Tag Archives: Canberra

Canberra’s summer: Red Hot Pokers, Cockatoos, and sunsets…

Every morning in summer we walk down to the shops to buy the paper…and we always stop to admire this view…

This garden is on the verge of the road and the footpath. It has been planted and cared for by a very generous gardener who lives in a house nearby. He and his wife bought and prepared the soil, fertilizer, and plants. They have even installed a watering system, and keep it watered all summer at their own cost.

How is that for a gardener’s generosity of spirit!

Red Hot Pokers

These colour co-ordinated Eastern Rosellas are up early and enjoying the morning sun.

Further along the path is a neighbouring garden spilling over with a shrub that seems to be saying…”It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas, and summer”.

Acca sellowiana, Feijoa of the Myrtaceae family

 

Every morning we pass the cockatoos and galahs enjoying breakfast at this bird feeder …(a mixed blessing)

The galahs seem to understand the pecking order, and wait for their turn. Occasionally they all eat together.

And far off on the lamp post, a female cockatoo is on parenting duty….

Nearby, a young cockatoo is holding on tight to the branch …. perhaps his first flight without his mother..

Oh dear, he had a slip, but luckily his beak is strong enough to steady him.

His tail feathers look like a wedding dress!

As we walk across the playing fields, we often see the male Red Rumped Parrot and the lighter coloured female….these parrots are always feeding  in the grass, and are totally unperturbed by sporting events going on around them.

By the time we walk home, it is getting hotter, but the Red Hot Pokers are still a treat to see as we walk…

This summer we have had a heatwave and dust storms ..

This makes for some beautiful sunsets across the Brindabella Mountains

When I look across at this view of the Brindabella Mountains,  I think there really is no place like home..

I hope you are keeping warm or cool where ever you are in the world, and enjoying your home as much as I enjoy mine.

Copyright:  Geraldine Mackey: All Rights Reserved.

 

 

 

 

Canberra the Bush Capital, bird song in summer…

In the summer time, most Canberrans living in the suburbs, wake up to birdsong.
Australia is well known for its big noisy birds, but in summer, the blackbird, tiny in comparison, has a melodious song that can be heard all through the garden, and beyond..

His sweet song, is only heard when the bigger birds are not around.

The blackbird usually sings in the morning and evening, but today he is singing right through the midday heat….. maybe he knows the summer holidays are on their way.

Another beautiful little bird takes advantage of big bird free days in the garden…the male Fairy Wren.

The male Fairy Wren

He and his family fly around the garden, tweeting softly, ducking into their birdbath, and hopping from bush to tree.

I have read that Fairy Wrens never move far from their original home, and our Fairy Wren family have been a welcome sight every year in a leafy part of the back garden.

The striking Crimson Rosellas are part of the Australian parrot families.

The Crimson Rosellas socialising on the netball hoop

They are quite nervous and shy, and fly away easily. However, when they are in the plum tree near our deck they make gentle twittering sounds to each other…and seem very sociable.

I have used this cute baby Magpie photo in one or two of my previous posts, but he deserves his publicity.

A baby magpie warbling in a Dogwood tree in one of the Parliamentary courtyards

He was warbling away oblivious of crowds of tourists and media in one of the courtyards of Parliament House. He may be warbling to try and chase the crowds away, but magpies generally look on people as friends, so he could be warbling out of the sheer joy of living.

Magpies have a very melodious song, and it is perhaps the most well-known Australia bird call, except for the Kookaburra with his more raucous cackle.

 Magpies also make a lower warbling sound. This seems to be more like talking. 

Magpies warbling at each other about who is going to get the rapidly melting strawberry ice-cream.

This summer a couple of magpies have nested not far from our bedroom. They begin warbling to each other about a half and hour before dawn every morning,

…..lovely really, but a bit later would also be fine.




