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.
Canberra has been in Lockdown for over two months now and there are just one or two highlights every day that keep us afloat. We are allowed a daily walk, and fortunately there are many paths and bush trails near us…
and lots of gardens to look at along the way.
Even in the middle of winter, it is lovely to get outside and walk around. Another daily highlight is buying a take-away coffee at our local café. It’s the small pleasures that count.
The Brindabella Mountains around us are a deep blue hue in winter and early spring. Even with our mandatory masks on, the clear mountain air is a tonic.
Almost everyone I know has become a bit more reflective in Lockdown, we all appreciate family, friends and neighbours now that we cannot spend time with them. People need people!
During this time I have been putting together some of my family history. ..and not for the first time I’m reminded of my family’s good fortune in emigrating to Australia.
It has taken three generations for my family to find a place to call home, and how lucky we are to live in Australia.
My father was born in Scotland of Irish parents…amongst his many stories he talked about hiking in the mountains of Scotland ….
I’m sure he would have loved to spend his life in the wide open spaces, which he always loved, but earning a living was the most important thing to do and he applied for and got an apprenticeship on the Clyde River in Glasgow.
My father and his brother decided to emigrate to Africa, for work, and in my father’s case, for adventure. As they boarded the ship, my grandmother stood on the dock, and said
“I wish you were all wee again”.
It was only when I was a mother myself that I realised the poignancy of that remark, he thought he was off for an adventure, but she knew the truth. Both her sons left for a better life and she never saw them again.
My mother was born in Ireland, and brought up in South Africa.
Her father and mother left Belfast and ”the troubles” only to find life in their new continent just as difficult.
My mother became a nurse, and she and my father moved to what was then Northern Rhodesia, and is now Zambia.
Although my parents had excellent skills to survive in a new country, my father had always wanted to be a farmer, and so they accepted a job of farming and care-taking a farm in a remote part of Zambia called Abercorn. In the way of new migrants, my aunt and uncle came to stay on the farm as well, and all their skills together, kept them afloat.
My older brothers and my parents loved this time of their lives, despite the trials and tribulations. The stories they told were wonderful, and I feel I missed out on something special.
However, the remote farm was a precarious long term prospect, and my father and my uncle were able to get work in one of a cluster of copper mines in Zambia.
I was born in the small mining town of Mufulira. My brothers and I had a happy childhood in this town, but, over time, there were tensions as Zambia struggled for independence. It was our temporary home.
Eventually, at the difficult age of 55, my parents made the decision and we left Africa for Australia. I was eighteen and my brothers were in their early twenties. We had a clean slate and a future full of possibilities in Australia.
It was more difficult for my parents. They left behind relatives and friends, people who had the same experiences and interests as themselves. Just as many migrant children have done, we became the bridge between our parents and the new country. At an age when we were leaving the family home, we were helping them make a home. We worried about them, often without realising how resilient they were.
When I married, it was to a 5th generation Australian. (although Paul’s ancestors are Irish too!) I was glad to know that my children had ancestors, not only from all over the world, but also in the country of their birth. Our daughters have a natural sense of belonging in Australia, they wear their nationality with ease.
The initial struggle to live in a new country was successful for my parents. They came to love Australia, and over the years they appreciated the landscape, the Australian humour, and the uncomplicated way of life.
They loved their big garden, and filled it with mango, avocado and many failed attempts at pawpaw trees. Many years later, although the house and garden have long been sold, the avocado trees survive…. which just goes to show, you can’t keep a good avocado tree down!
Lockdown is almost over in Canberra, and we will, very tentatively, begin moving around, and seeing family and friends again.
Best wishes to everyone and stay safe and sensible!
My brother, Neil lives in Sydney and every morning, regardless of the weather, he walks with a small group of like-minded guys who are up early…usually a bit before dawn.
Sydney and Canberra are in Lockdown, and residents are allowed two hours of exercise (close to home) every day in both cities. Bondi beach, and the cliffs beyond make for ever changing views of the city and the beach, especially at dawn. How very lucky they are to have these views, at any time, but especially during a Lockdown period.
One of the walkers, Tim Read, regularly takes photos with various cameras, and has kindly allowed me to show these two. Many thanks Tim.
Although Sydney is only a four hour drive away from Canberra, our climates are very different . I often envy my brother his walks as I sit shivering in my study in Canberra in winter and spring. However, our compensation is spring!
This year we had a long cold and rainy winter, and it was lovely to see the blossoms finally arrive on the plum tree..
and the almond tree..
The Wattle trees Paul planted a few years ago are enthusiastically flowering in the new garden.
We have become philosophical about the amount of blossoms lost to the birds…
In fact the King Parrot feeds on blossoms just above us, as we sit on the deck having coffee, blossoms raining down like confetti.
