Canberra in summer: gardens, sunshine and life with cockatoos

Canberra’s usual spring planting was lost to rainy weather. Finally, close to December, the rain stopped falling and the sun came out, but most of us were still struggling with Hayfever, after months of long grasses growing in between suburbs and on verges of gardens.

The rain prevented the lawns and pathways from being mowed.

Once the rain stopped and the sunshine came through, it was lovely to walk through the garden and see it blossoming for summer.

We’ve never tried growing Lupins before, but during Covid we ordered three Lupin plants online, and this was the only one of three that survived, and thrived! The bees loved it.

The Salvias have also attracted the bees, and although I was tempted to trim this red Salvia as it spread, I took my cue from the bees buzzing around me!

When we visited the UK I was amazed to see hedges of fuchsias growing like weeds. They are tricky to grow in this part of Australia, but these two seem hale and hearty.


This hydrangea is loving its place under the plum tree and this year it has the right amount of water and sunshine.

Paul has grown an impressive crop of garlic this year, and to think he was worried that our continual rain in November, might affect the crop. Once the crop has dried out, (in our garden shed) Paul will keep the garlic under the house, in a cool dark shelf.

Buddleia /Buddleja (not sure of the spelling here)

I have included this lovely plant although it grows in Melbourne, near the home of our daughter and family. Our granddaughter, aged five, said she watched a cartoon about bees, and when they saw tempting flowers, they said to each other “Let’s have a party!”

This gorgeous blue flower is always full of bees having a party, and if we ever have a space in our garden, we’ll try to grow it.

Canberra has many paths between suburbs and plenty of choice of walks. During the summer months Paul and I walk almost every day. One of our favourite walks is near “Five Ways” otherwise known as Ken’s garden, which I featured last year.

We live on the side of Mount Taylor and so we walk up a path called Heartbreak Hill (named by one of our neighbours) and along to Ken’s garden and then back home.

Red Hot Pokers and Agapanthus

Ken began by planting some Red Hot Pokers and Agapanthus on the verge of his house and garden, and then gradually extended the garden.

It is a wonderful social space where people tend to linger on a summer day, chatting to Ken, his wife, or other passers-by. It is very much valued by the community.

Not to mention birds, and Wattle Birds in particular, as you can see.

Wattle bird feeding on Red Hot Pokers.

The birds in Canberra have never had such a feast of grasses, flowers, seeds and berries. As a result we now have far more big birds than usual, many living on Mount Taylor near us. (Currawongs, Ravens and Cockatoos)

When it comes to Cockatoos, the War of the Roses has nothing on the Wars for space in the best Eucalyptus trees. We live opposite two mature Eucalyptus trees, and this summer, there has been constant screeching and chasing each other in and out of the trees. Their wingspan is incredible and their screeches can be ear-splitting.

When they are in the trees, they often peel the bark and drop it, or they shred flowering trees, (or our Almond tree.)

Mercifully they all seem to fly off to the mountains once their young are mature enough to be self-sufficient.

Paul found this wonderful card in the National Library, and it just sums up cockatoos perfectly……

Thank you for taking the time to read my blog today, and may you be happy and healthy in 2023.

Copyright Geraldine Mackey: All Rights Reserved.

24 Replies to “Canberra in summer: gardens, sunshine and life with cockatoos”

    1. Thanks Barbara, I’m not surprised agapanthus are weeds in New Zealand, you almost need a bomb to remove them! I think gardeners in Australia probably continue to grow them because they are so tough, and can withstand drought conditions.

  1. I am drooling over Master Gardener Paul’s garlic; plus, your garden and surrounds are obviously blessing the rain you have had. What a gorgeous show of colour.

    We are getting our own dumping here in Far North Queensland. 92mm in my gauge in one afternoon (& 250mm across the week).

    1. Yes Paul is definitely Master Gardener in this garden, and I should have mentioned he had 50 garlic bulbs in that crop! Wow 92 mm of rain in one afternoon…as Paul said, “you sure know how to do rain in Far North Queensland!”

  2. Gerrie,
    Adore the lupines. I am envious. Cannot seem to grow them here in Virginia. The garlic is impressive also.
    Good to hear that you both are well and safe.
    I am in the process of having both hips replaced…the first was on October 24 and the second will be 2/6. Big process, yet if I want my life and activities back, I must walk this path.
    If you check out my blog posts of last year, you will see how I pushed to accomplish many major garden chores before going under the knife.
    Best to you and Paul in 2023.

    1. Hi Diane, so sorry to read you are having both hips replaced, but as you say, it is necessary if you want mobility, and gardening is such a wonderful activity, it would be hard to live without it. My sister-in-law had two hip operations and now is blissfully free of pain.

  3. That garlic is gorgeous! No wonder Paul was happy. Nothing like fresh garlic, so hard and crisp. The flowers are beautiful, and I so enjoyed reading about Ken’s garden and how it has become a place where folks gather and talk. A lovely example of gardening for others.

    1. Thanks Laurie, Paul was very happy with his crop. I agree, it is lovely to have a green space where people can meet, Ken is certainly gardening for others.

  4. I would love to watch all those shrieking cockatoos! It’s a pleasure seeing all your blooms and Kens, especially during our bleak mid-winter. Wow, that garlic is fantastic!xxx

    1. I think you would love the cockatoos, they are such personalities, and refused to be bossed around by humans. Best wishes for the winter, I always enjoy your lovely English gardens when we are in the middle of our winter.

  5. Hi Gerrie, great post! I am envious of your garlic and also the lupin which I have had no success with at all. I nurtured 5 little seedlings in the house through the winter and only one survived. It has done nothing since I planted it out in the garden.
    Your walks sound wonderful, especially the part about gathering with friendly neighbours.
    It is starting to be difficult keeping our garden going in all the recent hot weather, with no rain.

    1. Thanks Jane. Re the Lupins ….actually some tiny black beetles ( don’t know the name) were eating the stem and leaves of our Lupin and once we got rid of them one survived.

  6. What a wonderful post to read as I look out at a white landscape. Beautiful flowers! I have killed more Lupines than I care to mention including three that I drove quite a ways into Maine to buy last summer. I just can’t get them through that first year. Congrats because your plant is beautiful. I’m glad you are finally getting some sunshine so you can enjoy your walks to view other beautiful gardens. What a treat! I always find your birds handsome, but I’m sure the screeching and destruction do get old. Take care and enjoy all those beautiful blooms.

    1. Thanks Judy, and yes we are enjoying the summer blossoms.It is interesting to read comments saying how difficult Lupins are to grow, now I am going to reserve that spot in the garden and see if I can grow another one next year.Maybe I’ll be lucky twice!

  7. Impressive garlic! You and Paul won’t be bothered by vampires this year. I love hearing about Ken’s garden–what a nice walk destination.

    We are finally in full winter white here, so, as Judy said, it’s always a treat to see your posts with vivid summer bird and flower colors. I hope the upcoming year is good to you!

    1. Thanks Brenda, always nice to be able to show some progress in the garden in the summer. Paul is very pleased with his garlic and it also means he will have a good start using some for next season’s crop.
      I’m sure you are keeping busy, (and warm) doing a new weaving project!

    1. Thanks Sylvia, the flowers are looking good this year. I can’t imagine Lupins would survive in Florida, but you never know!

  8. We have been enjoying our wild Agapanthus africanus on our mountain hikes. A low plant with deep blue flowers.

    My garden plants sulk (would like more water) but I had one flower for Christmas.

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