Canberra is the capital of Australia, a planned city, with many parks, bush trails, green spaces and lakes. However as with many capital cities, Canberra is often seen as short hand for federal government rather than a landscape where people live. One quote I’ve read is “”Canberra has too many politicians, too many roundabouts and too much cold weather!”
When I retired from teaching in 2013, I decided to write a blog about Canberra, the beauty of the mountains and the lakes, and also the every day life of people living in Canberra.
Many of the photos of Canberra in this post were taken between 2014 and 2017, when I began blogging, and regular readers may recognise some of the photos…
Canberra in autumn is usually sunny, warm and pleasant, the best season of the year for planning gardens, going for walks, runs and rides, and taking photos!
Spring in Canberra can be windy and chilly, but the beautiful Manchurian Pears are out in bloom, which lifts the spirits. The National Library of Australia is one of my favourite buildings, often seen in my blog, I know! The small rather quaint tourist boat has, for many years, taken tourists who prefer a gentle slow tour of the lake.
In our early days of retirement, I was so keen to take photos that I dragged Paul out before dawn to walk around Lake Burley Griffin…. always worth it.
Canberra is full of early morning rowers, riders and walkers.
We often walk around the Parliamentary Triangle, and I love this Federal Government building…amongst others.
All along the paths the trees are changing, and the birds are in attendance.
During summer and autumn we eat breakfast on our deck, overlooking our garden.
At the risk of getting indigestion we often have an interrupted breakfast to chase big and little birds out of the veggie patch..
Thank you for taking the time to read my post today, and may your autumn or spring gardens be full of colour and joy.
We recently spent a week in Sydney, house-sitting for Paul’s brother, Martin and his wife Kris.
Paul’s mother is 96 years old this week, so it was a wonderful opportunity for Paul to spend some time with her every day.
Martin and Kris live in a leafy suburb, with many trees, colourful flowers and cool green lawns. Sydney gets a much higher rainfall than Canberra, so we are always somewhat blinded by this bright sunny green city.
We soon found a walking track with a notice saying, “A Blue Gum High Forest in your Backyard”
Some thoughtful planners have managed to preserve land in the suburb to keep a small amount of Blue Gum forest. There is a path through the forest, and it is a bonus for suburban dwellers to have this small forest within reach of walking every day.
The Blue Gum High Forest only occurs in Northern Sydney. It gets its name from the tall Eucalyptus saligna, or Sydney Blue Gum with its distinctive smooth bark and trunk.
The timber of the Blue Gum high forest was valuable to Sydney’s early settlement, and ongoing clearing, farming, development and weed invasion meant that less than 5% of the original forest remains in the world.
Needless to say, all the birds love the Blue Gums, and cockatoos gather amongst the trees every day. ( a mixed blessing).
Paul and I have also been inspired by the wonderful garden Kris has made…
When we arrived the Flowering Pink Gum tree had just started to flower…
and the day we were leaving the beautiful Flowering Gum put on a show for us, and the Rainbow Lorikeets did the same!
We are back in Canberra now, after an enjoyable week in Sydney.
We are so impressed with Kris’s Flowering Gum Tree, we are going to try growing one ourselves.
Many thanks for reading my blog post today, and best wishes to everyone, especially friends and relatives in New Zealand who have been battling the elements for some time.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Christmas is such a busy time that I’m going to keep this post, short and sweet.
The first sweet item is a book that I ordered online, through Booktopia. It has arrived in time for Christmas! This book is part of a series, written by Laurie Graves. Laurie lives in Maine, USA and I live in Canberra, Australia, so we couldn’t be further apart, but the wonderful part of blogging is getting to know and enjoy fellow bloggers. I have been reading Laurie’s blog posts for a few years now, and I know just how much time and effort she has put into this series.
We are a family who love stories and reading and we’ll enjoy this book. Many thanks Laurie!
My granddaughter pointed out these Rainbow Lorikeets in the playground, completely oblivious of children playing around them.
This Crimson Rosella has spent some time in our garden this year, without a partner….very unusual, hopefully the new year brings a partner.