Canberra’s suburbs are surrounded by paths and bushland, and during these Lockdown periods many Canberrans have joined the Facebook Wildlife photography group, and are publishing a wide range of colourful parrots and birds.
We live in one of the outer suburbs of Canberra, and McQuoids Hill, a nature park nearby, has become a very popular walking destination since Lockdown.
This landscape is very similar to the landscape of my childhood and that of my brothers, in Central Africa.
We have only seen kangaroos on walks in this area, but people regularly take photos of Wallaroos (a cross between a wallaby and a kangaroo) so I’ll try to get a photos of them.
During winter we read an inspiring local story about Dimity May who has started a small business growing local organic seedlings tailored to our Canberra market. She called it Reid Tiny Farm. (Dimity was born and raised in Reid, a suburb of Canberra.)
Dimity had always been passionate about organic products, and has a Permaculture Design Certificate at Allsun Farm at Gundaroo. Later she completed a market gardener masterclass developed by a renowned farmer and regenerative agricultural advocate Jean Martin, based in Quebec. (an online course mainly for professional growers)
She’s had a challenging start to her business, with baking hot days last year, followed by torrential rain this year. However she has moved her business to Pialligo’s Garden Lots, and now has a seedling-raising cocoon tunnel purchased from Active Vista in Tasmania. Dimity’s father built the frames for the seedlings. The whole family is involved in her business, and hopefully they can continue to help her during this Lockdown.
At the start of 2020 Dimity began growing seedlings organically and has gradually developed her business. Now a subscriber can get a small or large box of seasonal seedlings four times a year.
We had subscribed to Dimity’s project during winter, and when she emailed to say our spring seedlings were ready, we were thrilled… it was just in time to start planting new seedlings and, chance to get out of the house!
Unfortunately it was teeming down with rain the morning we went to get our seedings, so I haven’t yet taken any photos of Dimity and her surroundings, or the polytunnel.
However, here is our bounty! We chose to buy a small box of seedlings (4 boxes a year, one for every season) and this spring the seedlings we have are; beetroot, radish, broccoli, cos lettuce, red butterhead lettuce, English spinach, cabbage and pak choi. (some we have given to neighbours.)
Our seedlings look very healthy and happy, and in between the seedlings we have some small plastic white butterflies to chase away real white cabbage moth/butterflies.
Dimity has, on her website, a quote by Martin Fortier (a farmer educator and award winning author) and this quote seems just right for Dimity’s business.
What we need is food grown with care by and for people who care.
Thank you for visiting my blog today, and I hope everyone can enjoy a bit of sunshine and small pleasures during these uncertain times.
We are back in Lockdown here in Canberra, as are many states of Australia. The Delta variant is a tough one, and Paul and I thank our lucky stars we are vaccinated.
The good news is, spring is on its way, and with it, come the birds. I took this photo of the Sulphur Crested Cockatoo from my study while I was typing. He/she has decided to walk along the road rather than fly. It could be that the roads are so quiet now, but as regular readers of this blog know, Cockatoos are a law unto themselves, and he is on a mission.
There is something endearing and reassuring about birds arriving in the garden during spring….. life goes on in the usual way, regardless of Lockdowns.
This Juvenile Kookaburra is a very welcome visitor, especially as a family of Kookaburras come to our garden every year in August, they are not regulars. I would like to think it is to show off the new baby, but in reality it is probably because we have plenty of birdbaths and veggie beds with worms in them.
Just before Lockdown began, we started moving all our books from a shelf near the kitchen. I pulled out a very old copy of my mother’s book, called Ouma’s Cookery Book. The first edition was published in 1940, in Pretoria, South Africa. My mother bought the seventh edition of this book in 1958. My sister-in-law has a recent edition. A publisher’s dream!
The book was compiled originally from recipes donated by women in South Africa between the first and second world wars. The first editions featured war-time recipes and gradually more recipes were added with each new edition. It is much more than just a recipe book, it has practical information on how to make do and feed a household, when times were tough. It is also full of quotes and comments and interesting social history, more relevant today with our current pandemic.
My mother, who’s own mother died when she was young, no doubt learnt all she needed to know from this book, especially when she and my father lived on a farm in a remote part of central Africa.
Sadly it has been many years since I have used a recipe from this book, and it is only now that we are in Lockdown that I have time to go through it, and enjoy all the quotes, and perhaps try a recipe or two. (If I’m successful I’ll let you know)
I have also been reading an article in the British Edition of Country Living called To the Manor Reborn. It is the story of Raymond Blanc, a Michelin star chef and restaurant owner in London, who is recovering from Covid. He has had to work very hard to recover, and says during his recovery he thought of food and gardens, and remembered his childhood near Besancon in eastern France, where the family lived off homegrown vegetables and the odd rabbit.