Galahs feeding together near the lake

 

When I first arrived in Australia, and visited a farm in the Central West of NSW, I remember seeing flocks of Galahs rising slowly from the paddocks and flying across the endless blue skies. A lasting memory of an endearing small parrot. (but, of course, not at all endearing to the farmer watching them eating the crop!)

Galahs, like some of the other parrots in Australia, make tweeting noises to each other, and remain in groups where ever possible.

Crested pigeons, enjoying the sun together, not a care in the world..

Crested Pigeons are one of the most common birds in Canberra. I have included them despite their lack of a distinctive song, although they do coo away happily when they are nesting. They live happily in any garden, and have absolutely no common sense, or sense of danger. When they do get scared off, their wings make a kind of whistling sound as they fly away.

…remind me again of why I can’t get through the window?

I thought of writing this post today, as I walked down our leafy paths to meet some friends for coffee. The wonderful blackbird’s song followed me all the way down to the café.

It was also a reminder that in a city with some big personalities, like the Cockatoos and the Currawongs, it is easy to over look the smaller birds.

 

I hope you are keeping cool or warm where ever you are in the world, and perhaps enjoying some bird songs too…

Do you have a favourite bird, or bird song?

Best wishes for Christmas and the New Year. I’ve enjoyed another year of blogging, and being part of a blogging community. Many thanks to all  those who read and comment , and to those who just like to drop in and read occasionally. All welcome and much appreciated.

Copyright Geraldine Mackey: All Rights Reserved.

 

Mystery Bay, birds, beaches, a swamp wallaby and signs of spring!

There’s some foot tapping going on here…..

Crimson Rosella

The seed bowl is taking a while to arrive today..

We are back in one of our favourite places, Mystery Bay, visiting friends.

Canberrans are not very far from the pretty south coast of New South Wales, and it is a wonderful place to visit for short holidays and long weekends (and is usually warmer than Canberra in winter, and cooler in summer).

Mystery Bay beach

Regular readers of this blog may recognise the sharp-eyed Kookaburra and lovely Spotted Eucalyptus (Gum) trees from a previous visit to this garden…

Kookaburra in Mystery Bay

The King Parrot, always a gentle and welcome visitor to a garden, looks as if he has been colour co-ordinated to fit with this birdbath..

The King Parrot in Mystery Bay

On the first warm afternoon, we walked to Mystery Bay beach and watched the soft winter sky turn pink. On the way home we noticed Wattle shrubs beginning to blossom… a sure sign that spring is on the way.

Wattles are Australia’s National Flower, and, as I remember it,  Wattle day used to be the 1st August, but now is 1st September….

During the weekend, we went with our friends to a music concert in the neighbouring town of Narooma. On the way home we saw this lovely flower, but I have no idea what it is…I’m sure someone will be able to help me out here.

The weather was taking a turn for the worst, but we still ventured a walk through the forest, to look at the Burrawang Cycads growing amongst the ghostly looking Spotted Gum trees.

The forest is part of the National Park, and provides a home for many birds and also smaller Australian animals like swamp wallabies.

We picked a wild and windy last day to go for a walk along 1080 beach…

No matter how windy the weather, the beach is still a good place for solving world problems..

However, the icy wind that day drove us back to the car….whose idea was this anyway?

Just as we left the car park we spotted this Eastern Yellow Robin, and he seemed to come down to greet us…

As we were driving back through the bush, we spotted this Swamp Wallaby munching on some Eucalyptus leaves….

A Swamp Wallaby is a small macropod marsupial. It lives in forests, woodlands and swampy areas…

Luckily he wasn’t going anywhere until he had finished his lunch..

I wish I had been able to take a photo of his long tail…quite remarkable..

Sadly we had to leave all this wonderful wildlife, and the good company of our friends to return to Canberra…

As we drove over Brown Mountain, we noticed it had been snowing…not unusual in this part of the world, but a first for us.. (and I think this would be called a dusting of snow in the Northern Hemisphere!)

