Spring courtyard gardens at Parliament House

A magpie warbling is such a wonderful spring call, and I know the warble is supposed to be territorial, but I choose to believe this little magpie is warbling away out of the sheer joy of being alive….IMG_0233 (640x480)and because he had hit the jackpot in places to live…he has found the inner courtyard gardens of Parliament House in Canberra.

New Parliament House has 17 hidden courtyards, only open to the public during spring celebrations.

IMG_4740 (640x450)In 1988, Joan Child (the Speaker of the House) suggested some gardens be made in these courtyards, to create peaceful areas for Parliamentarians and staff to take time out and rest during busy sitting sessions of Parliament. Many of the courtyard gardens reflect Joan Child’s love of azaleas, rhododendrons, and camellias.

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The courtyards, in spring, are an explosion of colour against the white walls. Garden beds of azaleas and Canterbury bells, backed by rhododendrons, behind weeping cherry trees and silver birches.

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The dogwood blossoms are a stunning view from the corridors of Parliament House, and the Mt Fuji flowering cherry blossoms are a gift from Japan.


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Despite the severe frosts in Canberra, the courtyards provide a micro-climate enabling black birch trees, a golden rain tree, and Jacarandas to survive.

It would be a treat to see all the trees during the changing sessions.There are Coral Bark Japanese Maples, a scented Magnolia, two Linden trees, some Chinese Elms, a Honey Locust trees, some Red Maples from Canada…


Most of the gardens are designed for simplicity and functionality. For example, when the division bells rings, members can move through the courtyards quickly without having to go around too many garden beds.

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Japanese box hedge and sea scape grass

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gum trees on the outer edges of Parliament House, being trimmed.

Birds and moths love the abundance of food the courtyard gardens create. As I have mentioned in my post ”The Bogong moths bring down the lights at Parliament House” these moths arrive in huge groups in the spring time, and are very attractive food for the bete noir of all birds…the currawong!

A few years ago the gardeners planted Heuchera ”Chocolate Ruffles” as ground covers in various parts of the gardens. They are known to be low maintenance and suitable for Canberra’s harsh climate.

Unfortunately the Bogong moths love to settle in the plants and were soon spotted by the cunning and ever present currawongs. One currawong would fly down onto the Heuchera bushes, and the disturbed moths then fly up as a squadron of currawongs fly down to feast on the Bogong moths…..the plants in the process, are badly damaged.

This gives me a chance to end with my favourite photo, care of William Betts (c) 2015Birdlife Australia….. the boys are back in town…… and they are at Parliament House.

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

10 Replies to “Spring courtyard gardens at Parliament House”

  1. What a great place for parliamentarians to rest a while! Dogwood trees are my favourite, they are a real highlight when they bloom here. Glad you are able to grow them in Canberra too.

  2. Love the magpie – you can almost hear the warble! And what a place to live! Spring is certainly a wonderful time for sights, sounds and smells.

  3. Beautiful gardens! I love the dogwoods and the jacarandas. Interesting about the currawong. Our nuisance birds are the grackles, starlings, and English sparrows – but they rarely damage herbaceous plants.

    1. Thanks Jason, I love the sound of grackles, a name like that seems like trouble! We used to get starlings in the garden, and sparrows, when we kept chickens. The birds that can cause the most damage here are cockatoos…lovely looking birds, but up to all sorts of mischief!

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