Tag Archives: Grevilleas

Canberra’s spring: birds, plants and a BraveHeart..

Canberra in spring, sunshine and flowers…. it is enough to make your heart sing.

Every day during winter the beautiful little Eastern Spinebill came to feed from the remains of the Peppermint Sage in our garden.

The Eastern Spinebill is an important pollinator of many native and non-native plants.

The Eastern Spinebill is a Honeyeater, and its long curved beak can reach nectar from native and non-native flowers.  They are often mistaken for Hummingbirds, (including by me) as they can hover over a flower in the same way a hummingbird does, but generally they perch on branches like other Honeyeaters.

The Eastern Spinebill: Photo by Ian Wilson (c) www.birdlife.org.au

The moment spring arrived, so did the Red Wattlebird. This bird is amongst the largest of the Australian honeyeaters. Despite the Eastern Spinebill’s loud call, he didn’t stand a hope and soon disappeared, and the Wattlebird took possession of the flowering Grevilleas, Camellias, and indeed, the whole garden..

The Red Wattlebird is known to be very assertive, noisy, and tenacious. It is difficult to tell the male from female, but both are extremely territorial in spring.

This year’s Red Wattlebird chased the sweetly twittering Silver-Eyes out of the plum tree, and the Crimson Rosellas out of the apricot tree.

..and the Blackbird, minding his own business searching for worms by the veggie patch…

It’s not as if they are all searching for the same food. ..the Wattlebird mostly feeds on nectar, and occasionally eats insects, either in the foliage, or caught mid-air….but is not a dedicated worm eater like the Blackbird!

Our garden felt a bit like the Australian parliament last week, there was a sudden shift of power!

Yesterday, to Paul’s amazement,  he saw the Red Wattlebird chasing a young Currawong…. David verse Goliath!

Currawongs are highly intelligent birds, with a distinctive and melodious call. They eat fruits and berries as well as small vertebrates, and in spring they sometimes attack nests for bird’s eggs.

No wonder the Wattlebird has turned into BraveHeart!

Pied Currawong: Photo by Harry Charalambous (c) www.birdlife.org.au

This spring we are choosing native plants to go into our newly cleared garden beds. Canberra had half our annual rainfall this year, and surrounding areas have been declared drought affected, so we are looking for frost resistant, and drought tolerant plants.

We would also like the plants to be bird-attracting (we can enjoy the birds and they are such good pollinators.)

Here are some we could choose:

(I took all these photos at our Australian National Botanic Gardens here in Canberra, a wonderful place to visit in spring.)

Grevillea

Grevilleas have been very successful in our garden so far…

Correas

Correas, are very easy to grow, and the bell-shaped flowers attract nectar feeding birds throughout the year.

Bottlebrush bush

The Bottlebrush is a hardy rewarding shrub, we have some in the garden already, but they are so reliable, we’ll add more.

Wattles (Acacia)

We had a Cootamundra Wattle Tree, beautiful while it lasted, but fairly short lived. We will plant another one.

A New Holland honeyeater on a Banksia flower.

I have not succeeded in growing a Banksia in our garden despite their hardy ability to survive in drought, once established.

Sturt Desert Pea

Who would not wish this lovely and unique flower in the garden, but I have only seen them thriving in the Australian Botanic Gardens, rather than gardens around Canberra.  I’d love to know if anyone is growing them successfully in Canberra.

I hope you are enjoying your season, and your place in the world at this time of the year, and may the sun shine and the rain fall on all the drought affected areas, in Australia, and elsewhere.

Many thanks to the photographers at Birdlife Australia, who generously allowed me to use their photos for the Eastern Spinebill and the Pied Currawong. This is a great organisation to support.

www.birdlife.org.au

Geraldine Mackey: Copyright, All Rights Reserved.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mount Taylor, a summer walk..

Summer is coming slowly to the Brindabella Mountains, a lovely blue and green tinge lingering from spring.

This is the view of the mountains from our street.

 

This region is Ngunnawal country, and it was an important meeting place and significant to many Aboriginal groups.

The mountains and hills were used as markers and were excellent vantage points for keeping an eye on enemy clans, and signalling friendly clans.

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This is a glimpse of Mt Taylor from our back garden….a backdrop behind our  almond and  plum trees.

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Mt Taylor is part of a green belt between the satellite cities of Woden and Tuggeranong. This was all part of Walter Burley Griffin’s plan for green spaces between town centres

Last month, the end of spring, we enjoyed an early morning walk, up Mt Taylor.

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It was still cool, and the kangaroos were waking up slowly…

Amongst the grasses there were some wild flowers.