This is a picnic spot on the edge of a little town called Nimmitabel. it had been snowing since Saturday, and the children nearby were having fun with toboggans…

picnic and rest stop at Nimmitabel

We chose to have our coffee in the warm new coffee shop at Nimmitabel on this day…

When we arrived home in Canberra, our regular King Parrots ( a pair) were having a much needed drink from the birdbath….

and, spring must be on its way because they had brought a baby King Parrot along to feed on the Japanese Maple..(I think this is a female as the male has an orange head)

The baby seems to be saying…….it is very cold for a first outing…

Such a cute baby!   I felt very pleased that the King Parrots had trusted their youngster to our garden for her first glimpses of the world….

Thanks for visiting  Canberra’s Green Spaces, and I hope you are enjoying your place in the world, whatever season it may be..

For anyone who missed my first post on Mystery Bay, and is interested in the area, here is the link….

http://www.canberrasgreenspaces.com/category/new-south-wales-south-coast/

Copyright Geraldine Mackey :  All Rights Reserved.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Canberra, the bush capital, sun, storms, and season’s greetings

This  wonderful Sturt Desert Pea, from the desert of  Central Australia, seems to be singing..

‘It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas..

Canberra is nowhere near the desert in Central Australia, but the Sturt Desert Pea grows here in the Desert Garden of the Australian National Botanical Gardens.

 

Desert garden in the Australian National Botanic Gardens

Canberra usually becomes very hot, and dry-looking the closer we get to Christmas, but this year we’ve had unexpected rain, and the Brindabella Mountains stayed blue for a long time.

The development of the Arboretum in Canberra was very controversial at first….one hundred forests of trees from all over the world were planted.

This was an act of faith really because a ten year drought had not long ended. However, we have had regular rain since then, and despite the difficulties there may be, the Arboretum looks stunning now,  and is a great tourist attraction….

Not far from the south side of Canberra, (where I live) is Namadgi National Park…

These last couple of years, with abundant grasses and vegetation, there has been an explosion of babies in spring….

a young female Kangaroo with her joey

On the edge of Namadgi is  Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve…used by bushwalkers, and families alike, and it is a joy to see all the animals and birds around after a rainy day..

Kookaburra at Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve

 

baby koala Ghambi (meaning fire) and his mother..

I believe two new koala babies have been born since our visit…

…closer to home, one kindly gardener has planted red hot pokers, red geraniums, and blue agapanthus along the verge next to her house…it looks wonderful in the morning sunshine, and the red hot pokers are stunning against the white trunk of the Eucalypt tree.

I often walk along the backtracks (fire trails) with Paul and also with friends and neighbours..

Paul had just finished painting the deck  (luckily it was dry) when an unexpected hail storm occurred.

It only lasted about 15 minutes but caused some damage around the neighbourhood.

Luckily no damage for us, but most of the plants looked a bit bedraggled….. one minute it is 33 degrees Celsius and the next minute there are pieces of ice in pot plants!

 

These Liliums and the Gazanias get the prize for resilience….they began flowering again the next day.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Gazanias  must wonder what is going on here….one day a Sulphur Crested Cockatoo is lopping its flowers, the next….pieces of ice are landing in the pot!

 

My favourite part of summer is sitting on the deck having breakfast, the sound of sprinklers and happy birds flying in and out of the water.

So much fresh stone fruit to add to our breakfast… the birds eat from our fruit trees and we buy ours from the markets…something seems wrong with that equation….but where would be we without them?

yes…its beginning to look a lot like Christmas….

This photo was taken last summer, we read papers online now!

The Good Food website has this variation on a Pavlova (an Australian/New Zealand favourite summer dessert) …and there is another one with honeycomb…they are worth looking at…

slablova …the perfect crowd friendly pavola..

Season’s greeting to everyone, and thank you for your company this year, I’ve enjoyed writing about Canberra’s Green Spaces, and travelling the world through blogs I read, and the people I’ve met.

