Category Archives: Canberra’s Public Gardens

Far North Queensland, sunshine and colour…and dodging the snow back home.

Almost every year we go to Far North Queensland in the winter. We leave our coats at home and freeze all the way to the airport. Then we board the plane for a  three hour flight into another world, casual clothing, hats and a pair of sunglasses…nothing can prepare you for the colours of Queensland.

As the plane circles to land in this beautiful part of the world my heart always gives a lift…..

the vast azure sea, the tropical mountains, and the long blue skies.

This year we went with friends and family, and visited three different places, Port Douglas, the Atherton Tablelands, and Palm Cove.

Palm Cove, a short distance from Cairns, is a pretty beach surrounded by palm trees and winding paths, and a mostly gentle sea.

We spent our time in Palm Cove with our family and lovely granddaughter, and it was interesting to see this colourful world through her eyes.

From our apartment, on the third floor, we had a great view of the lush green palms and tropical plants…

Giant Palm Lily.. growing up to 5 metres. White and cream flowers appear during the months of Feb to July. The berries ripen from yellow to red.

Birds play an important role in distribution of rainforest seeds, and we were heartened to see that Queensland has its share of cockatoos, eating and spreading seeds.

We woke every morning to the familiar sound of cockatoos screeching overhead as they flew from palm tree to palm tree. This must be an unsettling start to the day for unsuspecting overseas tourists.

Looking down from our apartment we saw a flash of iridescent blue, the Ulysses butterfly, common to this area…almost camouflaged by the rich green surroundings.

I know that many bloggers are interested in butterflies, especially Jason and Judy from https://gardeninacity.wordpress.com/ so here are a few striking Queensland butterflies from the Australian Butterfly Sanctuary in Kuranda.

Ulysses a large swallowtail butterfly abc.net.au

The Red Lacewing Butterfly Aust. Butterfly Sanctuary

Cairns Birdwing butterfly  Aust. Butterfly Sanctuary

The Cairns Birdwing butterfly is the largest of all Australian Butterflies

On our walk through the gardens to the beach we saw so many colourful and unusual plants and flowers…..as our granddaughter said ”Oh Wow!”

heliconia: part of the banana family

Golden Penda xanthostemon chrysanthus

Unfortunately I couldn’t find the name of this pretty pink/red flower..

The palm below is a striking entrance to a garden.

We have been coming to Palm Cove for about 25 years, and one thing is a constant, Pete’s Place. This is the shop where you can buy milk, bread, magazines, summer clothes and hats,

….and THE best best fish and chips in town. Especially the fresh Barramundi.

a pretty dusting of snow on the Brindabella Mountains.

Meanwhile, we read and heard about the changing weather, back in Canberra.

Canberra does get the occasional dusting of snow in our winter,  but this year …. especially in the National Park and some parts of Canberra, the snow kept on coming !

Social media went mad with clips of kangaroos hopping around in the snow, wombats and even a platypus pushing through the snow..

The ABC and BBC news and the Washington Post had clips of kangaroos bounding around in snow.  What a confusing time to be an Aussie animal…this photo says it all..

Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary Tasmania: Photo Bernadette Camus

SO….who is responsible!

…..and how about booking us into Palm Cove next year?

I hope you are enjoying your season where ever you are in the world, and thank you for taking the time to read my blog, especially if you should be out in the garden!

Copyright: Geraldine Mackey  All Rights Reserved.

 

 

 

 

Canberra’s good fortune…a twist of history, fate and International Competitions.

By a twist of history, fate, and International competitions, Canberra, the Federal Capital city of Australia, and the Australian Parliament House have been designed by two remarkable architects.

view from Mt Ainslie photo by Great Aussie Travel

In 1912 an American (Chicagoan) Walter Burley Griffin was awarded first prize in the international design competition for the new federal capital of Australia ..Canberra. He designed a city built into the landscape, with buildings and suburbs in corridors of greenery. The Brindabella mountains provide a beautiful  amphitheatre to the city.

Walter Burley Griffin in 1912

 

 

 

Walter and Marion

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Walter Burley Griffin’s wife, Marion Mahony Griffin, also from Chicago, was the first licensed female architect in the US. She did many of the design drawings for the project, and they were a true partnership in that they shared similar ideals, with an emphasis on nature, democracy and social reform.

