owner of a lovely home in a community he and his wife loved; he pointed to the charred rubble on the ground and said…
”life was good, and then suddenly there was nothing.”
In December and January many holiday makers go to the pretty NSW South Coast of Australia, and this year we too, intended to meet up with our family there for Christmas.
We cancelled our holiday just before Christmas, and stayed at home. Luckily we did. We had a lovely time at home, and cleaning birdbaths and watering was a daily occurrence.
In early January the fires tore across the south coast, destroying homes, and communities, and with some loss of lives.
Canberra too, is in a fire prone area, and, in January, as the fires continued to burn in National Parks and along the coast, we had to prepare ourselves for the possibility of leaving our homes at short notice.
What do you take when you may be leaving your home for good?
A suitcase of clothes, essential documents, water, a full tank of petrol in the car, photos, and sleeping bags (where did they go…given away years ago?) USBs, chargers, torches, batteries, candles, matches, the list goes on.
If there is no power, we are back to torches, matches and candles…. the real world!
We have lived in Canberra for over 30 years, and those of you who follow this blog know that one of the joys of living in Canberra is that almost every suburb is surrounded by bush, and the birds, the kangaroos, wallabies are part of every day living for us.
However, this comes at a price during droughts and bush fires season.
Communications during bush fire threats are much better these days, it brings a chill to all Canberrans to remember how poor the communication was during the 2003 fires.
These days we have a helpful app called “Fires Near Me” which gives daily and hourly updates on fires in our region.
During the really hot days, everything is quiet, and the smoke from the surrounding fires is thick in the air. A quality index reading above 200 is considered hazardous to health. On one particular day the reading in Canberra was 5,000, the highest level in the world for that day.
It is a great relief when a cool change comes, the smoke haze improves (for a while), and the birds come back again.
As the weather clears, the cockatoos fill the skies with their screeching as they swing confidently into the garden to check the almond tree..(miraculously full of fruit).
This gives us an endearing sense of normality.
Needless to say, they and all animals and birds are welcome to any food we can give them.
We live near Mt Taylor, home to many kangaroos, wallabies, birds, butterflies, lizards, insects, indeed, a smorgasbord of animal and insect life. Now, in the early morning and the late evening some kangaroos, one with a joey, come down our street to drink from the birdbaths, and buckets of water we leave out for them.
A group of volunteers called Water our Wildlife put stations of water in the same place daily so that the animals know where to go for predictable water supplies.
As I write there are no active fires in or very near Canberra, however, we have been in a state of alert since the beginning of January. So much has been written about the fires, and so much sadness, that I decided to just show some photos of our two most loved holiday destinations, both of which are also on high alert..
Kosciusko National Park ..(some contained fires in the higher regions)
This is an area rich in flora and fauna……
A sign near this beautiful Snow Gum (Eucalyptus trees) says “these grandfather trees are two and three hundred years old. Aboriginal tradition says that the spirit of ancestral travellers live in these warraganj (old snow gums)
During all the fires, there is the devastating loss of wildlife, flora and fauna, and loss of habitat for those who survive.
However, this little Pygmy Possum (a mouse sized marsupial) is capable of surviving for almost two weeks by bringing its body down to the low temperatures during times of extreme cold or heat. The biggest threat to this little possum is clearance of the land…another story.
Our second frequent and much loved holiday destination is:
The NSW South Coast ..also on alert..
We have spent many happy days with friends walking along these pretty beaches solving world problems .
The bird life in this part of the world is amazing, and to see the birds fly between these beautiful spotted Eucalyptus trees, with jet pilot precision, is both stunning and a privilege.
The Rainbow Lorikeets are very noisy in spring when they feed off the flowers from the Spotted Eucalyptus trees…and then reverse into the bird bath for drinks…ever cautious..
A walk through a wooded area near the sea..
I hope this young Swamp Wallaby, and others, have found safety..
Amongst all that is lost, and fear of what may be lost, is the absolute admiration and out pouring of gratitude for the fire-fighters.
They are the first port of call for wildlife too
Some firefighters have been killed, most with young families. These families have to grow up without a father, which is a life long sentence.
