A bee hotel and a stroll through The National Botanic Gardens in summer

 

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Canberra has quite a few hotels, but this is special…..a timber bee hotel at the National Botanic Gardens, especially made to attract many of the native bees in the area.

(it reminds me of my neighbour’s neat and organised quilting cupboard!)

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To attract a variety of bees the hotel features many different room decors, including hardwood logs and mud bricks drilled with holes, plant stems, fern fronds, and hotel ”rooms” made from cardboard tubes which are packed tight with paper drinking straws, the perfect size for a native bee nest.

The hotel is in a shady spot at the Botanic Gardens, and surrounded by flowers, mostly of the daisy species.

 

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I arrived early in the morning to see the new bee hotel, but I’m also here to join a group who do a garden stroll through the Botanic Gardens every week. One of the first things we do is look at what is in flower….how about this Banksia Victoriae Proteaceae?

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Near the entrance to the gardens is a bust of Joseph Banks, a British naturalist and botanist, who took part in Captain Cook’s voyage to Australia and New Zealand.

He was fascinated with Australian plants, and the plant genus Banksia is named after him.

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The bust of Joesph Banks is surrounded by Banksias, and therefore we are also surrounded by birds.

A Wattlebird is feeding on the Banksia flowers, in branches just above us…..the food must be tasty! Unfortunately, the one thing the Wattlebird objected to was my camera, so no photo…..sadly.

Considering this is mid summer I am surprised at how much is flowering….

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Corymbia filicifolia
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Pandorea jasminoides
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Rhododendron Viriosum Ericaceae

Here is a Lemon Myrtle tree flowering gloriously in the summer sun… when you crush the leaves there is a wonderful scent of lemon…

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Lemon Myrtle white blossom

It is thought that Aboriginal people have always used the leaves for flavouring in food, and this tradition  continues today. The leaves are used in cooking,  to make tea, and are also added to  soaps and used as herbal remedies.

These gardens are a paradise for birds…this lovely Crimson Rosella is busy preening his long blue tail and wishing I would just go away..

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Crimson Rosella

We are back at the entrance of the National Botanic gardens, what a cool and beautiful spot to spend the morning… I have no doubt that bee hotel will be booked out in no time!

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A grand site for a city…

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In 1913 Walter Burley Griffin, a young architect from Chicago was the winner of a design competition for the new capital city of Australia. His wife, Marion Mahony did many of the design drawings for the project. She was the first woman in America to become a licensed architect. They made a remarkable team.

On his first visit to Australia, at the site for the future capital city, Canberra, Walter Burley Griffin told the Melbourne Press,

”I think this is a grand site for a city. Of course I’m pretty familiar with the layout of the land, but drawings and photos can give you no real idea of the contour of the country and its charms

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Views of the Brindabella Ranges from our house on the south side of the city of Canberra.

The morning and the evening lights at Canberra are wonderful.

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The shadows of the clouds and mists as they cross the mountains are very beautiful indeed.IMG_0747 (1024x622)

Walter and Marion believed that good planning and architecture could improve the quality of life of the people living in a city.

With their vision, Canberra is designed to have several town centres,  with corridors of greenery and bush in between, and several small lakes…

Rodney Moss, former Professor of Architecture at the University of Canberra and Director of Cox Architecture says,

”Canberra is a city designed within a landscape setting..”

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It is possible to go rowing before work..

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or keep an eye out for the sleeping cockatoos as you drive to work…

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or walk along the backtracks behind our suburbs..

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The corridors of bush means that wild birds and kangaroos live in a companionable way around  us….

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one of the many young kangaroos watching us as we walk up Mt Taylor

Magpies are part of the family…(sometimes not in spring, but that is another story)

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These parrots visit our cabin in the garden for some unfrozen water in winter …

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In summer our fruit trees are given over to the birds

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They are worth it!

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Early on a hot summer’s  morning the sun shines through the gum (eucalypt) trees…

..as Walter remarked……it really is all about the light.

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Once Walter Burley Griffin had seen the site he said he was reminded of a great American artist, George Innes..

he said every one of his paintings reminded him of Canberra.

Thanks to the magic of the internet, I’ve looked up some of his paintings, and I agree, the light in many of George Innes’s paintings is very similar to the light in Canberra.

Walter never did see his design completed, and he died unexpectedly while working in the north eastern Indian city of Lucknow. Fortunately Marion was at his side when he died, and she did make the journey back to Canberra to see it as a fledging city. …but that is a much bigger story..