…best wishes to you all, and may you have enough time to enjoy family and friends and green spaces (or snowy white spaces from the comfort of your warm fire..) where ever you are in the world.

Copyright: Geraldine Mackey All Rights Reserved.

 

 

 

Wonga Wetlands…. water, birds, and nature’s own bluegrass band of frogs

Wonga Wetlands is a ecosystem of lagoons and billabongs, and is home to a variety of wildlife and River Red Gums. (a type of Eucalyptus tree)

The name Wonga means Cormorant in the local indigenous Wiradjuri language.

These wetlands cover around 80 hectares on the Murray River floodplains, near the city of Albury.

I have included a map showing Canberra in relation to Sydney and Melbourne, the two biggest cities in Australia.  Albury is about midpoint between Canberra and Melbourne.

We stopped off in Albury on our way down to Melbourne to visit our little granddaughter, and the Wonga Wetlands are on the outskirts of the town.

These  lagoons are being gently restored after many years of farming and grazing using reclaimed water from the Murray River.

It is an area that is now being developed  to conserve and protect the habitat, and the native flora and fauna.

It wasn’t that easy to photograph birds on the move in this wetland environment, so I have added a photo here of a  Cormorant taken along the bank of Lake Burley Griffin …to show this fine bird at close range.

The photo below shows an elegant  Egret and behind the Egret is a Cormorant, much smaller than the one from Lake Burley Griffin in Canberra.

How very well camouflaged they are in their true environment.

I wished I had a long range lens to capture the wild life on this dead gum tree…

Fortunately Paul took this great photo (below) of the Pelican and two black Darters looking on.

There is another Pelican nesting the branch below….one wonders how dead branches on dead trees stays steady, especially when the Pelican lands…

 

Paul’s second great shot was of this magnificent bird below, the Royal Spoonbill… close up you can see its eye, and the amazing white feathers flowing back from his head. I’ve read that the male Spoonbill develops a lush crest of white feathers during mating season.

We both spent a long time trying to photograph him as he put his amazing bill into the water, and skimmed along the edges of the lagoon, scooping up food to eat. ..but all our subsequent photos of this bird were blurry.

The White necked Heron

The ducks and swans seem to cruise happily through the thick algae.

 

Near this pool of water….

was a sign about the frogs…

There was very little sight or sound of these interestingly named frogs, but I did find some information from the website Backyard Buddies.

Pobblebonk Frog  (or Banjo Frog) are found in Eastern Australia, in ponds and lakes. Like nature’s own bluegrass band once the Banjo Frogs get going you’d swear you were hearing musical instruments….rather than a small frog looking for a mate.

When one frog starts to call, others will join in….a single bonk, or plonk sounds like a string of banjos being plucked.

Pobblebonk Frog: Photo from Museum Victoria

The Peron’s Tree (Maniacal Cackle) Frog is a tiny, and cute looking frog, but a very noisy creature. He sounds just like a jackhammer getting started when the mating season begins. Sometimes a Peron’s Tree frog gets into a drain pipe and calls, and there his call can reverberate and sound like the call of ten frogs, perhaps this is where the second name ”Maniacal Cackle” comes from …..

The Peron’s Tree Frog (Maniacal Cackle Frog): Photo from the Museum Victoria

The Eastern, or Common froglet must feel very ordinary next to these two!

Australia is the driest continent in the world, and we never take water for granted, so it is wonderful to see this wetland, full of water, wildlife and frogs!

I hope you are enjoying your green spaces, where ever you are in the world…

Copyright: Geraldine Mackey  All Rights Reserved.

 

 

 

 

Canberra gardening in Spring, Cockatoos ten/ Gardener one (won?)

During the dull and colourless days of winter, I always forget the sheer joy of walking into the garden in spring.