There is so much more to say about the generosity and kindness of ordinary Australians, the leadership and calmness of RFS Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons, and the heartfelt worldwide response, but I will leave that for another post.
Jessica, (blog: Rusty Duck) will have seen that Kangaroo Island has suffered badly in every way from the fires, and has lost most of its Ligurian honey bees, believed to be the last remaining pure stock of bees found anywhere in the world.
Many thanks to all of you who have sent good wishes, it is lovely to have a blogging community across many worlds.
PS I will write about the gardens in New Zealand in February.
Looking back at this photo, taken in November this year, it hardly seems possible that the mountains were so blue and the trees so healthy looking just a month ago.
During December Canberra has had strong hot winds, and no rain….it is a bone dry brown city.
Although Canberra is not directly affected by bush fires at the moment, there are many bushfires (large and small) burning across the country, most contained…..for the time being.
Depending on the winds, the grey clouds of smoke from nearby bush fires creep through the city most afternoons.
It was heartwarming to look back through photos and see this lovely King Parrot in spring, eating happily in our plum tree.
In November we also had a new group of Galahs coming to the birdbaths every morning.
Since this early start to a very hot summer, we keep the birdbaths full, and put little pebbles in the smaller bowls, to help the bees and and other insects land on the pebbles, before drinking. All need shade, and water is paramount.
Paul was due to go to conference in Auckland, New Zealand, in early December.
We were somewhat apprehensive about leaving home during these uncertain times, however, we took all the precautions we could before we left, and also had someone to come and water the garden.
Looking at the above map you can see we are closer to New Zealand than to many parts of Australia. The map below shows that it only takes three hours to get to New Zealand from our region.
Despite our proximity to New Zealand, it is a very different country to Australia. New Zealand is lush and green with an abundance of water.
After leaving our smoke-filled city, we landed in New Zealand, and as we got off the plane we were almost blinded by the light and the greenery everywhere!
New Zealand is full of friendly people, magnificent scenery, National Parks, and wonderful gardens..
I intend writing a few posts on New Zealand after Christmas….but spoiler alert..
The pretty little French town of Akaroa on the South Island is a delight to visit…..
….and I have a few tempting photos of an incredible garden which will just take your breath away, Fisherman’s Bay Garden…
Jill Simpson, a keen gardener, has, with the help of her husband Richard, created a garden along the rugged and dramatic coastline of the Banks Peninsula. (New Zealand’s South Island)
In more recent times she was influenced by the new perennial movement in the UK and Europe, and the Prairie style in the US.
The garden has something for everyone…and to think they are at the Southern tip of the Banks Peninsula and are exposed to the winds from the Antarctic…..there is no excuse for the rest of us!
This is a garden that will make you want to jump onto the next flight to New Zealand, and if you can’t do that, well, at least you can read my blog posts early next year on this garden and more..
Meanwhile, back home, it has been a very tough week for most of Australia. Record high temperatures, fires and smoke in almost every state. Thank goodness the temperatures are due to drop next week…and hopefully in time for Christmas.
I know what Australians would love most for Christmas……… rain!
Many thanks for reading my blog today, and during the year. I enjoy writing about green spaces, and I love reading blogs from all over the world….a little slice of life from other people, who may be far away, but share ideas and ideals…. how similar we all are despite our differences.
Season’s greeting to you all, and may Christmas and the New Year, bring peace, harmony and some common sense to the world in 2020.
Birdlife Australia has a wonderful program called Birds in the Backyard.
It is a research, education and conservation program that was developed through concern that we are gradually losing small native birds from parks and gardens, through rapid expansion of cities, suburbs and towns.
One week of the year is set aside for the Aussie Backyard Bird Count. During this week, individuals can participate in collecting data by recording the birds we see, in twenty minute periods.
Birds can be recorded in our own backyard, a local park, a main street of a town, a beach, or a patch of forest….anywhere in Australia.
In 2018 Australians counted 2.7 million birds including 30 000 Rainbow Lorikeets.
The rise of Rainbow Lorikeets shows how the Aussie backyard has changed from the traditional European-style cottage gardens, to more native gardens.