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wendy Whiteley’s garden, bringing solace and joy

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Early on New Year’s Day 2016 Sydney was a very quiet place after a big night of fireworks and parties.

We took advantage of the quiet to visit a wonderful public garden with an extraordinary story.

Brett Whiteley, a famous Australian painter and his wife Wendy, also an artist, settled in Lavender Bay, a secluded inlet on Sydney’s north side.

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Brett Whiteley called this place ”optical ecstasy” and many of his paintings reflected these scenes.

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Brett Whiteley died in 1992 aged 52, and tragically the couple’s only daughter, died of a rare cancer in 2001.

After Brett’s death Wendy, in her grief, began clearing an overgrown dump of derelict public land below their house.

Over 20 years she poured her money, creative skills, energy and emotion into transforming  the wasteland by the harbour into a public garden.

The Moreton Bay Fig is the feature point of the garden, and its magnificent trunk and branches seem to reach protectively over the garden.

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It is a challenging steep site, but over time, steps and paths have been built, first by Wendy and some faithful gardeners, and now by many volunteers as well.

Sydney has a wonderful climate for many different plants, and gradually the plants have almost engulfed the paths in some areas.IMG_7925 (1024x857)Wendy, has no background in horticulture. However, she has the artist’s eye for colour, shape and texture and design.

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IMG_7881 (1024x771)As a child Wendy loved the book by Frances Hodgson Burnett called The Secret Garden. This garden began as her secret garden, a place where the physical needs of the garden gave her a distraction from grief, but also a place of solitude, and in time, replenishment.

As the garden developed it gradually became more than Wendy’s garden, it became a haven for many people who come to sit for a while in the cool dappled shade, read a book, or simply enjoy the lush green plants…. away from noisy city life.

the power of the garden….

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Wendy says ”Loss is something all people end up dealing with one way or another. Sometimes it can be too much, but I have learnt we must give ourselves time to get over the stages of grieving. The amazing thing about life is that deep sadness can, in its own time eventually lead you on the path to renewal and discovery….

IMG_7947 (1024x738)………This garden started as therapy, but it’s gone way beyond that, into a joyous celebration of life and nature, and a desire to share. I transformed an ugly wasteland into a beautiful garden, and along the way, the garden transformed me.”

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As this is public land, the future of the garden was precarious, but in October 2015 the NSW government gave the garden a 30 year lease with a 30 year renewal option.

Many thanks to Wendy for building a garden such as this in a time of grief, and now it is available for all to share, in a quiet and caring way.

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Summertime with the birds

Here comes trouble…

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I wonder how long it would take me to undo that?

IMG_3281 (909x1024)       Just waiting for my buddies…

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Time to crack open a few almonds sitting on the carport roof……

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and he said and she said…

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Meanwhile, early morning in the garden on a very hot day, all the birdbaths are ready…

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magpies always wait their turn….

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Wattle birds are in and out like a flash, drying off on the camellias…

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Softly, softly, with parrots, much too shy to come out if the cockatoos are around

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and for the sheer joy of living, here is our baby magpie enjoying the sprinkler…

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Oh the sheer anticipation of that sprinkler…here I go….

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..adrenaline rush…..Quick back up on the pot to do it all again..

Where would we be without them?

 

 

 

Sydney turns on the charm at Strickland House

This year we spent the Christmas break with family and friends in this most beguiling of cities, Sydney. A perfect time to look at some of Sydney’s  green spaces.

IMG_7805 (1024x623)My brother suggested we visit one of Sydney’s best kept secrets, Strickland House, Vaucluse.

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This house was designed and built in the 1850s, with a looped carriage entrance, pathways and a backdrop of wonderful mature trees. It was originally called ”Carrara”‘IMG_7641 (1024x660)
Some of the trees include Himalayan chir pine, stone pines from the Mediterranean, hoop pines, Port Jackson (or rusty fig), a giant bamboo, African Olives, a large mature tuckeroo, a Canary Island date palm and on site is a Tipu tree from Bolivia.

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These trees now provide a wonderful buffer against the outside world.

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Strickland House was originally the home of John Hosking, Sydney’s second mayor. It is a Victorian Italianate mansion, made from three storeys of sandstone and featuring verandahs with Doric columns.

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There are two trees on the right hand side of the building, and the smaller one (slightly hidden) is an evergreen magnolia from the Southern USA…flowering gloriously while we were there.

From 1879 to 1888 the owner of the house, Hon Henry Moore MLC had 12 children, and the youngest son, Verner, said they were invited on board ships anchored in the bay and would return the hospitality by having people visit them in Strickland House.