This year we planted new tulips and these pink ones were the best performers…

When they began to grow I told my neighbour they were orange, but in fact, the orange tinge is on the inside of the tulip, or perhaps the red tulips, (almost finished flowering) are reflecting some red onto them

….either way, they are a joy to walk past every morning.

A few years ago we bought a packet of mixed bulbs from Diggers and miniature surprise bulbs keep coming up in the garden,  like these tiny yellow daffodils.

 

 

 

 

Many gardens in Canberra have Alpine plants. I have grown to love them, especially in spring, when they display their tiny, but perfect flowers.

 

The almost magenta-coloured Salvia is a good backdrop for the lovely white Dutch Irises, multiplying all over the garden.

The Hot Lips Salvia (photo below) flowers for about nine months of the year in Canberra.

This year we planted some lavender along the path, and the bees absolutely love it.

New this year are some blue Dutch Iris, smaller than others we have in the garden.  We have planted them in three different parts  of the garden, with varying sunshine. They all flower at different times in spring and so there is always an extra touch of blue in the garden.

Speaking of sunshine, we have one part of the garden which has full sun most of the day.

At the nursery recently, I noticed this lovely plant called Gazania Variety. This is the description on the flower.

A small perennial plant, which is very hardy and versatile and produces masses of daisy flowers. They thrive in a range of soil types and positions, and are ideal for hot dry exposed sites.

Let me add, they are very resilient.

There were four flowers on the plant when I put it into this blue pot. Their colour is breath-taking on a sunny day, and can be seen from all over the garden. The flower below was my favourite.

I should add that this is a fly-over areas for Cockatoos who are visiting a neighbouring tree.

….as you can see from the photo below, my favourite flower has been lopped off at the stem, in the morning, and left to wilt and die.

Overseas readers might not know that Sulphur crested Cockatoos frequently take an exception to a flower, especially bright coloured ones, and they break the stem as they go past.

Not to eat, just because they can..

Crimson Rosellas are also known to do this, especially in spring, but my money is on the Cockatoos.

I tried small stakes near each stem…no luck, and then, in a hurry before dusk (early morning seems to be lopping time), I wrapped this gaudy, but strong twine around the plant.

The poor plant now looks mighty confused, and naturally is not flowering with the same gusto as before.

The flowers were lopped regardless of stakes or twine..

I found a hideaway place on the deck and pulled out all the twine and stakes. The poor plant looks as if it is on day release.

We went to visit our lovely granddaughter, and I left the long suffering, but recovering Gazania, in a very secluded spot on the deck. When we came back, there were no less than six flowers lying wilting on the deck.

So….?

In her blog  NewEnglandandGardenAndThread, Judy says we have to remind ourselves that our plants are not our children (and yes, who knew?)

However, just on principle I’m keeping the pot of Gazanias in the laundry at night, and on the front deck in the day time. (where I can keep an eye on them and flyover Cockatoos.)

okay, so where have you hidden them?

So far, the flowers are gradually recovering.

I think I might have won the battle…..

Butter would not melt in my mouth

but  perhaps not the war….

 

I’m not going to let this spoil spring for me, and I hope you are enjoying your green spaces and season, where ever you might be

 

Copyright: Geraldine Mackey  All Rights Reserved.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Parliament House in Canberra…..fences going up…

This is the entrance to Parliament House in Canberra, and it was designed by the New York based architectural company of Mitchell/Giurgola and Thorp.

The Italian architect Romaldo Giurgola said:

Parliament House should nest with the hill, symbolically rise out of the Australian landscape, as true democracy rises from the state of things.

The building lies low in the landscape and is designed for the Australian climate, the landscape, and the beautiful clear quality of light. .

Early morning light in late winter

This 196 square metre mosaic in the front of the building has the inscription….

this place where we  come and meet together…these drawings are part of the country we live in.

Mosaic designed by Aboriginal artist Michael Nelson Jagamara

Until recently it was the only Parliament in the world where you could walk over the Legislature.

