Canberra’s autumn in Lockdown, rain, sunshine and birds

As the calendar pages turn towards the middle of 2020, uncertainty and Lockdown continues in Australia, and the world.  As if to compensate, autumn has been magnificent in Canberra this year…

After a dreadful summer of bushfires and thick smoke, it is wonderful to see trees, and plants flourishing with good rainfalls around Canberra in March, April and May.

The  weather looks wild through the Eucalyptus trees, but the trees are loving it….

not to mention the birds!

Photos could not really capture the sheer delight these cockatoos are having in some nearby Eucalyptus trees during the rain..

They are flying into the trees, calling (screeching) to each other..

….and sinking down gently into the rain-filled branches. A couple of them were hanging upside down on the outer branches, with wings spread out (I missed that photo opportunity)

Watching their games and delight, it is a reminder of how much they have missed the rain too.

The Crimson Rosellas are also back in the garden in bigger numbers than we have seen for a few years.. a little more sedate in their response to rain..

Here in Canberra  the autumn colours of the  landscape are often muted greens and soft greys, but this year, everything is looking very, very green.

Our Lockdown rules allow for a walk every day, and this one is a favourite of ours because it is not far from our house.

We follow this path until we come to what is known by locals as ”Heartbreak Hill” or ”Cardiac Arrest” Hill.  Actually it is not steep at all, with lovely views of the mountains, along the way.

One morning we were walking up Heartbreak Hill and we came across these two delightful young parrots… called Gang Gangs. A parent is watchful in the leaves behind them.

Does anyone know the ”Where’s Wally?” children’s books?

This could be “Where are the Gang Gangs?” amongst the autumn colour.

We have never seen Gang Gangs in our suburb, but, so much natural habitat in the bush has been lost in the fires, it is not surprising birds are moving into suburban areas for food.

They are most welcome!

Years ago I used to walk down this path almost every day. An elderly gentleman was always working in his garden and one day when I admired his roses, he told me I could come in and cut some roses to take home, at anytime!

He passed away some time ago, but he would love to see these roses continuing to flower.

It made me wonder how long do roses last?

Paul has been painting the cabin and the deck, and now to the garden!  My contribution so far was to ‘trim’ a very old Rosemary bush…once I started I couldn’t stop! Paul called it the ”Rosemary Bush Massacre”.

There is a large green grevillea near the deck called ”Wee Jasper”. This bush brings the Wattle Bird and also the elusive  Eastern Spinebill to our garden, because it flowers all through autumn and winter.

However, because it does flower for such a long period of time, and has birds and bees buzzing around,  it is seldom pruned.

While I had my garden clippers at hand, I decided to trim some of the older branches of the Wee Jasper..

As I reached into the branches of the Wee Jasper,  the Eastern Spinebill flew into the bushes and settled on a branch very close to me. I couldn’t believe how close it was, and how still. This is a bird almost impossible to photograph as he usually moves so fast and is very elusive.

I have just enough Irish blood in me to wonder if that tiny little bird was warding me off his bush…perhaps he was watching while I trimmed the Rosemary Bush..

…Eastern Spinebill one, Gerrie nil.

The Eastern Spinebill feeding from the Pineapple Sage, photo taken two years ago.

We are lucky to have one of our daughters working from her home here in Canberra, and it has been a few months now since we have seen our elder daughter, our son-in-law and our granddaughter.

Just after Christmas our granddaughter helped us pick this very cute koala for the garden. ..  a happy reminder of her.

We look forward to more State borders opening in Australia, so that we can get together again.

Many thanks for taking the time to read my blog posts, and thanks also to the nurses and health workers all over the world. ..what a service to communities they do!

Copyright Geraldine Mackey: All Rights Reserved.

 

 

Paul’s graduation, and days to be remembered ..

The first few months of this year have slipped away, unnoticed, since the global grip of CV 19. Yet February 2020 was quite a milestone for Paul, and for our family.

On 12th February 2020 Paul was awarded his PHD in Health Policy. The ceremony was held at the Deakin University Campus at Geelong.

Our little granddaughter Joanie was not at all phased by her grandfather’s long gown, but nearly ready to take off in the wind, on this most exciting day!

Five years ago, Paul retired, and immediately began his PHD.  Both Paul and I have always loved learning, and we were both surprised at how many people were amazed that he should start a PHD at 60 years of age.

Paul’ s father and uncles were pharmacists, and many of his family work as health professionals of various kinds.

Not long after Paul was born, (the first child in a family of eight children) Paul’ s father, Frank bought a pharmacy in a small town, Oak Flats on the south coast of New South Wales.

Rebecca and I with Paul’s parents, Margaret and Frank.