As fate would have it, Romaldo (Aldo) Giurgola was an Italian student in Rome during the second world war, and he was fascinated by the design of Canberra, created by the Chicagoan  Walter Burley Griffin.

“It remained in my mind…you can imagine when there was only war and destruction around us. It was a really wonderful thing.”

The city of Canberra today Photo by ABC

Aldo Giurgola won a Fulbright Scholarship and moved to the US, and he eventually co-founded Mitchell/Giurgola Architects in Philadelphia. He had an outstanding career teaching and practising architecture in the United States.

In 1979 he was invited to help judge the Parliament House competition in Canberra, but he preferred to compete, seeing this as an opportunity to contribute to nation building through architecture.

The firm went on to win the competition beating 328 entries from 29 countries, and Australian Parliament House was opened in May 1988.

Parliament House at dusk …photo by en.wikipedia.org

When he arrived in Canberra Aldo looked at the view from Mt Ainslie before beginning; he wanted to fit in with Burley Griffin’s plan of Canberra.

He always believed that the building should not be higher than the people, that true democracy rises from the state of things.

view of Mount Ainslie from Parliament House

His aim was that every worker has natural light…

and the corridors and courtyards are balanced and also filled with light.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison with other politicians, walk through the many corridors during sitting weeks in Parliament …photo by Inside Story

Guirgola also suggested the colour schemes, muted pinks, greens and greys, the colours of the landscape…

Romaldo Giurgola Architect of Australia’s Parliament House…..Photo by NY Times

Several Americans including Harold Guida joined him to plan, document and oversee the construction. Harold Guida and Aldo Giurgola decided to stay in Australia, and live in Canberra.

”I have lived in New York. It is a fantastic city. But it is a city for the young. In Canberra he says, it is easier to find a measure between lifestyle, natural beauty and human ambition.

Visit of Aung San Suu Kyi at Parliament House

Aldo Giurgola remained a much loved and loyal Canberran, frequently invited to Parliament House for various events. He received an Order of Australia in 1989.

In his older age, he built a small holiday house for himself near Canberra, with views of the Great Dividing Range. The design is derived from Palladio’s villa at Vincenza, La Rotunda, and built by  Andreolo Mario.

 

 

 

 

 

 

It was essentially a square room for himself, his daughter and her dog, for working, dreaming, reading and talking. A central skylight let in additional light, and at night they could look at the moon and the stars.

It seems the perfect retirement for a wonderful architect who, despite his early life in Italy and New York,  was very much attuned to the Australian landscape and values. He remained an Italian citizen and became an Australian citizen….salute to Romaldo Giurgola!

He died in 2016, aged 96 years old.

 

Copyright: Geraldine Mackey: All Rights Reserved.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Canberra’s Australian National Botanic Gardens in winter

The end of June and the beginning of July is mid-winter in Canberra…..no wonder the pelican looks dejected.

However, there is one place where you are sure to find colour and interest in Canberra ‘s winter months, and that is at the Australian National Botanic Gardens.

I love this combination of colour and texture. The Golden Everlasting Daisy in the front, the Red Kangaroo Paw at the back, and a pretty grey shrub (no name attached) in the centre.

Kangaroo Paws come in a variety of colours including red, yellow, orange, purple and green. These plants protect themselves during extremely hot summers by letting their strap-like leaves die down, and underground rhizomes wait until autumn to send leaves up again. After a bush fire the growth of foliage on the plant become more prolific.

Golden Everlasting Daisy grow wild in every state of Australia, from the mountains to the sea. They attract many butterflies, and this one is a Painted Lady Butterfly.

Eremophila warnesii..Scrophulariaceae

This is a cream-coloured winter flowering plant. It has velvety leaves and always has a few bright purple bugle-shaped flowers.

Sturt Desert Pea

The Sturt Desert Pea  is a beautiful South Australian floral emblem, and grows well in various parts of the Botanic gardens here, especially in the desert garden. Aboriginal names for this flower include ”malu” (kangaroo eyes) and ”meekyluka” (flowers of the blood).

The Dwarf Banksia is a lovely soft green bush, with almost luminous yellow flowers….they are like welcoming beacons in the winter.

Banksia flowers attract the nectar loving big birds and the smaller insect eating birds, and are an important source of food for birds in the gardens.