Many tourists, and local Canberrans will remember walking to the top of the grassy slopes, to view the city, to watch fireworks at New Year.

However, times are changing, and there is soon to be fencing around Parliament House for extra security measures.

Recently, many people and their families met on the slopes of Parliament House to roll down the wonderfully grassy hills….in protest at the fences going up.

photo by Buzz Feed

(I immigrated to Australia as a young adult, and I think there is something endearingly Australian about such a protest!)

The end of an era, and, sadly, I imagine our grandchildren will be amazed to hear that such a thing was ever allowed…a time of innocence.

In late winter, when we arrived to take photos, the temporary fencing was being put in place.

Meanwhile life inside the building continues as before.

The entrance to Parliament House leads to the Marble Foyer. The 48 marble columns are in muted colours of pink and green….very much the colours of the Australian landscape.

The stairs are clad in green Cipollino marble from Italy and salmon pink marble from Portugal.

The walls feature twenty marquetry panels depicting Australian native flora.

Paul and I had come to look at the copy of the Magna Carta, on the first floor, unfortunately it has been removed for restoration.

……never mind, the best view on this clear winter morning is from the Queen’s Terrace Café ….

The front walls are clad with Paradise White Carrara marble from Italy, and the entrance is Red Christmas bush granite, quarried near Oberon in NSW

From here it is easy to see Walter Burley Griffin’s original design for Canberra.

 Parliament House is built into Capital Hill and from this viewpoint we can see Old Parliament House (now the Museum of Australian Democracy), the War Memorial and Mount Ainslie  

The white building is Old Parliament House, (now the Museum of Australian Democracy) behind it is the War Memorial and Mount Ainslie

You are never far away from bird life in Canberra, and this opportunistic Magpie has taken the chance to take my Blueberry Muffin, while we take photos on the Terrace.

We should know better!

Parliament House has lovely courtyard gardens, and is surrounded by flourishing Australian native plant gardens, and even resident bee hives……

Paul and I have booked a tour with one of the gardeners of Parliament House, so I hope you can join me for future spring posts at Parliament House.

Copyright Geraldine Mackey: All Rights Reserved.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cockatoos and Australian King Parrots….waiting for spring

So, what to do in winter if you are a cockatoo?

Sulphur Crested Cockatoos living in Canberra have an abundance of food, and very few enemies. So there is plenty of recreational time.

…During the dreary winter days why not practice undoing knots, and a tennis net is just the thing….

Parrot experts say that the parrot family are the smartest of all bird families, they continue to learn as they grow, rather than relying on instinct.

Luckily humans leave tempting problems like street lamps and tennis nets, and almonds wedged in the roof of carports..

A Sulphur Crested Cockatoo looking for almonds on the carport roof..

The Little Corella is a cousin of the cockatoo, and has become a frequent visitor to the Canberra region in recent years….judging by the amount of lamp post covers swinging in the wind.

Members of the Canberra Ornithologist Group have noticed Corellas teasing rows of Crested Pigeons perched on power lines by pushing them off balance..(obviously the Little Corella has no problem with balance)

Little Corella Judith Leitch www.birdlife.org.au

There is something very sweet about these Crested Pigeons, who manage to keep their fine hairdos in place regardless of the weather…(or teasing going on)

Crested pigeons

In June, the beginning of winter, we usually have cold crisp days, with blue skies…

Food is still in abundance…

The Crimson Rosella feasting amongst the grass seeds in our garden

Then comes the grey, cold July days, and life becomes a bit tougher..

The male Australian King Parrot with vivid orange and deep green colouring, and the female Australian King Parrot with a softer green and orange chest.

On cold winter mornings these King Parrots perch on the guttering of our cabin in the garden. There they drink the melted icy water after a frosty night.

We have a Japanese Maple growing between the cabin in the garden and our house. This year the King Parrots have come to feed on the dried seed pods…

.. giving us a perfect chance for photos as we sit in the sunroom having coffee..

