Canberra’s summer……heat, fires, hail and rain, and flowers..

The photos below seem like a dream to me now: this was our garden in November….late spring.

We had some rain, which made the garden look quite green.  I looked at these photos at the end of summer and I had to double-check the date on my camera to make sure it was just a few short months ago.

Despite the fairly calm conditions in Canberra in spring, the hot dry winds, the drought in much of Australia, and the early and unusual fires in other parts of Australia, were the warning signs of the terrible summer to come.

Australia’s Parliament House at midday in December. Photo AAP.

During December fires had spread across the country, and the winds blew the thick smoke through Canberra… some days the air quality was the worst of any major city in the world.

The agapanthus flowered valiantly, blue and white balls of colour through our smoky summer days.

The Gardenia flowered so gracefully on one of our hottest days…(40 degrees C) Incredible!

Our home is part of a group of suburbs not far from the Namadgi National Park, with views of the Brindabella Mountains…all mountain photos are taken from our garden or our street.

Inevitably the winds, and the searing hot temperatures spread the fires across the mountains.

Even more apocalyptic was the sight of the fires burning across the mountains at night.

During some of evenings, when our suburbs were on ”high alert” and it was hard to sleep, we shared meals and glasses of wine with neighbours…a memorable time.  There was an acute sense of camaraderie and community during  the  fires.

Then came a sudden chance of rain, which became a freak hail storm…

Paul rushed to get the unexpected hail out of the entrance of the water tank, before the water had a chance to overflow and/or hail damaged the tanks litter strainer.

Finally some nice, steady rain came! The whole garden looked as if it was having a bad hair day!

However, in many parts of Eastern Australia there were floods and road closures …

ABC news photo

…even more trauma and heartbreak for people and particularly wildlife.

Finally, in February the cooler weather and rain enabled the ACT Emergency Services to gradually reduce the fires in the mountains.

Miraculously, everything started to look green again. Canberra, at the end of summer could do with more rain, but all normal weather patterns do not apply this year!

Cautiously at first, the birds are coming back to the garden..

The almond tree had endured hot dry winds, leaves stripped from the hail storm, and reduced water…

but it has flourished and has a bumper crop of almonds this year..who know why?

”…and he said, and she said….””

The cockatoos are back….noisily cracking almond nuts and gossiping in the trees… is back to normal.

During the last few months many animals have been moved out of Namadgi National Park for their safety. Amongst them, platypus, koalas, rock wallabies and even Northern Corrobboree Frogs. I hope to do a post on their return soon.

After seeing the plight of so many koalas this summer,  here is a link to a video clip of an endearing young koala called Willow, and her first encounter with a butterfly.


I hope your season, summer or winter, has been less traumatic than ours, and that you are ready, as we are, to enjoy the mellow days of autumn.

Copyright Geraldine Mackey: All Rights Reserved.



27 Replies to “Canberra’s summer……heat, fires, hail and rain, and flowers..”

  1. I did wonder how you had got on during your dreadful summer and am pleased to read it was no worse. Thanks for all those frightening photographs of the fires and the ;ink to the koala.

  2. You certainly went through it all, Geraldine. So glad to see your little green oasis is calling in the visitors again. All is calm.

  3. So sad there. Thanks for keeping us informed. Glad rain arrived and fires abated. Poor four leggers. Everyone loves a Koala. Stay safe. Diane

    I completed a major landscape change last week. See it on my blog…

  4. From comments you have left on my blog, I know you were all right and had made it through the fires. But I have been thinking of you. And your story and those harrowing pictures brought tears to my eyes. My oh my oh my! I hope the Coronavirus stays well away from your country. You’ve gone through enough.

    1. Yes, it has been a dreadful time and those dealing with wildlife must find it heart-breaking every day. Thanks for your kinds thoughts Laurie.

  5. You were certainly rather too close to Namadgi for comfort. It was such a relief when the rain arrived and those fires finally were extinguished. We live not so far from the Gospers Mountain fire, and on a recent trip to Sydney drove through some of the burnt bush. I don’t think I’ve seen bush so thoroughly incinerated – absolutely no undergrowth left and blackened sticks of trees. It’s an indication of just how ferocious those fires were.
    We have had some rain too and the rejuvenation in the garden is giving us much pleasure.

    1. Yes, the bush has been completely incinerated in parts as you say. The fires were terrifying. I certainly wouldn’t stay to try and save the house, far to frightening to be faced with that kind of fire.

  6. Such gorgeous photos of your lovely summer garden Gerrie. The Agapanthus remind me of our garden In Johannesburg and our Doberman ‘Brutus’ who used to enjoy biting off their heads. 😯
    The fire images are really frightening. I can believe that you and your neighbours didn’t get much sleep during that terrible time.
    The koala butterfly video is beyond cute. 🙂 I’ve forwarded the link to my sister and daughter. Always good to see a post from you. xx

    1. We had a laugh about Brutus biting the heads off Agapanthus. We call the Agapanthus the ”bully-boys” of the garden, tough as old boots.(but clearly not when Brutus was around!) I’m glad you enjoyed the koala meeting the butterfly video, I think Willow is a particularly cute.

  7. Sitting over here I thought I could envision your fires, but those nighttime shots certainly showed me I couldn’t. I can’t imagine the mental and physical stress you were under. So glad you have recovered somewhat and are getting back to a more normal time. The video was exceptional, and I kept imaging the conversation the Kaola was having in her head about this bright thing perched on her nose. 🙂 Our weather has certainly turned chaotic, but it is mostly the stuff coming out of our capital and the campaign trail that keeps us stressed out. 🙂

    1. Thanks for your empathy Judy, yes, those bushfires days and nights seem to go on for a long time, I was looking forward to normal routines and a predictable life, it makes me realise how people feel in war zones.

  8. I am so pleased that life is getting back to normal (?) for you again, Gerrie. The photos of the fires are terrifying; you must have been so apprehensive and worried. I hope your health hasn’t suffered from all that smoke pollution.
    Your garden looked wonderful in the early summer and after all the distress it has been under I am amazed to see it looking so good now! All those almonds!

    1. Thanks Clare, yes,the fires on the mountain were terrifying. I think the stress of the fires were slightly counter-balanced by having a community going through it with us. My mother often talked of the camaraderie during the war. I can understand that now. Fortunately no respiratory problems from the smoke.

  9. What about your water supply? The dams around Sydney had some problems from ash contaminating the water.

    We have another fire going, causing smog over the city – but NOTHING like yours.
    Such a relief to step into rain and green and to see life returning!

  10. Oh goodness, you have often been in my thoughts over the last few months. I was shuddering reading this, there are no words…. so wonderful seeing the wildlife return and the garden recover a little. I pray for normal weather for you all.xxxx

    1. Many thanks Dina, yes the garden and the landscape look better now, and yes indeed some normal weather would be great!

  11. What an awful trial to go through. I’m glad things turned green again when the worst was over, and the almond tree bore lots of nuts – maybe in response to being stressed? And it must have been gratifying to see the cockatoos return.

    1. The almond tree may be responding to stress …the birds are enjoying the almond cafe …..definitely open for business!

  12. I’m finally catching up on reading blogs and it’s striking how just a few short weeks ago, you were writing that things were getting back to normal. Amazing how the world can turn upside down so quickly and nothing is normal now.

    Your photos were a wonderful window into the turmoil of your summer. Now you’re going to have to post photos giving us a tour of the inside of your house! Crazy.

    1. Thanks Brenda, and yes, it seems a very short time ago we were getting together with neighbours for moral support fighting fires, and now we are avoiding them! I was just wondering what an earth I could write about now…the inside of my house…. definitely!

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