Tag Archives: arboretum

A Sicilian Garden from a Golden Age

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Before Canberra bursts into spring, I have a couple of posts to show of our trip to Italy in May……so welcome to Villa Giulia, the first public park in Palermo, opened in 1778.

On a warm morning, after a long walk through the city, we decided to stroll around this inviting shady park rather than go to the Botanical Gardens, right next door. Botanical gardens need stamina, and more time than we had that day.

Sicily was first settled by the Phoenicans in the 8th century, then conquered by the Romans, the Arabs and the Normans. The buildings and gardens reflect this rich history.

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The wide avenues and tall palms made this park seem cool, inviting and exotic, full of flowers and shrubs reminiscent of my childhood in Central Africa, where the climate is equally hot in summer.

I loved the Lantana Cultivar, the blaze of orange flowers making a a colourful hedge. Some red Hibiscus flowers are growing between the palms, and in the background the seemingly ever flowering purple Bougainvillea.

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Parks in the 1700s were considered a reflection of the city’s wealth and prosperity, and were designed by artists, architects, scholars and dreamers of a golden age.

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These are exedra, and they were intended for musical performances. The colours and the mosiacs have no doubt been restored, but it still withstands the test of time, and looks wonderful.IMG_3355 (1024x693)The site is near the seafront and the park is based on a square, geometrically designed. The Dodecahedron fountain is at the heart of the garden, and the marble clock created by mathematician Lorenzo Federici – each face of the dodecahedron featuring a sundial.

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The statue of Atlas is set in the centre of a circular fountain. Atlas was the god of endurance and astronomy.

Imagine an astronomer and a mathematican being consulted on the design of a park today!

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Over time some of the plants have been renewed and the trees lining this path below look quite young and healthy.  They are known as Judas trees, and  can also be found in the National Arboretum in Canberra. The name possibly came from the French common name, Arbre de Judee, meaning the tree of Judea, the region where the tree is commonly grown, on stony arid slopes.

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The flat ripening pods turn from green to bright red, giving extra colour to the park.

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On the left hand-side of this path is the Italian pine (pino domestic) which is very common in Palermo and gives welcome shade in the summer.

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Villa Giulia is an oasis in the teeming city of Palermo, and a lasting legacy to the enlightened times of its Golden Age.

…and, as we leave, another tree to remind me of Africa and Australia…

Who could resist stopping to take a photo of a flowering Jacaranda tree?

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Copyright Geraldine  Mackey. All rights reserved

 

 

 

Stepping out at the Arboretum

When I began this blog I wrote a post about the Arboretum in Canberra  (Arboretum, 100 trees… in 100 forests)..here is a photo from that post showing this beautiful place in the early morning.

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Amongst the  newly growing forests in the Arboretum is one of the best kept secrets, a regional botanic garden called STEP (Southern Tablelands Ecosystems Park)

IMG_6455 (1024x648)This area has been designed to represent the native plants and trees typical to the Southern Highlands. These areas have forests, woodlands, grasslands, and wetlands.

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Unlike all the other forests in the Arboretum, this forest has an understory of shrubs, herbs, grasses and ferns. As we walked down the path from the highest area to the wetlands I’ve concentrated on the flowering understory for photos, but just occasionally there is a lovely spring flowering Eucalypt..

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…. this one is called Eucalyptus dalrympleana (Mountain Gum)

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and a flowering Wee Jasper Grevillea ..

….. further down the path the open woodland area is being developed, the clumps of grass are called Poa sieberiana

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Early the following morning I went back to take more photos, and I was reminded of my childhood in Africa ….. walking along paths lined by soft green grasses, and watching birds skimming through  them…but in this botanical garden there are street lights in the distance to remind me that we are very near a carpark, and the expressway to the city is not too far away.

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The only bird happy to have his photo taken is this cockatoo, who was very busy eating the tips of the grasses.IMG_6312 (1024x768)

Here are some of the colourful spring flowering native plants and shrubs

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Solanum linearifolium Kangaroo apple

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Ranunculus lappaceus

 

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Chrysocephalum apiculatum

 

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Xerochrysum bracteatum

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Ammobium alalum

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Bulbine bulbosa

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Derwentia perfoliata

 

 

 

 

 

 

and my all time favourite is this tiny flower, perfect in every way!

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Dianella revoluta

The frosty hollow area has species that need frost and cold air ..a favourite tree of mine is the snow gum (Eucalypt)

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There is a small wetland for the plants suitable for this type of habitat.

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This attractive rock amphitheatre has been constructed to use as an educational space. Over time the plan is to have regular groups of students to learn about the plants native to this area.

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The Arboretum provides water tanks for STEP, and these are used to irrigate the fledging trees and shrubs.

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Here is one of the dedicated volunteers watering the plants, the netting over his hat is a most efficient way of keeping the annoying flies away from his face (a sure sign summer is on the way).

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The volunteers working on the STEP program are an inspiration. They are full of enthusiasm and very knowledgeable about all the plants that they see growing and developing every week.

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When we arrived they were just packing up after a shared morning tea under the gum trees. What better way to spend a lovely warm spring day, being productive and useful and sharing that with like-minded people.

 

STEP is having an open afternoon with volunteers to show visitors around STEP and answer any questions about growing native plants in Canberra on Sunday 29th November between 12.30 – 3.00.

www.STEP.asn.au

 

 

 

 

The Arboretum….100 trees in 100 forests

 

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In 2003, devastating bushfires swept through Canberra. I’m sure I speak for most Canberrans when I say this was the most frightening, and challenging experience of my life.  For a long time afterwards, Canberra was a place of charred black earth, withered trees and the smell of smoke and charcoal.

It is hard to believe that from such devastation could come a place of such sweeping beauty, the new National Arboretum Canberra.

Walter Burley Griffin, the designer of this city always envised an Aboretum in the planning of Canberra. However, by the time Griffin arrived in Australia in 1914 Thomas Charles Weston had been appointed as afforestation officer, and he and Griffin differed on tree species selection and planting priorities. Later, Griffin, faced with continual opposition from bureaucrats, resigned from his government position in December 1920.

However, Arboreta, as part of Griffin’s design was gradually developed, beginning with the early plantings at Westbourne Woods and Weston Park. In the mid 1950s a substantial arboretum at the western end of the lake was established, and in 2001 was named Lindsay Pryor National Arboretum. However, the 2003 bushfires stripped the neighbouring hills of pine plantations and, the ACT government, took this opportunity to develop what has become the National Arboretum Canberra. This was a centenary gift to the city by the ACT government. We now have an Arboretum from the lake to the hills, with urban forests, woodlands, open grassland and formal parks.

More than 48 000 trees have been planted in the 100 forests on the 250 hectare site, many rare and endangered. The Arboretum was offically opened in 2013…10 years after the bushfires. Now we have a mosiac of fledgling forests, a venue for outdoor performances, an education and research centre..not to mention an amazing playground. In the words of Katy Gallagher, the chief minister officially opening the Arboretum..

this site has emerged from the ashes of the catastrophic bushfires to be transformed into a place of beauty, tranquility, recreation, research and learning.”