The tiny New Holland Honey Eater is frequently seen at the Botanic Gardens, and is very elusive, but I was lucky enough to get this photo early one morning in the gardens.

The Crimson Rosella is another frequent visitor here, amongst the soft green winter foliage.

The gardens are full of tranquil paths and green spaces, it is hard to believe there is a University and a city just a few streets away.

Of course where there are Eucalyptus trees there are almost always Sulphur Crested  Cockatoos  as well…and here are a few of the noisiest Cockatoos in the gardens during my visit.

Don’t be fooled by that closed beak, ‘‘butter wouldn’t melt in my mouth’‘ look from this cockatoo. He has just finished screeching to his noisy friend.

Who me?

Thank you for taking the time to read my blog today, and I hope, despite the vagaries of the weather, you are able to take some time and enjoy your garden, and your part of the world, as I enjoy writing and photographing mine.

Copyright Geraldine Mackey: All Rights Reserved.

 

Canberra’s New Acton: green spaces in the city..

The Palace Theatre, in New Acton is our favourite place to go the movies in Canberra..

New Acton is a precinct in the city that has apartment blocks, a hotel, restaurants, bars, cafe, a cinema and an art gallery all fitted around the historic former Hotel Acton.

The movie theatre is in the Nishi building,  which won the International Project of the Year in 2015 Building Awards.

The building is multi-purpose with apartments, offices and a hotel and restaurants. The apartments have an energy rating  of 8 stars with the use of solar power..

In between these old and new buildings are a range of gardens, designed by landscape architects Oculus.

A dwarf Eucalyptus leucoxylon, (possibly)  soft grey westringia, and New Zealand flax.

Westringia and the weeping wattles (Acacia cognata) and a Japanese Maple.

On a quiet autumn morning this soft green garden is a best kept secret.  Nearby office workers come for coffee, others come for tea and cake, a pizza for lunch or just a snack before the movies.

Car free zones are always welcome in the city. These spaces are sometimes used for social events and markets..

Apartments are looking over community gardens  and  sculptures..

Saltimanque by Tim Kyle

A very cute little bookshop beneath a rather scary sculpture..

and back to the Nishi building where we go to the movies…this is the striking hotel entrance and staircase.

the window looks out onto the gardens…both the stairs and the window are favourite subjects for Instagrammers from Canberra.

and as we leave the movies we pass two street paintings done by the nearby University students ..

When in Canberra you are never very far away from Cockatoos, and there are plenty of real ones in the nearby University grounds..

Landscape Australia article on New Acton says: ”We believe in the power of architecture to improve our lives.”

New Acton has the friendly charm and a village feel to it, and I think it is absolutely right that architecture can improve our lives…..do you?

I hope you are enjoying your home town where ever you are in the world, and that you have some green spaces around you.

Copyright Geraldine Mackey :All Rights Reserved.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Canberra’s summer ends, farewell to the Eastern Koel…

The shadows of the trees are longer in the evening light, the air is cooler, and sweeter..

…autumn is on its way.

The lovely green (watered) lawns of Lennox Gardens are deceiving, after this long hot summer, the landscape  of Canberra is looking very dry.

At the end of summer there is a changing of the guard with our local birds.

In autumn the tiny Silver-Eyes venture out to feed from our neighbour’s blackberry bushes. They are a welcome sight.

 

 

 

Perhaps as a result of so little rain this last month, more birds are flying into the garden to use our birdbaths.

This morning while we were having breakfast on the deck, it was fun to see two young Crimson Rosellas, always shy birds, having the big birdbath to themselves.

What a thrill, bathing in the water, and having  a shower from the sprinkler.

As these two finished their bath, they flew up to the archway in the garden, their long tails spraying water as they flew…a lovely sight. Unfortunately I was unable to catch it with my camera, but here is a similar one, taken almost exactly a year ago!

Young Crimson Rosellas begin life with green feathers mixed in with red and blue, last year’s Rosella is still very green in colour.

Here is a mature Crimson Rosella in the Australian Botanic Gardens… just look how vivid his colours are, and how long his tail is. What a handsome bird!

Fully grown Crimson Rosella at the Australian Botanic Gardens.

In summer we have three Magpies visiting every morning.  Every year there is at least one Magpie who loves water just a little bit more than the others. Often the youngest one potters around the garden by himself in autumn, a little bit like the youngest member of the family, we enjoy his company….before he too, leaves to join a new group of Magpies.