The experience of Covid has changed his ideas of food.
‘‘I think the environment is going to define very much what we eat from now on, post-pandemic we’ll be all looking for local produce, there will be a re-discovery of lost skill. My mother created the full foundation of my food philosophy. She taught me about the soil, the environment, about joy, about sharing, about teaching.”
Since being interviewed, Raymond’s elderly mother died, and he has written a book called Simply Raymond: Recipes from Home. The book is dedicated to his mother.
It will be interesting to see how this pandemic changes us. I think there is already a rising interest in locally grown food, and we plan to increase our own garden beds with more of our produce in mind.
No matter how you get your food, the pandemic has shown me that sharing that food with friends and families is surely one of the most enjoyable experience in life. The recipe I distinctly remember as a child from Ouma’s cookery book was Koeksisters, a kind of doughy plait, exploding with syrup. Not the most healthy dish in the world, but a lovely plate to share with friends and family. South Africans are famous for their coffee, and I’m sure these Koeksisters are meant to accompany coffee or a Rooibos tea.
Thank you for reading my blog today, and best wishes to everyone. May your garden, and your food and family and friends, sustain you during these Covid days.
International Tree Day is coming up on Sunday 1st August. Time to celebrate all our beautiful trees in Australia. and the wonderful array of birds that rely on these trees.
The states surrounding Canberra (ACT), are either in Lockdown or just coming out of Lockdown, and everything is very wintery and quiet..
Despite a few blue skies you may see in some of today’s photos, don’t believe it…. Canberra is having a cold, rainy, windy winter.
The brightest colour in the garden this week was the cockatoo’s yellow crest.
Fortunately birds are still visiting the garden and we are also going for bush walks around Canberra, when the rain stopped. While we were walking along Coolamen Ridge, on a rare sunny day, we noticed the juvenile Kookaburra below calling for his family..
Why are we seeing juvenile birds in the middle of winter? Perhaps, as a result of the rain, there is an abundance of food… Paul suggested a bird baby boom. Well that would be something positive in these Covid times.
These magnificent Eucalyptus trees are providing a haven for the birds to feed on and nest in hollows. Imagine how safe and warm they would be on windy rainy days.
The Australian National Botanic Gardens is a wonderful place for wildlife because there are so many Eucalyptus trees.
Australia has a wide variety of bird and animal life, and while we are on the topic of trees, there is a unique marsupial very much connected to trees, called the Tree Kangaroo.
While visiting my cousin in the Atherton Tablelands in Queensland in 2017 we stopped off at the Nerada Tea farm. This is the largest supplier of Australian grown tea, and not only do they have a lovely shop with lots of interesting teas and specially selected imported teas,
they also have a tea room with very inviting scones and cream.
After visiting the shop, we noticed a furry animal in one of the trees….a tree kangaroo! Very difficult to take photos of these shy animals, as it is very hard to see them. They look a bit like furry teddy bears with long tails. This was the first time for all three of us to see one in the wild.
Tree Kangaroos are kangaroos that live in trees. They have small ears and shorter legs and arms, their feet have curved claws for gripping and climbing. They are marsupials and are the largest tree-dwelling mammals in Australia. The Lumholtz Tree Kangaroos is the smallest of the species, and are found in the rainforest patches on the Atherton Tablelands.
Tree kangaroos feed on leaves and foliage and fruit and flowers of native trees in the rainforest.
Fortunately I was able to get a photo of a Tree Kangaroo from our own National Zoo. I must say this tree kangaroo is looking very well groomed and smart.
On this wild and wet day we stopped off at small cafes and shops selling delicious foods, specialist food products and coffee. A very satisfying day indeed.
Many thanks for taking the time to read my blog post today. With so many people in Lockdown or quarantine, or just being careful during these Covid times, I noticed a Zulu saying (undoubtedly meant for hunting) but true for us today ..
Well here we are in the middle of winter in Canberra, and I have left my camera in Melbourne.
Canberra, with its beautiful clear autumn and winter light, lends itself to photography. My Iphone is fine for family photos, but my camera is better for landscapes.
However, I do have many, many folders of photos that have not been used. I wonder how many bloggers are the same? I am better at de-cluttering the house than getting rid of photos. You just never know when you will need them.
So here are a few photos from these folders of my favourite places to walk, take photos, and have coffee in Canberra. Some photos have been used in previous posts, but many have been hiding in all those folders.
Ann Moyal, a writer, and an academic, had to say….
“I have been in love with Canberra for over sixty years. Its parched landscape, its ring of deep blue mountains etched against an iridescent sky. Its light and calming beauty…“
Canberra’s suburbs are full of birds all year round, but in autumn and winter we start to notice some our most colourful visitors…the King Parrots.