Another Crimson Rosella, this time at the coast. He or she is navigating the spiky bush very well considering she has a beak full of food!
We recently bought a Hibiscus shrub to put on our deck, and this is the reward, a regular supply of beautiful flowers.
Another Rainbow Lorikeet swaying in the breeze…
A flashback to winter. Every year we get a visit from a pair of Kookaburras, and this year they had two juvenile Kookaburras with them.
There is something endearing about Kookaburras, and perhaps it is their early morning call, one of the unique sounds of the bush in Australia.
We walk past this plant in a neighbour’s garden almost every day in spring. I don’t know the name of this wonderful plant but it lights up the garden in the early morning.
It looks like Waratah flower with the leaves of a Woolly bush.
Many thanks for taking the time to read my blog post today, and may you all have a peaceful Christmas where ever you are in the world.
PS the header photo is a red flowering Eucalyptus …it is beginning to look a lot like Christmas.
Winter arrived in Canberra on 1st June with snow falling on the Brindabella Mountains
During autumn we had seemingly non-stop rain and so the occasional wintery, but sunny day was welcome. The storm water drains around the inner city were flowing steadily with water, hard to believe after so many years of drought, not so long ago.
We have taken to walking our daughter’s dog Charlie once a week, which is very good exercise and we visit parts of the city with good walking/cycling tracks.
One of my favourite walks is through Haig Park. This park reminds me of parks in Europe, perhaps as so many of the mature trees are European, and as in Europe, people stroll through the park all week and all through winter.
The park was planned and trees planted in about 1921, as a wind break shelter within the city. 7000 trees were planted, mostly exotic evergreen and deciduous trees.
Since that time the park has had times of neglect, but is now a wonderful addition to inner city living.
However, in contrast to European parks we have possums rather than squirrels and many different colourful birds..
Despite the regular walkers, and a very popular, busy market in the park on the weekend, there are plenty of birds to be seen everywhere.
Eastern Rosellas are very shy parrots, so I was happy to get a photo of these two Rosellas.
Last week we went to Sydney to visit Paul’s mother, and on the way home we stopped off at one of our favourite bookshops Berkelouw Book Barn.
This inviting Book Barn has a roaring fire in winter, and is a wonderful place to browse for books, (second-hand and new ones) at any season of the year. We always have coffee and sometimes cake, which provides the fuel needed to hunt out new books and second-hand books. We came away with an interesting pile of books, as always..
Nowadays the Book Barn is also a restaurant and a wedding venue as well. However, these don’t start until midday, so the very best times to visit are the mornings and week days if possible.
Lastly, a flashback to autumn when we visited our family in Melbourne. We always stop about half way, at a small town in the Alpine region called Myrtleford. Next door to our Air BnB is a vacant block of land, which is used as a wildlife sanctuary.
This family of Kangaroos always come down cautiously to see us…no feeding required, .. they are just curious, or as the Aussie expression would have it, they are Sticky beaks!
Finally, my favourite photo of the year so far, a young kookaburra in our garden. Every winter about this time a family of kookaburras come to our garden. I’m sure the family love the fact that we have many birdbaths filled with water for them, and many worms in our vegetable garden..(Paul doesn’t love that side of things)
However, I like to think, and I’m sticking to my story, that they also come back to show us their latest very cute offspring.
Best wishes to everyone and thank you for taking the time to read my blog post.
We are living in a turbulent world these days, and during times like this I remember my mother, who concentrated always on the small, simple and pleasant parts of life, to help get through the difficult parts, and her favourite quote, as I have mentioned before:
”When the world wearies and society does not satisfy…. there is always the garden.” by Minnie Aumonier
Urban green spaces are the markers of what we value in our land. They are our commitment to history and our gift to the future. Alisa Piper.
As regular readers will know, we frequently visit our daughter and family, who live in Melbourne. During our visit in May we stayed in accommodation close to our daughter’s suburb, but in a new area for us to explore; Jawbone Marine Sanctuary in Williamstown North, (named Jawbone because the shape of the sanctuaries are roughly the shape of a human jaw.)