Frank, a quietly spoken, knowledgeable man was the perfect pharmacist for a region not blessed with many  health facilities, doctors or clinics. At the end of every day he returned home only after he had delivered prescriptions to elderly patients. As the children grew, the older boys in the family delivered prescriptions  on their bikes on the weekend.

Years after Paul and I had settled in Canberra we met a middle-aged woman who came from Oak Flats. When we mentioned Paul’s father she said,

Oh, I remember Mr Mackey! I came from a big family and my Mum used to get us to ride up to Mr Mackey’s pharmacy when one of the little ones were sick. We couldn’t afford to go to the doctor every time, and Mr Mackey was just as good!”

I always relied on Frank when either of our daughters were sick, and trusted his judgement completely. He was a calming influence to all those who had young children. When we visited Frank and his wife Margaret, our daughters, (the first of many grandchildren) always remembered him making them toast and orange juice before changing into his crisp white coat and going on his long commute to work.

Our daughters Jessica and Rebecca with Frank, in retirement.

As young adults Paul and I left Sydney to work in Canberra. I began teaching, and Paul began his career in the Research Service at the former Provisional (for 60 years!) Parliament House. This building is now the Museum of Australian Democracy.

Over time Paul took over the portfolio of Health, a perfect fit for someone with his background.

As with many young families, we juggled life with one car. Much as I love the Walter Burley Griffin plan of space between suburbs in Canberra, it makes for a long commute home from the centre of the city.

I always parked along the edges of the building to admire the roses nearby.

Most days I would put the girls in the car, drive to Old Parliament House, and park almost outside the front door. I’d often sing songs so that our younger daughter, Jess, didn’t fall asleep while waiting for Dad.

During the time Paul spent at Old Parliament House, a Christmas party for children of employees was held in the lovely grounds of Parliament House every December.

The Christmas party was held in the cricket pitch!

The Senate gardens were spilling over with roses and irises..

What a mild and carefree time it was…

Now there are fences around the building and it looks quite different.

Once new Parliament House was built, Paul moved into this office in Parliament House.

When Parliament was sitting Paul often had to work until 10.00 pm. Our daughters were still young, and it was a long evening without Paul!

Occasionally I would take the girls into Parliament House and meet Paul in the cafeteria for dinner.  The car park we used would be completely inaccessible to the public now. September 11 changed many things over time.

Paul has worked in many sectors of Health since his early days at Parliament House. Throughout his long and varied career he has remained passionate about health care, and equality in our Health system.

Since  Paul retired and began his PHD he has enjoyed juggling studying, gardening, travelling and being a grandparent ….a perfect fit…

You are never too young to learn about sprinkler systems in Australia..

Paul has given papers at many conferences, and I’ve enjoyed going along, hearing and talking to Health professionals. As a bonus we have both enjoyed visiting gardens in various cities, places we may never have visited if not for Paul’s studies.

Brisbane, one of Australia’s northern cities, relaxed and warm in winter!
Auckland, the biggest city in New Zealand. A wonderful country to visit.
Paul and his supervisor enjoying a coffee in Palermo as he prepares for his conference in the city.
Palermo a vibrant and fascinating city, one we might never have seen. Salute to Paul!

On a very windy day in February, Paul graduated, and he wrote a wonderful acknowledgement at the beginning of his PHD, for the support of myself, our daughters, Rebecca, Jessica, and our son-in-law, Anthony, and he ended with this important acknowledgement:

I would also like to thank my mother and late father for all they did to start my learning journey many years ago. This thesis is dedicated to my granddaughter, Joanie, with the hopeful wish for an equitable future.

The pandemic today has shown us all how fragile and central health systems are in our countries, and our world…..and the importance of equity in the survival of us all.

I hope you are all well, and surviving in this new and restrictive world. Where ever you are in the world, I wish you sunshine and warmth, and if you have a garden, may it flourish!

Copyright Geraldine Mackey: All Rights Reserved.

 

Canberra Magpies on border patrol..

As we adjust to our ”new normal”,  Paul and I decided to make sure we went for a long walk every day, to help us keep fit, and sleep well.

Fortunately, Canberra has been designed to have corridors of bushland between suburbs, and there are many fire trails (backtracks) that skirt around suburbs.

Crimson Rosella

Life in the bush is thriving again since the recent rain, and to our delight, we saw quite a few birds as we walked.

Rainbow Lorikeets

I noticed a splash of colour and saw two baby Rainbow Lorikeets preening themselves in the hollow of a gnarled old Eucalyptus tree.

A juvenile Galah

and this endearing little Galah also resting and nesting in the same tree……all unhurried and blissfully unaware of world events around them..

The Brindabella Mountains are recovering from the dreadful summer fires and now there are only clouds overhead, rather than smoke rising from them.