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Golden Everlasting

 

 

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St John’s Wort

Today, we did this walk again…..the signs of summer are everywhere…

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The kangaroos are alert and looking for greener grasses..

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Some wild flowers are still blooming…the grasses are drying off..

The natural bush colours of summer; grey, yellow and brown are everywhere to be seen.

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This is a Noisy Friar bird. He looks a little pre-historic, but his beak is very useful for feeding off Eucalyptus trees and wild flowers

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What a joy to see these flowering Eucalyptus trees…the flowers and supple branches are often used in Christmas wreaths, and always remind me of summer holidays..

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Here are two Wattle birds…like many Australian wild birds…quite bossy!

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The magpie calls a friendly hello from his feeding spot in the grasses and wildflowers

This cockatoo has landed with a deafening screech on a tree near us, and climbed to the top spot…

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The Corellas (cousins of the Cockatoos) are all feeding on some wattle bushes near the road…

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I wonder if that magnificent yellow crest increases self esteem for Cockatoos?

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As we walk back home I can’t help taking photos of two lovely flowers, one growing almost wild in a corner of someone’s garden. I’m not sure of its name, but one of the Protea family I think.

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Protea: Rocket pincushion

and the other, a striking Bottle brush, flowering quietly in the shade along the back track. (officially known as the Fire trail)

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And back home to our garden. Paul has spent a few heavy lifting days putting mulch down all over the garden, to keep the plants cool for summer.

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Here in the front garden we are planting for birds and bees…salvias, daisies, Grevilleas, and the lovely Chinese Tallow tree.

May you enjoy your green spaces, where ever you are in the world, and if you are in the depth of a northern hemisphere winter, then I hope you are planning for your spring!

Copyright Geraldine Mackey All Rights Reserved.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Spring flowers at the National Botanic Gardens

October is the perfect time to visit the Botanic gardens in Canberra…

 

Canberra has had very good winter rainfall, and now, at last, all the plants have sprung into life.

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Recently we took a guided tour of the Gardens, called ”Breakfast with the birds”.

It was absolute magic to be able to stroll around the grounds of the Botanical Gardens in the warm early morning sunlight, before the gates were open to the public.

This was followed by a delicious breakfast in the café. A great way to start the day.

img_6337-956x1024Our guide said  Wattle Birds have to check each individual flower in the Grevilleas and usually only find some nectar in about one in ten flowers.

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No wonder they are such busy birds. In spring they whiz about our gardens like streaks of light…my neighbour says it is like being in a Star Wars movie sometimes.

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This Wattle Bird has a nest just above her head in the Banksia bush.

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The ever alert Currawong is in the same bush…waiting..

(I’m pleased to say two Wattle Birds chased it away a few seconds later)

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I love looking out for birds, but the colourful native plants were the scene stealers on this day..

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The Proteas (Waratahs) look wonderful alongside the ghostly white eucalyptus tree.

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And here are more Grevilleas and other spring flowers.

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Isopogon formosus

 

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Eastern Spinebill feeding on a Grevillea

 

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Grevillea Flexuosa Zig-Zag Grevillea

 

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I hope you are enjoying your plants, gardens and green spaces in whatever part of the world you call home…

I’d love to know if you have a favourite amongst your own plants.

Copyright Geraldine Mackey  All rights reserved

 

Beyond the city, the bush garden calls….

Peter and Lyn have created a water wise, bush-style garden within 40 minutes of the city centre of Canberra. It has been a work in progress since 1981, and shows incredible dedication and talent.

IMG_7113 (1024x838)As they had chosen to live out of town, Peter and Lyn wanted the garden to blend in with the surrounding bushland.

All the dry stone retaining walls are made of excavated rock from the house site. Peter has constructed and built the walls, steps and structures…in fact….everything!

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The copper sculptures in the garden are designed by Annie Storey, and the corrugated water tanks and sandstone set them off well. Lovely to see the yellow flowering Acacia cognata spreading across the rocks.

There are some camellias, and other exotics tucked away in the front garden, but we are here in early December, when the real heat starts, so we are looking at the predominantly native parts of the garden. Beyond the water features, Peter has used more corrugated iron and sandstone as borders for garden beds.

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There is a dry creek bed….and grass tree

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kangaroo paw, golden correa, forbs, grasses, mountain devil and other local indigenous plants.

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Kangaroo paw

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Along the side walk are Waratahs, a flannel flower and Banksias.

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The kangaroo paws used to be in pots but are now doing well in the garden.

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Peter said he has a particular love for banksias and has many varieties behind the house. ”I like native plants as they flower for a much longer period of time and they attract so many birds.”

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The vegetable garden and orchard have become Lyn’s domain since she retired. The orchard provides them with lemons, nectarines, mandarins, cherries, pears, and the surrounding bushes are raspberries and blueberries and grapes.