The long lawns of the property  take us down to the bay and a small beach. (Milk beach)

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In 1914 the Foreshores Resumption scheme in New South Wales bought back land along the foreshore of Sydney for public use.

Oh how wonderfully enlightened they were!

IMG_7647 (1024x601)To the left of Milk Beach is the harbour walk to Rose Bay.

However, today we are taking the path to the right of Milk Beach to Nielson park.

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IMG_7744 (1024x802)With sandstone stairs and magnificent rock formations on one side, and wonderful views of the harbour on the other.

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A short pleasant walk and we are at Nielson ParkIMG_7784 (1024x737)

This beautiful little beach is at Nielson Park. It is early in the morning, and swimmers are enjoying the soft white sand and gentle sunlight before the crowds get here.

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Paul has a swim and then we sit under the shade of the Port Jackson fig tree and sip some coffee as we watch the harbour slowly waking up.

The busy Manly ferry goes by taking people into the city, many returning to work after the Christmas break.

We feel slightly as if we have died and gone to heaven…

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On the edge of Nielson Park is another historic home, Greycliffe House, also built in the 1850s, looking splendid in Rustic Gothic style.

We take a small local road back to our car, amazing trees and shrubs to the left of us, and unparalled views of Sydney Harbour to the right.

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An early morning  yacht sailing past Shark Island.

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IMG_7637 (1024x610)Not far from Strickland House we take another look at this unbelievable view on such a wonderful day. The gardens and the grounds of the Strickland House site make one of the finest habourside parks in Sydney.

It makes sobering reading to see how many times Strickland House and grounds have almost been sold off by successive state governments….congratulations to the Woollahra Council and the communities who have fought to have this historic home and grounds remain public for all to enjoy.

 

 

Beyond the city, the bush garden calls….

Peter and Lyn have created a water wise, bush-style garden within 40 minutes of the city centre of Canberra. It has been a work in progress since 1981, and shows incredible dedication and talent.

IMG_7113 (1024x838)As they had chosen to live out of town, Peter and Lyn wanted the garden to blend in with the surrounding bushland.

All the dry stone retaining walls are made of excavated rock from the house site. Peter has constructed and built the walls, steps and structures…in fact….everything!

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The copper sculptures in the garden are designed by Annie Storey, and the corrugated water tanks and sandstone set them off well. Lovely to see the yellow flowering Acacia cognata spreading across the rocks.

There are some camellias, and other exotics tucked away in the front garden, but we are here in early December, when the real heat starts, so we are looking at the predominantly native parts of the garden. Beyond the water features, Peter has used more corrugated iron and sandstone as borders for garden beds.

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There is a dry creek bed….and grass tree

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kangaroo paw, golden correa, forbs, grasses, mountain devil and other local indigenous plants.

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Kangaroo paw

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Along the side walk are Waratahs, a flannel flower and Banksias.

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The kangaroo paws used to be in pots but are now doing well in the garden.

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Peter said he has a particular love for banksias and has many varieties behind the house. ”I like native plants as they flower for a much longer period of time and they attract so many birds.”

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The vegetable garden and orchard have become Lyn’s domain since she retired. The orchard provides them with lemons, nectarines, mandarins, cherries, pears, and the surrounding bushes are raspberries and blueberries and grapes.

(Lyn said some parts of the orchard are to be replaced, as the trees are too close together.)

 

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Here are the vegetable beds with strawberries, peas, beans, capsicum, eggplants, herbs, cucumber, corn and carrots and asparagus…all on four bed rotation.

Now that is organisation for you!

The potato bed has been designed to allow Lyn to open part of the fencing and harvest potatoes without disturbing the plant.

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There is a bed for rockmelons, pumpkins and zucchinis at the bottom of the dry stone retaining wall.

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As we  walk around the garden and back to the car, we see this glorious Grevillea with flowers like candles shining in the sun….

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and a Bottle Brush bursting with red flowers…………

and it’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas!

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Thanks to Lyn and Peter for sharing this wonderful bush setting which is their home and garden.

This garden was part of Open Gardens Canberra

www.opengardenscanberra.org.au

 

Spring time at the coast

December is such a hectic Christmas month, I’m taking a nostalgic look at our visit to the South Coast of New South Wales in spring

…a stroll along the beach early on a soft spring day

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plenty of time to take in the details……

patterns in the water…

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……..on the sand and the rocks

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and little worlds,  all going about their day

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Later, we had coffee looking out over the Narooma breakwater….