We drove south from Canberra (Australian Capital Territory) to Melbourne and Jawbone Sanctuary is on the Port Phillip Bay.
We arrived in the late afternoon, and as good fortune would have it, our apartment had views across the Sanctuary to the sea.
When we looked out of the apartment window in the morning, I felt as if I was back in my childhood home in Africa.
The grasses, the colours, the still water…. I almost expected to see a hippo coming up out of the water!
Barely ten kilometres from the heart of Melbourne, two coastal havens, Jawbone Marine Sanctuary, and Jawbone Flora and Fauna Reserve, provide a peaceful stretch of nature reserves, in what was an industrial area (and in some parts still is..).
Years ago this particular area was a rifle range, (once famous for target practice leading up to the 1956 Melbourne Olympics.)The range only closed in 1990 as surrounding housing was developing.
This reserve land, with uninterrupted views of the sea could easily have been swallowed up by developers, however, finally, it was decided that the reserve should be set aside for conservation.
Fortunately the local community formed what is now known asTheFriends of Williamstown Wetlands. This wonderful community group have worked tirelessly ever since to ensure the reserve continues to be well protected.
Salt water plants such as Samphire and Glasswort grow and can change colours with the seasons, and at the end of autumn there is a wonderful mix of colour to see.
The mangrove amongst the basalt rocks, along with saltmarsh mudflats and seagrass beds, provide an important habitat for many species of seabirds and shorebirds.
On our first morning walk we could see the long landscape of land and sea, and the big skies…
In the distance the tankers and ocean liners are sailing by…
The houses built along the edges of the reserve all have enormous wide windows, and ever -changing views of the weather on the reserve and out into the sea.
Bird watching is very popular in this area, and more than 160 bird species have previously been recorded at the Reserve. Migratory seabirds and shorebirds can be seen among the mangroves, mudflats and saltmarshes.
This was just one of the colourful signs showing some of the birds sighted in this area. The Royal Spoonbill looked quite regal I thought.
Our grandchildren enjoyed seeing a Purple Swamp Hen (with unbelievable claws) and her chick coming very close to the window of our apartment every morning. Our granddaughter’s favourite was the black swan and her signet.
This peaceful sanctuary protects 30 hectares of coastal waters and fishing, netting, spearing or taking marine life is prohibited.
The Reserves are now well known, and enjoyed by all for diving, snorkelling, walking, jogging, bird watching, photography….and I was very pleased to read the Sanctuary is also well know for sunset watching… here are two of the sunsets we saw….
The water near us turned golden one evening as the birds settle down for the night.
A lovely memory on our last evening at Jawbone sanctuary.
Many thanks to the The Friends of Williamstown Wetlands and, indeed, to volunteers and community groups all over the world who give up so much of their own time to maintain public places for us all to enjoy.
Just a week later and here we are back home, looking out over the almost constant rain, wind and freezing cold weather……..winter has arrived with a vengeance.
Paul and our daughter’s dog Charlie are bravely walking around our garden in this wet windy weather…Paul is checking on our veggie crop and Charlie thinks he can smell possums (and he is right!)
Many thanks for taking the time to read my blog today, and may the sun shine even in winter!
Having featured the Sydney Opera House in my last post, this week the Opera House had displayed the colours of the Ukraine, appropriate for these times
With such turmoil in the world this week, it was a quiet distraction and a joy to take a photo of this lovely Gardenia….the creamy petals are just soaking up the rain amongst the dark green foliage. We have two Gardenias in our garden, and this one has never flowered until this summer. ….it has tried, but the flowers never quite made it.
This summer, according to the Bureau of Meteorology, in our region, we have had 200% more rain than our average summer rainfall. As Canberra is often in drought, there is something magical about rain, and everything is green and growing. However, it is possible to have too much of a good thing, and parts of Queensland and New South Wales are experiencing severe flooding. It is either a feast or famine in Australia.
Meanwhile, our garden is greener than normal, and the zucchinis threaten to take over, along with the borage… I’m looking up recipes which include zucchini whenever I can..