In the distance we could see Sulphur Crested Cockatoos swirling and swooping through the suburbs like shining white kites. (unfortunately hard to capture without a good lens on the camera)

Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoos

Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoos are not very common in Canberra, but since the fires, many of these parrots have come to Canberra for the water and vegetation.

They are the smallest  bird in the Cockatoo family, and make a sound like a creaking door. They mate for life, and live in family groups, and they are very low-key compared with their cousins, the Sulphur Crested Cockatoo.

My mother used to say the black cockatoos bring the rain……we would welcome the rain and the cockatoos any day.

On the way back home we saw a group of Magpies; very familar to all Canberrans.

They stood together, warbling softly to each other..indignation written all over those intense stares…

There is certainly something going on here…

The problem is the Magpie in the nearby tree. She has long white markings on her back.

This Magpie is  a ”ring-in” …… an outsider. Her striking white markings suggest she is a coastal Magpie… and not from this area.

This Magpie comes from the State of New South Wales, not our state, known as the Australian Capital Territory.

She hasn’t heard the news…the borders are closed!

Never mind, the Canberra Magpies border patrol  are on to it!

We left them to it , and I hope all went well.

A day in the sunshine, walking and looking at the birds, cheered us up immensely.

Less news and more walking is our plan!

Hard not to smile at these two …absolutely no social distancing going on in the koala world. (photo from Pinterest)

Thank you for taking the time to read my blog, and may you enjoy at least a little of each day in these unpredictable times !

Copyright Geraldine Mackey: All Rights Reserved 

 

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…..life 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. 

https://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-10-03/butterfly-photobombing-koala-joey-goes-viral/7897804

 

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.

 

 

Australian bushfires..you don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone…

The devastating bush fires burning across much of Australia has made this a long and sombre summer for most Australians.  The extent of the bush fires, and the ferocity of those fires is unprecedented.

Today’s  newspaper has a photo of an older man, former owner of a lovely home in a community he and his wife loved; he pointed to the charred rubble on the ground and said…

life was good, and then suddenly there was nothing.”

In December and January many holiday makers go to the pretty NSW South Coast of Australia, and this year we too, intended to meet up with our family there for Christmas.

We cancelled our holiday just before Christmas, and stayed at home. Luckily we did. We had a lovely time at home, and cleaning birdbaths and watering was a daily occurrence.

In early January the fires tore across the south coast, destroying homes, and communities, and with some loss of lives.

The Brindabella Mountains during a hot summer.

Canberra too, is in a fire prone area, and, in January, as the fires continued to burn in National Parks and along the coast, we had to prepare ourselves for the possibility of leaving our homes at short notice.

What do you take when you may be leaving your home for good?  

A suitcase of clothes, essential documents, water, a full tank of petrol in the car, photos, and sleeping bags (where did they go…given away years ago?) USBs, chargers, torches, batteries, candles, matches, the list goes on.

If there is no power, we are back to torches, matches and candles…. the real world!

We have lived in Canberra for over 30 years, and those of you who follow this blog know that one of the joys of living in Canberra is that almost every suburb is surrounded by bush, and the birds, the kangaroos, wallabies are part of every day living for us.

A young kangaroo watching us as we walk up Mount Taylor is spring. (before the drought)
A very important looking Cockatoo, on his/her way to Mount Taylor..

However, this comes at a price during droughts and bush fires season.

Two young Galahs who always stay in family groups, or in pairs.

Communications during bush fire threats are much better these days, it brings a chill to all Canberrans to remember how poor the communication was during the 2003 fires.

These days we have a helpful app called “Fires Near Me” which gives daily and hourly updates on fires in our region.

During the really hot days, everything is quiet,  and the smoke from the surrounding fires is thick in the air. A quality index reading above 200 is considered hazardous to health. On one particular day the reading in Canberra was 5,000, the highest level in the world for that day.

It is a great relief when a cool change comes,  the smoke haze improves (for a while), and the birds come back again.

As the weather clears, the cockatoos fill the skies with their screeching as they swing confidently into the garden to check the almond tree..(miraculously full of fruit).

This  gives us an endearing sense of normality.

Cockatoos feeding in a nearby garden.  Paul says the cockatoos have an App called “Food Near Me”

Needless to say, they and all animals and birds are welcome to any food we can give them.

We live near Mt Taylor, home to many kangaroos, wallabies, birds, butterflies, lizards, insects, indeed, a smorgasbord of animal and insect life. Now, in the early morning and the late evening some kangaroos, one with a joey, come down our street to drink from the birdbaths, and buckets of water we leave out for them.

A group of volunteers called Water our Wildlife put stations of water in the same place daily so that the animals know where to go for predictable water supplies.

 As I write there are no active fires in or very near Canberra, however, we have been in a state of alert since the beginning of  January.  So much has been written about the fires, and so much sadness,  that I decided to just show some photos of our two most loved holiday destinations, both of which are also on high alert..