The youngest Magpie, lingering in the water..

Here is a young Magpie watching her mother, who has her head tilted listening for insects and grubs in the grass and in the ground. Another youngster, learning her survival skills.

An unwelcome guest in our neighbourhood in summer is the Eastern Koel. This bird migrates all the way from tropical New Guinea to Australia for the breeding season. In recent years the Koel has progressed further south each year.

The male Eastern Koel

The juvenile Eastern Koel

The Eastern Koel is a member of the  cuckoo family. The female lays an egg in the nest of another bird, (usually a Red Wattlebird) and when the baby Koel hatches it pushes the other eggs out of the nest.

For the past three years a Koel pair have visited a neighbourhood garden, left an egg in the Red Wattle bird’s nest, and moved away.

All through the summer, a pair of Red Wattlebirds  are the hosts, and the young Koel cheeps incessantly while the significantly  smaller parents desperately  search for food for the nagging youngster. During the summer the young Koel grows to twice their size.

The Red Wattle Bird feeding from a Bottlebrush bush.

According to Birdlife Australia, it is still uncertain as to why the Koel comes so far south to breed, perhaps because the weather is warmer, the berries and fruits are in abundance in Canberra, and also the poor unsuspecting Red Wattle birds have lived in this region for a long time, and have proved to be excellent parents.

The Red Wattle bird looking slightly annoyed, and with good reason!

Unfortunately the cheeping, beeping young Koel seems to nest near our garden every year, but finally in autumn it disappears, fully grown. (Phew!)

However, one of the most welcome bird calls in autumn is the Eastern Spinebill.

Yesterday this tiny delicate bird arrived on the deck, and with a powerful call, it settled into feeding from the fuchsia. Autumn has truly arrived!

The Eastern Spinebill favours the flowers from the Peppermint Sage, but, this year, either he is early or the flowers are late, so I have used a photo from last year.

The Eastern Spinebill feeding from the flowers of the Peppermint Sage.

Canberra also has its birthday in March, so there are lots of concerts, picnics, hot air balloons,  and general outdoor gatherings. It is a wonderful time to catch up with family and friends.

I hope you are enjoying your changing seasons, where ever you are in the world.

The best birthday present for Canberra’s autumn would be good soaking rain for a sustained period of time. Crossing fingers for that.

 

Copyright Geraldine Mackey: All Rights Reserved

 

 

 

 

National Library of Australia: the quiet achiever..

The very pleasant part of living in Canberra is that the city is designed within a landscape, and even the heart of the city is surrounded by  space and bush land.

National Library of Australia in winter

Today we are off to the National Library of Australia, my favourite building in Canberra, surrounded by trees, greenery and the beautiful Lake Burley Griffin.

Developers are eyeing off other parts of the lake for a hotel and blocks of apartments, so what better time to appreciate what we do have and can never be changed.

To add to the mix, we are taking our old car for a drive into the city. It has been neglected lately and we know our 25 year old car needs regular drives to keep it going…(it has been largely replaced by our newer car…but not a word to Bessie).

So here goes, may this be the first of weekly drives, in our dear old Magna, and perhaps inspiration for a few blog posts as well.

In 1927 the National Library was moved from Melbourne to Canberra with the relocation of Parliament.

Canberra, as a new, planned city, was not entirely welcomed by the bigger established cities in Australia, until Robert Menzies became Prime Minister in 1939.  He gave Canberra his complete support, and also took a great interest in the building of the National Library of Australia.

Planning for the building of the library began in 1961, and there were many differences of opinion:  position, finances, compromises…

Harold White, the first National Librarian threatened to ‘‘throw in the towel” if a purpose built National Library was not built.

Finally, an Act of Parliament in 1960 formally separated the National Library from the Parliamentary Library and a new building for the National Library’s growing collections and services was opened on the shores of Lake Burley Griffin in 1968.

An emotional Harold White said at the opening of the National Library ‘‘after 40 years in the wilderness, the Library had finally reached ”The Promised Land”

Oh such passion for a building!

Would we have this today?

Robert Menzies Prime Minister of Australia (1939-41) (1949-66)

The National Library of Australia was designed by the architecture firm, Bunning and Madden, with  associate Tom O’Mahony. Noel Potter was appointed as the Library architect by Robert Menzies.