Canberra’s usual season for newborn birds is spring: September, October, November.
This very young magpie is a February baby, and is bravely learning to fly.
Perhaps the abundance of food this year has increased breeding time.
The cockatoos are having field day eating from all the fruit trees. In our immediate neighbourhood they are enjoying plums, apples and almonds..no wonder they look so healthy!
These young Galahs look quite endearing, but when they are waiting to be fed they make a very insistent chanting call. I’m glad they are not in our garden!
Recently my neighbour went for an early morning walk, and as she past Ken’s garden, she saw a kangaroo grazing. Kangaroos sometimes come down from Mount Taylor to eat on the sweet and abundant grasses in the surrounding suburbs.
I rushed out with my camera, but the kangaroo had disappeared by the that time.
However, I’ve added a photo of a kangaroo, because we do have many kangaroos living in the bushland between suburbs in Canberra. It is not unusual to see kangaroos on our morning walks. The photo below was taken on an early morning walk along Chapman Ridge.
When the rain finally stops, it is a joy to see the Brindabella Mountains again, especially as it was only two years since the devastating summer bushfires were burning on these mountains, how nature replenishes and repairs…
Many thanks for taking the time to read my blog, and best wishes to all those, especially children, trapped in the madness of war. Having taught many children from war-torn countries, what they taught me is to never give up hope.
This year, Australia, like so many other countries, has been battling against unusual weather patterns, in between coping with a pandemic. We have had an unprecedented amount of rain this year in our region. I read today that there might be a locust plague in the Eastern States of Australia due to our excessive rainfall.
Despite all this, as the Desiderata poem quotes,
“with all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world”
This wonderful poem was found in old Saint Paul’s Church, Baltimore dated 1692
To end the year, I’ve chosen some photos taken through the year, and the seasons.
Photos that show some of the more pleasurable moments in an otherwise difficult year.
Winter was particularly dreary this year, but we did have one highlight. Every afternoon, at almost exactly 4.00 pm this pair of King parrots came down to the bird bath. The female would drink, while the male perched on a branch of a nearby tree, then she would perch on the same branch while the male came down to drink. Then they flew off together.
Each following their instincts for survival, but touching none the less.
In spring the King Parrot pair, brought their young one to the wires above the garden almost every day to feed. What a delight!
During the winter we occasionally looked after our daughter’s dog Charlie.
Charlie doesn’t believe in sleep-ins, and I guess he is right, the winter mornings are lovely, especially with so much greenery and soft pinks and blues around mountains at dawn.
The pansies below have been in the garden for nearly two years! I don’t think we have ever had such a robust bed of pansies. Whatever anti-ageing tablets they are taking, I ‘d line up for them too!
They seem to be smiling all through winter.
I have often mentioned Ken’s garden in my posts. Ken is a neighbour, whose passion is his garden. He works tirelessly all through the winter to tend, not only his own garden, but to the verge around his property. This is a great public space for children to enjoy and for adults to chat.
Our own garden has never been so green, and shady…
Many thanks for reading my blog post today, I appreciate readers and comments, and enjoy following fellow bloggers, it is a wonderful window into other worlds.
Spring has come and gone, and I had hoped to write a post on spring flowers in the garden…but it can wait. Perhaps as a result of our long Lockdowns this year, the last few months have been very busy as we return, cautiously, to normal life, new Covid variants notwithstanding.
Recently I read a very interesting article in The New Yorker about a Renaissance painting called Madonna della Vittoria, the work of Andrea Mategna, painted in 1496, now hanging in the Louvre.
A British born historian, Heather Dalton, lived in Melbourne while doing a doctorate at University of Melbourne, and noticed a familar looking bird in a book of Renaissance paintings. The painting shows a slender white bird with a black beak and an alert expression, and an impressive-greenish yellow crest. Heather spent many years making sure she was right in thinking it was a Sulphur Crested Cockatoo.
At the time Andrea Mantegna painted the Madonna della Vittoria, the bird could have been taken from eastern Indonesia, partly by water and partly overland via the Silk Road. This journey would have taken years, but a well-cared for cockatoo regularly lives to be 60 years old and beyond.