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then we walked along  the craggy path to the headlands… I wished I’d had this photo while I was still teaching..

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We watched seals sunbaking on the rocks at the headlands…..regardless of the waves crashing up against them…

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Turning back from the headlands, is Narooma with Gulaga (Mt Dromedary) in the background.

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I love the inlets around Narooma, so still and calm…I’d rather be a pelican than a seal any day!

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On the way home we passed a valley full of lilies…yet I have trouble growing one or two in Canberra..

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Here is a hedge surrounding the car park at the local supermarket, a master-stroke of design for a public place, hardy and useful for birds. Grevilleas are planted along the southern side.

 

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The wattle birds and parrots are feeding and chatting everywhere

 

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On the side of a busy road, this New Zealand Christmas bush was flowering in all its splendour

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We took a quiet back track through a small forest of spotted gum trees on our way home.

A curious Red-necked Pademelon, (related to a Wallaby) stood looking at us..It was so quiet he stayed for a while

….and made our day.

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When we arrived back at our friend’s house, (Gardener Extraordinaire), her neighbours had given her some kangaroo paws and bottlebrushes from the garden.

So much to see and do on a spring day at the coast!

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All photos copyright to Gerrie Mackey

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tumbarumba’s garden festival

Tumbarumba sounds like a Mexican hat dance…. in fact it is a lovely little town, on the western edges of the Snowy Mountains about three hours drive from Canberra.

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With a population of about 2 000 people,  the cold climate gardens in this little town would do a Chelsea garden show proud, and the hospitality of the people is to match.

Prior to the arrival of Europeans, the area around Tumbarumba has been Wiradjuri country for at least 20 000 years. The name Tumbarumba comes from the Wiradjuri language, and is thought to mean ”sounding ground”, or ”hollow ground”.

The first garden we visited, called Burraleigh, gave us some incidental history of the region.

In the 1850s gold was discovered in this district…

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Ned Kelly, a famous bushranger during the 1800s, was also found wandering in the garden, but in fact, the Tumbarumba region had its own fearsome bushranger called  Mad Dog Morgan.

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Now, in more peaceful times, this garden has been lovingly developed over 30 years, and has magnificent deciduous and evergreen trees overlooking themed gardens.

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More gardens, and Blueberry pancakes had been recommended at the Laurel Hill Berry Farm, just outside of the town, built on the historic Miners Arms Hotel.

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and the Coachman’s hut still remains, with netted blueberries behind it.

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In the tradition of spring in these parts, a young female magpie was very upset by all the people visiting the normally, quiet, berry farm. She was ruthlessly swooping everyone in sight, even though, we were told by the owner, the babies had almost grown….

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it was hard to concentrate on our delicious blueberry pancakes…

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but somehow we struggled through..

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Ann’s garden, amongst the rolling hills, began with this small back yard, and has grown and spread over 30 years. This design is typical of a bygone era of Australian gardens, with the hills hoist (clothes line) in the middle, and a very practical cement path leading to the clothes line and the gate.

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The garden had spread over time. Meandering paths lead to oaks, maples, hazelnuts and apple trees, and flowering shrubs

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Ann manages a thriving vegetable patch and some chooks to provide eggs and manure.I wondered about snakes coming over from the fields beyond, but I didn’t want to sound like a city wimp, so I kept quiet.

Further out of town is a beef farm, called Karbethon, with a stunning garden developed over fifty years. The garden is loving cared for by Colin and Diane Hardy, and was started by Colin’s mother.

IMG_1550 (1024x765)This property is more like a park, with mature trees, including Old English Oaks, Italian Alders, Canadian Maples, Chinese Tallow, Liquidamber and many more. On this hot day, I’m enjoying the shade of this tranquil place.

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We have a small Japanese Maple, and now we are wondering…will it reach this size?

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This is a wonderfully spreading Chinese Tallow tree…we have one of these in our front garden…when we bought it the label said ”small tree suitable for suburban gardens”

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Along the driveway, a splendid white shrub is flowering. It was planted by Colin’s mother and has not flowered for many years, but today is in glorious bloom…..just in time for the garden festival.

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Along the borders of the property are tall long-established grasses, no doubt providing wind breaks for the garden when it was first established. The original gum trees are spread around the property and on the edges of the driveway.

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Behind these tall grasses  is another long beautiful garden, and some of Colin’s unique sculptures..

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IMG_6665 (1024x847)Recently the family has constructed a Manchurian Pear walk which features attractive silhouettes, and on the first is engraved  Great Grandmother of Our Gardens. Walking through the path, there are silhouettes of each grandchild.

