Tag Archives: Judas tree

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

 

 

 

A morning walk at the National Arboretum

Recently the National Arboretum of Canberra opened new walking tracks and these have already become very popular with walkers in Canberra.

The Arboretum has more than 48 000 trees in 100 forests, and has been under development since 2003.

We started at a midpoint along the track…..at the top of Dairy Farmer Hill….seen in the distance in this photo. The Village Centre is on the right, the Margaret Whitlam Pavilion on the left, and a grassy amphitheatre for concerts in the centre.

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The Village Centre is on the right and the Margaret Whitlam Pavilion is on the left, and a grassy amphitheatre in between the buildings. Dairy Farmers Hill in the distance

Standing at the top of Dairy Farmers Hill is a sculpture called Nest III, welded from discarded steel objects, mostly abandoned farm machinery found on farms around the region. The artist is Richard Moffatt.

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the eagle looks out over the Arboretum, Lake Burley Griffin and the city.

While we were there a magpie was feeding her chick perched on the nest alongside that formidable looking eagle. Nice to see.

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The Smokebush trees, the Saharan Cypress and the Canary Island Stawberry tree

This is a view of three of the forests below our path, leading down to the Village Centre.

Here is the purple-leaved Smokebush. Jackie French, a well known gardener and writer in Canberra once said that the Smokebush in her garden was the most asked about plant in her extensive garden!

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The Smokebush is a garden hybrid and is widely used in parks and gardens, particularly for colour contrast.

In spring, fruits begin to form, hidden amongst a network of fine fluffy stems, giving the effect of clouds of coral pink smoke, hence the name Smokebush. During November the ”smoke” will turn dark red, and the stems will loose their fluffiness as the tiny dark red fruits appear.

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Smokebush with tiny dark red fruits appearing. Further down the path are the Saharan cypress. In the distance is Black Mountain Tower.

As we walk down the hill we come to the Saharan cypress, considered to be endangered, with only 230 naturally occurring trees known to exist. In the Sahara, nomads shelter under the trees and their herds eat fallen cones, which in turn leads to fewer cypress trees growing.

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Cupressus dupreziana, common name Saharan cypress.

 

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The guide with me was pleased to see cones appearing on one of the trees, a sure sign they have adapted to life in Canberra!

 

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Mediterranean Red Bud

Just before we reach the Village Centre we come to a forest where the trees are commonly called Judas Trees, or European Red Bud. This species grows in the Middle East and southern Europe, in woodlands, on stony arid slopes, and along banks of rivers. Here they are surviving well on a sloping part of the hill.

There is a long standing belief that  Judas Iscariot hanged himself on one of these trees, thus the name, but it could also have come from the French common name, Arbre de Judee, meaning the ”tree of Judea” referring to the hilly regions of the country where it is most common.

 

As we arrive at of the Village Centre, I took a photo of the beautiful stone walls with Acacias and grasses growing happily in the front. Very low maintenance!

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There is an lookout right next to the Village Centre and these two beautiful trees were planted nearby.

I was not surprised to see they were the oldest Japanese black pines grown in Australia from imported seeds, and styled as Niwika, similar to Bonsai.

 

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Meanwhile, on this sunny spring day, a family is already taking advantage of the grassy amphitheatre to fly a kite.

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Another lovely green space in Canberra!