The principal architect  Walter Bunning considered the library to be his most important project (his ashes would be scattered in the sight of the Library in Lake Burley Griffin following his death in 1977.)

He described the building as being ”a contemporary building in the spirit of classical design.”

There is something very calm and welcoming about the Library, perhaps it is the cool marble floors in the foyer, the space, the quiet environment.

In a previous blog post I have used a quote by Minnie Aumonier about a garden, but perhaps if I could change garden to the National Library

”when the world wearies, and society does not satisfy, there is always the National Library.”

The foyer has a lovely bookshop on the left, and a cosy popular cafe called Bookplate on the right. Each of these has the stunning multicoloured stained glass Leonard French windows.

Although we arrived early, it is late summer, and the sun is streaming through the building and across the stained glass windows. Lovely to look at, but hard to photograph..

Our family, over many years, have enjoyed the National Library’s many tours, exhibitions, book launches, discussions. My daughter reminded me that she and friends studied here while at University. Paul is a regular visitor here while doing his PhD, and we often meet friends and family there for coffee/lunch and walks.

Getting ready for a walk around the lake before coffee!

No wonder the writer Marian Halligan said she could never leave Canberra because she could never leave the National Library!

Not far from the National Library along the water’s edge, is a long row of mature Manchurian Pears, a master stroke of landscape planning. They provide shade in summer, colour in autumn and spring, and beauty all year round.

For many Canberrans these trees mark the changing of seasons every year..

Instagrammers love this part of the lake..

In his speech at the opening of the National Library, PM Robert Menzies said

“despite the beauty of the building, the grandeur and classical dimensions, the true quality and international stature (of this building) lies in the collections contained within the building. These are the ‘‘great interpreters of the past to the present, the present to the present, and the present to the future”

Many thanks to the former Prime Minister Robert Menzies, to the architects, and to Harold White, and most of all to Walter Burley Griffin and his wife Marion, without whom Canberra would not be the garden city we have today.

Hope springs eternal that communal land will remain for everyone.

Thanks for visiting Canberra’s Green Spaces, and we hope to have many more (slow) drives around Canberra this year.

 

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.

 

Canberra’s regional botanic garden..STEP

Canberra is known as the Bush Capital of Australia, as it is a city interspersed by bushland, and surrounded by forests and national parks.

However, the devastating bushfires of 2003 not only destroyed over five hundred homes in Canberra, but also burnt through forests around Canberra.

As a result the ACT government decided to develop the National Arboretum in Canberra, as a centenary gift to the city.

48 000 trees have been planted in 94 forests on a 250 hectare site.

View of Lake Burley Griffin, and surrounding mountains from the National Arboretum of Canberra

Amongst the developing forests of the National Arboretum is a wonderful regional botanic garden called STEP (Southern Tablelands Ecosystem Park).

I took this photo of STEP four years ago…and still flourishing today

We recently visited STEP early one spring morning…..

The Sulphur Crested Cockatoos have a dawn gathering at the small dam near STEP….

and feed on the grasses nearby. As usual, they are very noisy, but it is lovely to see them in their natural environment…

At STEP an enthusiastic group of volunteers have gradually designed and developed an area to represent the native plants and trees typical of the Southern Highlands.

Built into the landscape is a rock amphitheatre. It is used as a gathering place for educational groups and others visiting STEP. On this cool morning, the smooth rocks ringed by the Eucalyptus trees make this a very peaceful place to visit..

The Eucalyptus trees are characteristic of those found in the region’s hills, slopes and valleys, and as it is spring it is wonderful to see some flowering Eucalyptus in the gardens ..

 

A wasp feeding off the flowers.

After a long dry winter, the spring blossoms have arrived, and not just on eucalyptus trees…the colours of the bush change from muted greens and greys to yellows, fuchsia, purples and whites..

 

Hardenbergia violacea

I took a photo of this wonderfully coloured  shrub, (Mirbelia xylobioides) on Sunday morning, and by the following Thursday it had finished flowering ….you have to be quick..

Shrub Mirbelia xylobioides

 

Solanum linearifolium (Kangaroo Apple)

 

 

Pelargonium australe

 

Ammobium alatum

 

Leucochrysum albicans

When I arrived on Thursday for a second visit,  the day after much needed rain,  everything looked fresh and green and shiny..