What a grand legacy this gardener has left behind.

(unfortunately the sun was too strong for a good photo.)

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This garden was a fitting end to our garden tour….we hope to be back to see the ones we missed next year..

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and on the way back we stopped to take a photo of this quiet, and very typical, country scene. Unfortunately the noise of one person getting out of the car and pointing a camera in their direction, sent the cows charging  off down the hill

….I really had forgotten how quiet it is in the country..

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A morning walk at the National Arboretum

Recently the National Arboretum of Canberra opened new walking tracks and these have already become very popular with walkers in Canberra.

The Arboretum has more than 48 000 trees in 100 forests, and has been under development since 2003.

We started at a midpoint along the track…..at the top of Dairy Farmer Hill….seen in the distance in this photo. The Village Centre is on the right, the Margaret Whitlam Pavilion on the left, and a grassy amphitheatre for concerts in the centre.

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The Village Centre is on the right and the Margaret Whitlam Pavilion is on the left, and a grassy amphitheatre in between the buildings. Dairy Farmers Hill in the distance

Standing at the top of Dairy Farmers Hill is a sculpture called Nest III, welded from discarded steel objects, mostly abandoned farm machinery found on farms around the region. The artist is Richard Moffatt.

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the eagle looks out over the Arboretum, Lake Burley Griffin and the city.

While we were there a magpie was feeding her chick perched on the nest alongside that formidable looking eagle. Nice to see.

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The Smokebush trees, the Saharan Cypress and the Canary Island Stawberry tree

This is a view of three of the forests below our path, leading down to the Village Centre.

Here is the purple-leaved Smokebush. Jackie French, a well known gardener and writer in Canberra once said that the Smokebush in her garden was the most asked about plant in her extensive garden!

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The Smokebush is a garden hybrid and is widely used in parks and gardens, particularly for colour contrast.

In spring, fruits begin to form, hidden amongst a network of fine fluffy stems, giving the effect of clouds of coral pink smoke, hence the name Smokebush. During November the ”smoke” will turn dark red, and the stems will loose their fluffiness as the tiny dark red fruits appear.

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Smokebush with tiny dark red fruits appearing. Further down the path are the Saharan cypress. In the distance is Black Mountain Tower.

As we walk down the hill we come to the Saharan cypress, considered to be endangered, with only 230 naturally occurring trees known to exist. In the Sahara, nomads shelter under the trees and their herds eat fallen cones, which in turn leads to fewer cypress trees growing.

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Cupressus dupreziana, common name Saharan cypress.

 

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The guide with me was pleased to see cones appearing on one of the trees, a sure sign they have adapted to life in Canberra!

 

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Mediterranean Red Bud

Just before we reach the Village Centre we come to a forest where the trees are commonly called Judas Trees, or European Red Bud. This species grows in the Middle East and southern Europe, in woodlands, on stony arid slopes, and along banks of rivers. Here they are surviving well on a sloping part of the hill.

There is a long standing belief that  Judas Iscariot hanged himself on one of these trees, thus the name, but it could also have come from the French common name, Arbre de Judee, meaning the ”tree of Judea” referring to the hilly regions of the country where it is most common.

 

As we arrive at of the Village Centre, I took a photo of the beautiful stone walls with Acacias and grasses growing happily in the front. Very low maintenance!

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There is an lookout right next to the Village Centre and these two beautiful trees were planted nearby.

I was not surprised to see they were the oldest Japanese black pines grown in Australia from imported seeds, and styled as Niwika, similar to Bonsai.

 

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Meanwhile, on this sunny spring day, a family is already taking advantage of the grassy amphitheatre to fly a kite.

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Another lovely green space in Canberra!

Only in Paris

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In tribute to the sad events happening in Paris, I am reminded of our trip to Paris last year. As always, the markets of a city or a town tell so much of the character of a place.

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Okay, so they weren’t all markets……

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I think we’ve covered all the major food groups for lunch…cheese, bread and wine…and of course the local patisserie…I loved the sing-song way they would say

“”Bonjour Madame!

…Bonjour Monsieur!”

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You’d think these pesty tourists would let a cat sleep….

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Our apartment was above the patisserie and the chocolate shop….the smells each morning were wonderful…

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IMG_0448 2 (1024x798)When we  came back from sightseeing the markets were packed up for the night, and…..someone has made an bouquet  of the scraps of fruit and vegetable

…only in Paris

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All photos copyrighted by Gerrie Mackey