Kosciusko National Park ..(some contained fires in the higher regions)

This is an area rich in flora and fauna……

A sign near this beautiful Snow Gum (Eucalyptus trees) says “these grandfather trees are two and three hundred years old. Aboriginal tradition says that the spirit of ancestral travellers live in these warraganj (old snow gums)

During all the fires, there is the devastating loss of wildlife, flora and fauna, and loss of habitat for those who survive.

However, this little Pygmy Possum (a mouse sized marsupial) is capable of surviving for almost two weeks by bringing its body down to the low temperatures during times of extreme cold or heat. The biggest threat to this little possum is clearance of the land…another story.

Our second frequent and much loved holiday destination is:

The NSW South Coast ..also on alert..

We have spent many happy days with friends  walking along these pretty beaches solving world problems .

The bird life in this part of the world is amazing, and to see the birds fly between these beautiful spotted Eucalyptus trees, with jet pilot  precision,  is both stunning and a privilege.

The Rainbow Lorikeets are very noisy in spring when they feed off the flowers from the Spotted Eucalyptus  trees…and then reverse into the bird bath for drinks…ever cautious..

 

A walk through a wooded area near the sea..

I hope this young Swamp Wallaby, and others, have found safety..

Firefighters are often fighting for long days with extreme temperatures…no wonder they are sleeping on the ground.

Amongst all that is lost, and fear of what may be lost, is the absolute admiration and out pouring of gratitude for the fire-fighters.

They are the first port of call for wildlife too

this firefighter nearly missed the birth of his son.
The son of fallen volunteer fire-fighter Geoffrey Keaton receives a posthumous award on his behalf, from RFS Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons. Photo NSW RFS

Some firefighters have been killed, most with young families. These families have to grow up without a father, which is a life long sentence.

There is so much more to say about the generosity and kindness of ordinary Australians, the leadership and calmness of RFS Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons, and the heartfelt worldwide response, but I will leave that for another post.

Jessica, (blog:  Rusty Duck) will have seen that Kangaroo Island has suffered badly in every way from the fires, and has lost most of its Ligurian honey bees, believed to be the last remaining pure stock of bees found anywhere in the world.

Many thanks to all of you who have sent good wishes, it is lovely to have a blogging community across many worlds.

PS I will write about the gardens in New Zealand in February.

Copyright Geraldine Mackey: All Rights Reserved.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Floriade, early morning spring flowers, cockatoos caught in action.

Floriade is Canberra’s biggest celebration of spring.

It takes most of the year for the ACT gardeners to prepare for Floriade, and the results are always wonderful. 

In September Commonwealth Park is ablaze with over one million blooms.

There are horticultural workshops, market traders, entertainment, food and wine, and an ever expanding program of music. Most children who have been brought up in Canberra, have, at some time in their school life, played or performed in a concert at Floriade.

There is also a nightfest, which is very popular, generally, but especially for  photographers; Instagram just explodes with amazing photos at this time.

Floriade Visit Canberra

Every year there is a different theme, this year is World in Bloom.

Somehow these magnificent gardeners, manage to make patterns and pictures out of the beds of flowers. The best way to look at the patterns is from the Ferris Wheel, of course.

The green parsley makes an ideal pathway through the flowers.

Considering the festival runs for one month, I am always amazed at the rounds of tulips, daffodils, poppies, pansies and many other flowers that all seem to flower…more or less on time!

These gorgeous white tulips were just too much for one contrary cockatoo….. I noticed him

walking along the brick wall, lopping the stems of the white tulips as he went.

Unfortunately I didn’t catch him on camera, as he flew away…

leaving a couple of younger cockatoos who were enthusiastically learning from the boss. They were enjoying the smaller deep purple tulips. (tulips seemed to be loved by birds and all kinds of small annoying critters world wide)

Poor tulips, blooming so beautifully one minute, and limp and dried out the next…

Now I wonder who did that?

When I checked on the problems of planting for Floriade (website ‘About Regional’) I wasn’t surprised to read that cockatoos were some of the worst offenders….coupled with hares and feral cats.

The annuals can be affected by early frosts, and need netted beds to keep away the water hens who pluck the young plants out of the ground.

The never-ending battles that face most gardeners at some time during the year.

A mural of the War Memorial (left) and Parliament House (right)

I always admire murals….. imagine how long it must take to get everything in proportion!

The Heart Foundation funds an early morning walk for anyone to join, and we did join them this year. It was sheer bliss to be able to see Floriade in the early morning, and before all the crowds arrived. All they asked was a gold coin donation.

I hope you are enjoying your spring or autumn where ever you are in the world, and are finding some time to enjoy the small simple pleasures.

 

Copyright Geraldine Mackey: All Rights Reserved.

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.