After many years of research, Heather Dalton is sure that bird in the painting is alive and not copied from pages of a book. She writes “The cockatoo’s natural pose in the painting with its crest erect, suggests it was painted from life. Dalton argues the bird’s appearance suggests it is drawn from life. Taxidermy species show birds in profile, this bird faces forward, just as a curious intelligent bird would do.
Francesco 11 Gonzaga, owner of the cockatoo would have collected exotic birds for interest and fashion, and as a signal of of worldly power and wealth.
Somehow I am not surprised that the resilient Sulphur Crested Cockatoo had survived a long journey and was living in a totally different environment, thus playing their part in history, so very long ago.
Having lived alongside Cockatoos in Canberra for many years, I can appreciate their beauty and unique personalities, and despite their destructive qualities, I am glad they are now a protected species. The best place to view a bird is in its own natural environment.
This is a photo from The Canberra Times, which I have used before, and it shows how destructive intelligent birds can be when winter comes and there is nothing to do!
As the local writer Jackie French says
”There is no 100 per cent effective way of keeping Cockatoos out of your orchard or garden. Cockatoos are too intelligent to be deterred easily. Beware the bird that plots and plays.
Cockatoos seem to be unique birds in that they enjoy eating and playing, sometimes at the same time!
Many thanks for taking the time to read my post today, I hope you are able to enjoy your green spaces, and birds, where ever you are in the world today.
Although Scotland is a long way from Australia, and a very long way from our unique animals, yet, we now have a lovely tartan material named Koala.
Fred and his sister Marie Lawson come from Spring Ridge near in Gunnedah in the New England region. They live on a property with Clydesdale horses, Scottish Highland cattle, and Irish donkeys, which Marie is breeding to re-establish the blood line in Australia. They are also keen weavers and interested in conservation of all kinds. Living close to the bush they came up with the idea of making a tartan to draw attention to the plight of koalas in Australia.
When asked, why a tartan for koalas, Fred said “Tartan is a language without words, it crosses all boundaries.” (this would bring a stirring to my Scottish father’s heart)
Koalas are completely dependent on Eucalyptus trees both for food and for a place to live. In recent times, the koala’s habitat has been severely reduced with increased urbanization. In addition the 2020 bush fires were devastating for koalas, and for their habitat.
Fred and Marie took several pattern trials before deciding on one, and that has now been approved by the World Tartan Register in Scotland. The colours include green for the Eucalyptus trees, dark and light grey for the koala’s coat colour, and black for the nose, with some pink and white for some parts of the koala’s face and coat.
Fred and Marie have officially registered and woven the tartan, and it is called simply The Koala.
Fred and Marie have always been interested in cloth and once they had done a weaving course in Gunnedah, they began weaving on a regular basis. They have a huge shed on the farm called ”Crofter’s Mill”. At the moment, Fred is experimenting with organic grown cotton which he sources from the CSIRO (Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation) in Melbourne.
Meanwhile, far away from the Crofter’s Mill in Gunnedah, during the next two weeks, all eyes are on Scotland, and Glasgow, as national leaders will gather for the latest round of talks on preventing global temperatures from rising to dangerous levels.
I read this small news story about the Koala tartan, in the same week that the Australian government was quarrelling and bargaining (within itself) about our commitment to climate change at the Glasgow summit.
I couldn’t help thinking there is something poignant, and hopeful about individuals who are making a difference, and remain steadfast in their belief in change…despite dissention in government ranks here in Australia. May some practical and positive decisions be made at the summit.
Meanwhile I hope the Koala tartan finds many admirers, and one day I may be able to visit my Scottish cousins wearing a Koala kilt. Now there’s a plan!
Best wishes for a happy November….no more Lockdowns in Australia and the sun is shining!
PS: If the koala photos seems familar, I used these same photos for an earlier post on Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve. During Lockdown I was unable to go to Tidbinbilla, but I’m sure the koalas are thriving in their protected environment after the trauma of the fires.