Lorikeets are nectar-loving birds and like to forage on the flowers of Eucalypts, Bottle-brushes and Grevillias to harvest nectar and pollen.
My daughter and her family live in an inner city suburb in Melbourne. (Melbourne is the second biggest city in Australia.) It is a rapidly changing suburb from the original workers cottages to townhouses for a younger generation.
One constant in the suburb is the street trees. The streets we walk down regularly are lined with Bottle brushes and Eucalypts. It is a pleasure to walk to the coffee shop, and look at the gardens and the bird-laden trees and shrubs along the way.
Melbourne is well known for warm and inviting coffee shops too.
At Christmas time we noticed some of the street trees were decorated by local residents and children, and the flowers could out do any Christmas decorations!
In the same suburb of Melbourne, the park and playing fields are lined with palm trees. I don’t know the history of these trees, but the Rainbow Lorikeets are feeding and nesting in them too, which show how adaptable they are. Lorikeets, are, unfortunately very bossy birds, and tend to dominate other species of birds.
The data collected from the Aussie Backyard Bird Count records the three top birds counted in every state in Australia that year.
The the top three birds counted in Canberra and surrounds (Australian Capital Territory) were……..The Australian Magpie
The second most recorded bird was the Crimson Rosella.
and the third was the Pied Currawong.
The currawong is a handsome looking bird, and flies into the garden with the precision of a jet pilot. Whip smart, he knows where to find water, and also little birds nesting in trees. Once the currawong arrives in the garden, the little birds disappear.
The bird count can make everyone feel a bit territorial and competitive about our favourite birds…
I’ve heard the New South Wales magpies have slightly different colour markings to our Magpies in Canberra, and are more striking….
and here is a New South Wales Magpie…and she is putting on the Ritz…
Whereas our Magpies, looking a bit scruffy, are pulling plants out of the garden,
However, the very young Canberra Magpie in the photo below began her early life in the courtyards of Parliament House, and is entertaining all the visitors with her beautiful birdsong. So she is a celebrity from day one!
At the end of the Backyard Bird Count week, we can vote for our favourite of the 50 most popular birds in Australia. (an impossible task of course)
This year I have voted for the Eastern Spinebill. This tiny little bird, with a mighty strong call, can be heard every autumn in our garden. He comes to the Peppermint Sage plant in our backyard regularly every year (in the uncertain natural world, this is a comfort). He competes with the bossy Wattlebird for food, and stands his ground. This is the Lion-heart of little birds.
In and around Canberra this spring there have been an abundance of smaller native birds which are unusual to Canberra (to me anyway). On my Canberra Wildlife Photography Facebook page, I have seen photos of Leaden Flycatchers, Rainbow Bee-Eaters, Sacred Kingfisher and a Rufus Songlark. Perhaps the drought is moving these birds closer to Canberra for the water and relatively easy food sources. They are very welcome.
I hope you have some sunshine, rain, plants and birds, where ever you are in the world. The joys of life!
By a twist of history, fate, and International competitions, Canberra, the Federal Capital city of Australia, and the Australian Parliament House have been designed by two remarkable architects.
In 1912 an American (Chicagoan) Walter Burley Griffin was awarded first prize in the international design competition for the new federal capital of Australia ..Canberra. He designed a city built into the landscape, with buildings and suburbs in corridors of greenery. The Brindabella mountains provide a beautiful amphitheatre to the city.
Walter Burley Griffin’s wife, Marion Mahony Griffin, also from Chicago, was the first licensed female architect in the US. She did many of the design drawings for the project, and they were a true partnership in that they shared similar ideals, with an emphasis on nature, democracy and social reform.
As fate would have it, Romaldo (Aldo) Giurgola was an Italian student in Rome during the second world war, and he was fascinated by the design of Canberra, created by the Chicagoan Walter Burley Griffin.
“It remained in my mind…you can imagine when there was only war and destruction around us. It was a really wonderful thing.”