 

Carex appressa

Some shrubs have finished flowering and others have just begun..

Wahlenbergia stricta

 

Podolepis hieracioides

In recent years,  through blogging, and travelling,  I have read about and seen grasses being used in design and landscapes all over the world.  Now I have a new appreciation of grasses in Australia.

Carex tereticaulis

 

 

 

Cullen microcephalarm

One of the volunteers called me over to look at and feel these young grasses, Poa Induta. They are soft to feel with long silky stems and delicate seed heads.. my absolute favourite for the day…

Poa induta

The gardens have some impressive metal sign posts to mark various areas around STEP. Here you can see the flowers of the She-oaks (Casuarina) sculptured  into the metal.

Unfortunately I missed the opportunity to take a photo of the friendly and very knowledgeable volunteers sharing morning tea under the shade of some of the bigger trees.

However, here is a photo from my visit a few years ago, the shady trees have grown and are still a welcoming spot for morning tea.

The volunteers come to STEP every Thursday,  rain, hail or shine and work tirelessly to keep this wonderful regional botanic garden growing and developing.

STEP has a very interesting newsletter for Members, and it is very easy to become a member and/or a volunteer.

www.step.asn.au

Copyright Geraldine Mackey: All Rights Reserved.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Canberra in spring: Tulip Top

Can you believe this stunning property, called Tulip Top, is designed, planted and cared for by two people… Pat and Bill Rhoden.

Twenty years ago, when they lived in Canberra, Pat and Bill had won awards for their suburban garden…so when they retired they decided to find a bigger property and to really indulge their passion for gardening.

They now have a wonderful spring garden on 10 acres (four hectares) just north of Canberra at Sutton.

It seems incredible to me that Pat and Bill manage this property on their own, their son helps with some gardening, and their daughter organises the administration when Tulip Top opens in spring.

They are now 70 years old, and still propagating, pruning, weeding, mowing, sowing, and doing all the other maintenance jobs

……so I can just stop complaining about my knees after a day of gardening!

Twenty years ago they began by planting various trees. To form a canopy for the garden they have English and Chinese elms, conifers (excellent wind breakers) and eucalyptus trees are all in the mix..

Weeping willows give an early spring lace green effect..

The one thousand flowering trees took my breath away…

They have crab-apple, peach, cherry, apricot, quince and plum trees.

A particularly eye-catching tree is the Double Flowering Peach tree..

The Australian Garden History Society has showcased the progress in the garden with photos and articles near the entrance to the gardens..

…here is  a short summary of Pat and Bill’s year of gardening..

The garden is open to the public for four weeks in spring (the last two weeks of September and the first two weeks of October)

In November they lift the bulbs, which are labelled and stored in crates. (500 000 bulbs at last count).

Then two weeks worth of pruning trees..

After a Christmas and holiday break, Pat and Bill begin again in February. They re-shape the beds, add fertilizer, and make sure the PH in the soil is right.

They check bulb catalogues, and trial about 10 to 12 new cultivars each year.

In mid March seedling trays of annuals arrive, including pansies, primulas, and English Daisies, amongst others.

In early autumn the tulips go into cold storage.

Tulip planting begins in May for a six week period….right into our winter, June. As they can’t plant until the soil thaws in the winter mornings, Bill says sometimes they have to work in the dark to make deadlines.

Tulips are planted en masse, with early, mid and late varieties.

Everything is covered in sugar cane mulch…this offers protection against the birds and frost, and saves on watering and keeps the weeds down..

Pat says that World Favourite has always been a good performer for them. In the evening light, the red and yellow tulip looks as there is a light burning inside it.

World Favourite

 

Paul took a photo of this beauty, but unfortunately we don’t know its name…

This lovely apricot coloured tulip is called Actrice

Do you have a favourite tulip?

I just love all red tulips, and they bloom in the most difficult parts of our garden..

Red Apeldoorn

and the white tulips….

One very good reason to plant white tulips in our garden is that cockatoos don’t pick white flowers quite as readily as others (apparently)

…..and if you are looking for some bling, how about this one, aptly named Fabio!

One of the many kind volunteers said that Bill and Pat don’t get much sleep the week or two before opening but they are quoted as saying “just seeing the joy visitors get out of coming to Tulip Tops is the biggest reward for us”

Many thanks to Bill and Pat for a wonderful day..