The female Australian King Parrot

The male King Parrot

The male King Parrot spends a lot of time rearranging his tail so that he can eat in comfort.

The male King Parrot, finishing a good meal!

This magnificent Yellow-Tailed Black Cockatoo flew into my neighbour’s garden last winter, and used the Silver Birch tree as a viewing platform in the hunt for food..

(Despite their regal appearance,  I read recently that their cousins the Orange-tailed Black Cockatoo in Western Australia have suffered injuries from Raven attacks.)

A Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoo

A Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoo feeding from a Banksia bush..

And now, in mid-August, there is warmth in the air, and the skies are occasionally blue again.

We saw this Magpie on our walk this morning, and he began warbling…… a very familiar and much loved Australia Magpie call.

My Scottish father used to say the bagpipes brought ”a stirring” to his heart and I think a Magpie’s warbling brings a stirring to most Australian hearts.

and back home, here is another important member of our garden bird family ….one very noisy Cockatoo!

”I told you spring was coming…doesn’t anybody listen to me anymore?”

… it is true, spring is almost here!

Paul and I are also waiting for a very special event in our lives, my daughter and her husband are soon to have a baby, our first grandchild!

Lake Tuggeranong

With the early morning light increasing, I have been getting up early (hard to sleep in when waiting for baby) and reading and enjoying many blogs …a lovely distraction.

May you enjoy your season, and green spaces, where ever you live in the world…

Copyright Geraldine Mackey: All Rights Reserved

 

Zinnias evoke memories a long way from home…

I have a newspaper clipping from the Los Angeles Times 1999… And the title says  “Zinnias Evoke Memories of a first love” 

In my case, this article evoked memories from a long time ago, and a long way from home.

On a cool Californian day in 1999  we were visiting Universal Studios in Los Angeles. While we stopped off for coffee I noticed the Garden section of the LA Times … and Paul kindly suggested I sit down and read it while they tried another ride.   ( sounded like heaven to me).

Rebecca (Bec) and Jessica (Jess) with Apollo 13 astronauts …and Paul looking very cool in front of Tom Hanks

I wanted to read about Zinnias … yes in the middle of Universal Studios .. because they were one of my mother’s favourite flowers and she grew them in the front garden of our house in Zambia ( Central Africa) when I was growing up.

In truth I don’t know whether they were her favourites because she grew lots of flowers and always successfully.

Robert Smaus, the Times Garden Editor had written, “my first garden was full of zinnias in wild Crayola colours”

…and that is just how I remember them.

In our Zambian garden they provided a lot of colour in a climate that was hot and dry.

At the time of reading that article in Los Angeles my family had long since left Africa and had emigrated to Australia.

My parents  were living in the pretty coastal town of Port Macquarie.

 

I was transported from my coffee table in the winter sunshine at Universal Studios in LA across Australia and back to Africa…….How strong the memories of flowers and plants are!

My mother introduced me to many plants and flowers, and when my parents had a home and garden of their own in Port Macquarie I was constantly trying to transplant flowers and shrubs from Mum’s garden in (warm temperate) Port Macquarie  to ours in (cold temperate ) Canberra.

Almost all flowers turned up their toes when they got to Canberra’s freezing/hot dry climate.

I could almost hear them saying

”what have you done to me…why didn’t you leave me alone in lovely temperate Port Macquarie!”‘

Only a few survived, and they are such a welcome part of spring and summer in our garden.

Orange Sparaxis

After a full and eventful life, my mother died, not too long after our holiday to the US.

This lovely Dutch Iris (transported from Mum’s garden) was flowering the night she died..

 

The Dutch Irises have spread and flowered around our garden every November since then…..a warm reminder of our shared love of flowers and gardening.

Sweet peas were a big favourite for her and for me, (and they grew just as well for me as for her……Yes!) and the smell is another memory trigger……but who could not love a sweet pea?