(Lyn said some parts of the orchard are to be replaced, as the trees are too close together.)

 

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Here are the vegetable beds with strawberries, peas, beans, capsicum, eggplants, herbs, cucumber, corn and carrots and asparagus…all on four bed rotation.

Now that is organisation for you!

The potato bed has been designed to allow Lyn to open part of the fencing and harvest potatoes without disturbing the plant.

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There is a bed for rockmelons, pumpkins and zucchinis at the bottom of the dry stone retaining wall.

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As we  walk around the garden and back to the car, we see this glorious Grevillea with flowers like candles shining in the sun….

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and a Bottle Brush bursting with red flowers…………

and it’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas!

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Thanks to Lyn and Peter for sharing this wonderful bush setting which is their home and garden.

This garden was part of Open Gardens Canberra

www.opengardenscanberra.org.au

 

Spring time at the coast

December is such a hectic Christmas month, I’m taking a nostalgic look at our visit to the South Coast of New South Wales in spring

…a stroll along the beach early on a soft spring day

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plenty of time to take in the details……

patterns in the water…

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……..on the sand and the rocks

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and little worlds,  all going about their day

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Later, we had coffee looking out over the Narooma breakwater….

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then we walked along  the craggy path to the headlands… I wished I’d had this photo while I was still teaching..

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We watched seals sunbaking on the rocks at the headlands…..regardless of the waves crashing up against them…

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Turning back from the headlands, is Narooma with Gulaga (Mt Dromedary) in the background.

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I love the inlets around Narooma, so still and calm…I’d rather be a pelican than a seal any day!

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On the way home we passed a valley full of lilies…yet I have trouble growing one or two in Canberra..

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Here is a hedge surrounding the car park at the local supermarket, a master-stroke of design for a public place, hardy and useful for birds. Grevilleas are planted along the southern side.

 

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The wattle birds and parrots are feeding and chatting everywhere

 

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On the side of a busy road, this New Zealand Christmas bush was flowering in all its splendour

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We took a quiet back track through a small forest of spotted gum trees on our way home.

A curious Red-necked Pademelon, (related to a Wallaby) stood looking at us..It was so quiet he stayed for a while

….and made our day.

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When we arrived back at our friend’s house, (Gardener Extraordinaire), her neighbours had given her some kangaroo paws and bottlebrushes from the garden.

So much to see and do on a spring day at the coast!

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All photos copyright to Gerrie Mackey

 

 

 

 

 

 

Canberra’s native gardens around Parliament House

Parliament House in Canberra covers an area of 33 hectares on Capital Hill. There are 10 hectares of turf (easy to see) and 13 hectares of garden beds. I have written a post on the courtyard gardens, but native gardens around the building actually make up about nine hectares of the gardens.

IMG_5637 (640x390)In 1988 the native gardens were originally planted as a dense understory beneath the canopy of trees.

Canberra suffered a very long drought, starting in 2003 ….the native gardens were watered until 2006 when the whole region began severe water restrictions. To achieve a 45 per cent reduction in water use, the irrigation of the native gardens was stopped. As with many gardens in Canberra, some plants were lost,  others adapted well, and some were replaced by shrubs that could tolerate drier conditions.

Here are some of the native plants that have survived and thrived…..

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Hairpin banksias (Banksia spinulosa)

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Eriostemon

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An early flowering Bottle brush (Callistemons) in this part of the garden

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Grevillea ground cover

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Grevillea shrub

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Purple Mint Bush (Prostanthera ovalifolia)

The gardens fit into the landscape so well that it is surprising to find paths winding throughout the shrubs and trees, it is easy to forget we are walking between Parliament House and a busy road!

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Tennis courts, for use by all parliamentary staff, are almost hidden amongst the trees..

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and a Senate oval is used for volleyball, football and touch football. The hedge of Bottlebrushes are unfortunately not flowering yet, we’ll come back later for them.

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The plants at either side of the Senate oval steps are hairpin banksias and white Correas

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Natives grasses are used as boundaries between one garden and another….unfortunately the snowy river wattle (Acacia boormanii) has almost finished flowering (behind the native grasses)

I love the white barked gum trees which can look spectacular in the evening or early morning light.

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This is the perfect habitat for birds, but, today, we’ve only seen the larger birds around…. ravens, magpies, and of course…..a currawong being swooped by poor swallows as they try to defend their nest.

It must be spring!

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a Magpie studiously ignoring the frantic call of a Plover.

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a Currawong looking out for the swallow’s nest…

The Senate gardens are slightly different to the House of Representative gardens, so I’ll write about that in a new post.