The gardens are open in the last two weeks of September, and the first two weeks of October. (the beginning of spring in Canberra)

 

 

Canberra in winter: Parrots, the Lake, and Edmund Barton, first Prime Minister of Australia

Canberra has a crisp blue-sky beauty in winter…..and for those of us who live in leafy suburbs, it is all about the birds that visit our gardens, and brighten a cold day.

Winter is the time for King Parrots in our garden…. and this year they are searching, in particular, for fresh water. Almost every morning they check the gutters of our cabin for frosty water pools warmed by the morning sun.

Although King Parrots are relatively large, they are sweet, shy birds, always in pairs, and easily frightened away..

Once they have had a drink, they often fly to the Japanese Maple, right near the sunroom window…

Look at the beautiful red and dark green markings on the tail and underbelly of this bird, as David Attenborough says, the natural world is so full of beauty…

Our regular Sulphur Crested Cockatoos are also looking for water..

…and, rather like school inspectors, they investigate the garden thoroughly

and we are found wanting …….

Where are the bird baths?

What happened to all the almonds?

I have the feeling we are getting zero out of ten for this old bird bath..

Hardly any water, shabby looking, almost toppling over..

The only reason we are here is because your neighbours are neglecting theirs…

The birds are great fun to watch while I am resting and waiting for my wrist to mend. Many thanks for all the well wishes, my wrist is now almost back to normal, and all is well.

Apart from watching birds from the sunroom window, I have been catching up on some reading,

This book, called ”The Good, the Bad, and the Unlikely”  is a very short history of Australian Prime Ministers.

It is written by the irreverent and humorous journalist Mungo Maccallum.

Commonwealth Avenue Bridge. Some of the flat stones from London’s Waterloo Bridge (when it was demolished) were donated to this bridge when it was built in 1963.

Inspired by my reading, I wanted to take a photo of the statue of Edmund Barton, the first Prime Minister of Australia. His statue is appropriately in the suburb of Barton, and we decided to incorporate a walk around Commonwealth Park, near the centre of the city, before taking the photo.

Despite being a clear winter’s day, there was a biting cold wind, and all walkers and cyclists have long abandoned the Lake and are warming up in coffee shops all over Canberra.

Commonwealth Avenue Bridge, Lake Burley Griffin, and the Captain Cook Memorial

The Captain James Cook Memorial is combination of the water jet, and a terrestrial globe, and commemorates the bicentenary of Captain Cook’s landing on the east coast of Australia in 1770. The three routes of Cook’s voyages, are inscribed on the surrounding handrail.

The stunning jet  of water always attracts the eyes of tourists, especially children.  Many years ago, as a young teacher in Canberra, I met up with friends and we hired a little boat, and rowed around the fountain.

We were thrilled to get thoroughly wet by the jet spray……they seem such innocent times now!

The above photo was taken in winter a few years ago…the photo below was July 2018, absolutely freezing…..even the resident pelican looked downcast.

However, a pair of Crimson Rosellas were steadily eating their way through some scattered seeds from overhanging trees.

Across the lake from Commonwealth Park there is a view of Old Parliament House (now the Museum of Democracy) and behind it,  Parliament House today (under repair as the roof has been leaking).

Here is another, much closer, photo of Parliament House. Much clearer without the repair work tent over the roof!

And here is the handsome statue of Edmund Barton….

According to Mungo Maccallum, Australia’s first Prime Minister, Edmund Barton had one unique quality…he managed to unite a fractious group of politicians and colonies into creating a federation… in Mungo’s words..

Like most of their descendants, this motley bunch (the politicians at the time) were driven by a combination of idealism and self-interest, and getting them to agree on anything substantial was like herding a football team into a temperance meeting room.

Politicians all over Australia, agreed to become… as Barton says,

”a nation for a continent, and a continent for a nation

What a talent! I wonder how successful he would be if he tried that today!

Here is another sculpture of Edmund Barton, which is in The Prime Ministers’ Avenue, set in the magnificent Horse Chestnut Avenue of the Gardens in Ballarat. Well worth a visit, in every season.

https//ballaratbotanicalgardens.com.au

 

 

I hope you are enjoying your green spaces, where ever you live in the world….each season has a beauty of its own.

 

Copyright Geraldine Mackey: All Rights Reserved