 

Do you have a flower or shrub or a smell  that takes you back to a memory?

Copyright: Geraldine Mackey All Rights Reserved

 

 

 

Far North Queensland, Melaleuca Trees in Palm Cove

On a cold June morning, we flew out of  Canberra, and four hours later we landed in a very different Australian city, Cairns, in Far North Queensland.

Cairns is the gateway to the Great Barrier Reef, and the Daintree Forests, part of the Wet Tropics World Heritage area.

Despite its international airport and city status, Cairns has lost none of its original laid-back Queensland character.

view of the cane fields and the mountain range as we drive from Cairns airport to Palm Cove

Driving from the airport there are cane farms on either side of the road, and some original old Queensland houses dotted around the countryside.

We are heading just a short distance away to our favourite spot, Palm Cove…where the winter temperatures at this time of the year are around 14 degrees to 26 degrees.

…let’s just keep that a secret…

We have been visiting Palm Cove with our family for about twenty years.

When our children were young, you could take camel rides along the beach, and an old hippie had a little wooden stand where you could have a foot massage…..those were the days!

In  the colder southern states of Australia, the gardens and parks have died back for the winter, so it is almost like sensory overload seeing the glorious colourful flowers and shrubs that seem to grow anywhere and everywhere…

 

 

 

 

However, Palm Cove’s signature for me, are the most incredible Paperbark Melaleuca trees.

The trunk of the tree is layered with papery bark, which is in a continuous process of peeling and replacing. In a monsoonal tropical climate like Palm Cove, this discourages parasites from getting a hold on the tree.

(It is also very hard to pass a tree and resist peeling a fine layer of bark as you go.)

Tea tree oil is distilled from the fresh leaves and twigs of the Melaleuca, and come to think of it, this is probably what the hippie used, all those years ago, for his foot massages.

These distinctive Melaleucas were here when Captain James Cook sailed his ship, the Endeavour, within three leagues of the Palm Cove foreshore on 10 June 1770….some of the species are reported to be over 400 years old.

It is said that Captain Cook tried using the oil from the leaves to make tea, as a possible way of preventing scurvy.

The beauty of the Paperbark Melaleucas in Palm Cove is the seamless way the buildings, paths and people fit around the trees.

I have read that the local council regulated, many years ago, that buildings in Palm Cove could not be built higher than the Melaleucas…what a visionary decision!

Palm Cove will never be one of the many beaches lined by generic high rise buildings, all looking exactly the same.

Rainbow lorikeets, the busy noisy local parrots in this area, are regular visitors to the trees, as are honey eaters, sunbirds, fruit bats, native bees and many other species that feed on the Paperbark trees.

My apologies, I couldn’t find a Rainbow Lorikeet in Palm Cove the day of taking photos, so  I had to borrow a busy Lorikeet from a trip we did to Sydney’s Centennial Park. This Lorikeet is feeding on equally striking flowers from a tree called Cape Tulip Red, originally from Africa, but also very common in the warmer parts of Australia.

The camels and hippies have gone, but, thank goodness some things stay the same, Pete’s Place, with the best fish and chips in Palm Cove.

Barramundi is a locally caught fish here, and is absolutely out of this world….may it never change.  I haven’t got a photo of any of our fish and chip meals because they were eaten so fast!

….and, I need never feel too far away from home, because one of the noisiest cockatoos I’ve ever heard, is nesting just across the way from our balcony

…well, if you can’t find an almond tree in Canberra, then a Paperbark Melaleuca tree is a pretty good second…

Not even a cockatoo winging in like a Boeing 747 could ruin an evening walk on Palm Cove beach.

I hope you are enjoying your good fortune if it is summer in your part of the world, and if you are in the middle of winter, as Monty Don says, make it a restorative time.

In my next post Paul and I will go on a bird watching tour in Port Douglas…

 

Copyright:Geraldine Mackey: All Rights Reserved.