Aldo Giurgola won a Fulbright Scholarship and moved to the US, and he eventually co-founded Mitchell/Giurgola Architects in Philadelphia. He had an outstanding career teaching and practising architecture in the United States.
In 1979 he was invited to help judge the Parliament House competition in Canberra, but he preferred to compete, seeing this as an opportunity to contribute to nation building through architecture.
The firm went on to win the competition beating 328 entries from 29 countries, and Australian Parliament House was opened in May 1988.
When he arrived in Canberra Aldo looked at the view from Mt Ainslie before beginning; he wanted to fit in with Burley Griffin’s plan of Canberra.
He always believed that the building should not be higher than the people, that true democracy rises from the state of things.
His aim was that every worker has natural light…
and the corridors and courtyards are balanced and also filled with light.
Guirgola also suggested the colour schemes, muted pinks, greens and greys, the colours of the landscape…
Several Americans including Harold Guida joined him to plan, document and oversee the construction. Harold Guida and Aldo Giurgola decided to stay in Australia, and live in Canberra.
”I have lived in New York. It is a fantastic city. But it is a city for the young. In Canberra he says, it is easier to find a measure between lifestyle, natural beauty and human ambition.
Aldo Giurgola remained a much loved and loyal Canberran, frequently invited to Parliament House for various events. He received an Order of Australia in 1989.
In his older age, he built a small holiday house for himself near Canberra, with views of the Great Dividing Range. The design is derived from Palladio’s villa at Vincenza, La Rotunda, and built by Andreolo Mario.
It was essentially a square room for himself, his daughter and her dog, for working, dreaming, reading and talking. A central skylight let in additional light, and at night they could look at the moon and the stars.
It seems the perfect retirement for a wonderful architect who, despite his early life in Italy and New York, was very much attuned to the Australian landscape and values. He remained an Italian citizen and became an Australian citizen….salute to Romaldo Giurgola!
It has been a busy month and I’ve missed writing a post for Mother’s Day.
Looking through my photos, I thought I’d highlight some of the many mothers and parents amongst the wildlife in our garden, and around Canberra.
Of course I have to start with the biggest personalities in Canberra, the Sulphur Crested Cockatoos.
Despite their screechy and bossy ways, it was lovely to be able to capture this very patient mother having her yellow crested feathers examined by one of her youngsters….
One morning Paul and I wondered if a world war was breaking out in the garden, only to discover that the baby cockatoo (almost as big as its mother) was having a mighty tantrum about being fed..”I want it right now!”
Kookaburras are not very common in our garden, but Kooka parents will bring a baby to the birdbaths on hot days….while the parent/sibling waits patiently on the garden bench.
and here is an even younger Kookaburra in the photo below. It looks as if it is having a first flight from the nest with the safety of wires to land on, and parent close by…
Even in winter, there are late babies, and the King Parrots like to fly into the garden for a drink….and then feed on the buds of the Japanese Maple…
As I took a photo of them, I noticed their baby waiting patiently in the tree…the first winter, wow it is cold out here!
The photo below shows a young Currawong in our garden…the first, and only time we have seen one so young. ..unfortunately I didn’t get a photo of the parent who would undoubtedly be somewhere close by. Currawongs are the bain of our lives, as they chase small birds, and generally frighten everything out of the garden. However, this little guy with his crew cut, is cute!
This is a great photo of an adult pied Currawong, and thanks to Harry Charalambous Birdlife Australia.
A kangaroo has an extra responsibility, she carries her Joey around in her pouch for some time..
She is putting her paws protectively over her Joey, perhaps to warn him that I am nearby with a camera, or that he is about to fall out of the pouch!
Here is a baby Koala, almost too big for a ride with Mum..
This adult Koala carried her baby for a while…
..and then it all got too much and she sat down……haven’t you felt just like that in a supermarket with a toddler?
It was lovely to share these, mostly accidentally photos, I have taken of motherhood and parenthood in full swing with birds and animals.
I was lucky enough to have a mother who believed that the small details of life were important, and that people, nature and animals should be central to a life well lived. She noticed the tiny details; the spider web in the morning light, the lizard in the sun, a new flower blossoming, a bird call…she got great joy from it all.