The male Australian King Parrot is the only Australian parrot with a completely red head. The female King parrot has a green head and neck.
The Rainbow Lorikeet is a beautiful splash of colour against the Eucalyptus tree in autumn.
Early morning walkers and bike riders are dedicated…they are relaxing around the lake in every season ..even winter.
This is my favourite building, one of the best places for coffee, and so warm and comfortable too!
I always enjoy the native gardens in Art Gallery gardens, and the sculptures change with every season.
Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve is not far from the city centre, and is full of wildlife..
I have many photos of kangaroos as a result of our visits during spring. However, for some reason this photo never makes the cut.
When we first came to Canberra we went to Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve at Easter time with our two young children (after our Easter hunt back home). We found a picnic table and sat down to have our picnic and Easter eggs. Some Emus appeared out of nowhere and two of them snipped up the Easter eggs, and off they went into the bushes! Our daughters have had a very cautious approach to Emus every since.
One of my absolute favourite places for a walk in autumn and winter is around the suburb of Yarralumla.
This is the house where the Governor General resides, and has a wonderful view across the lake. There lines in the water are for rowing boats.
In summer time I sometimes meet friends at a coffee shop near here, and the mature shady gardens are a wonderful place to sit on a warm day.
During one of my visits, a very organised lady arrived with her greyhound and small dog. I asked if she would like me to keep an eye on them while she ordered her coffee. She thanked me, but said the little dog was the boss, and even with her restricted collar, she would not let the greyhound move away.
I could believe it!
Just as I write this today, Australia has experienced a spike in COVID cases in Sydney, and short Lockdowns have begun. This is a timely reminder to get vaccinated. Paul and I have had our first vaccine with no side effects and will have the second dose in August.
Thank you for taking the time to read my blog today, and may your garden, your home and family be happy and safe, where ever you are in the world.
We recently visited the pretty coastal town of Port Macquarie, in New South Wales.
Many years ago, my parents retired to Port Macquarie, and they lived in a small but comfortable coastal cottage surrounded by Eucalyptus trees.
The real bonus for every day living was that they lived across the road from a National Park and Wild Life sanctuary.
I have many memories of my parents, Paul and I taking our daughters to visit the park and the koalas. Tiny hands linked in ours as we crossed the road and walked slowly into the park. Time always seemed to slow down as we walked across the park, taking in the colours, the smells and the birds..
My mother would peel away a bit of bark from one of the trees and talk to the girls about the tiny insect world just below the surface of the tree. She always drew attention to the details..
My parents spent many years taking all their grandchildren for walks over to the park, and especially to the Koala Hospital, which was in the early stages of development.
The hospital became much better known during the dreadful bushfires all over Australia in December and January 2000.
These fires had a devastating affect on the local koalas, and the hospital also became the emergency ”go to” place for people far and wide trying to rescue koalas.
These photos show the koalas who survived and thrived, there were so many who did not.
Thankfully the hospital is now a much calmer place, and as a result of the generous donations from around the world, the Koala Hospital is actively working to keep local koalas healthy, increasing education programs and research into koala health and diseases.
The koala hospital is a series of outdoor large fenced ”wards”. Each ward has tree trunks, branches and Eucalyptus leaves, so koalas are in their natural habitat.
As the koala’s health improves, he/she is moved to a ”ward” closer to the bushland. These koalas have trees to climb, getting them ready for a return to the wild.
However, some koalas can never be returned to the wild, and these koalas remain permanent residents at the Koala Hospital.
The koala above is called Ocean Summer. Her mother was hit by a car and killed, but Ocean Summer survived, despite being only one kilogram when she was brought to the hospital. She was raised by home carers. Her eyes are normal, but due due to the accident she has some brain injury and cannot see. Summer has adapted well to her environment and will stay in the hospital permanently.
Tourists are taken in small groups around the hospital. Each koala has a chart with the koala’s name and biographical details giving the reasons the koala is here.
Some quiz questions for visitors are embedded in one of the local trees… here is just one..
There were many stories about koalas living in Port Macquarie, and Garage Girl was one of the most endearing.
My parents died many years ago now, and it is always a trip down memory lane when we go to Port Macquarie. We try to come in May or June and enjoy the bright sunny days, and coastal walks..
but this time the weather turned from mild to wild in Port Macquarie, and it has been like that ever since!
With weather in mind, my last photo is not of Port Macquarie, but taken in Mareeba in Far North Queensland. This sign was at the Mareeba Museum, a wonderful place to go if you are visiting this region. North Queensland often gets cyclones in summer, and this endearing sign shows the resilience and humour of people…all over the world… who live with difficult weather conditions!
Thank you for visiting my blog today. Here’s hoping your weather is mild, where ever you are in the world today.
As some readers may already know, I love the gardening book, Australian Dreamscapes, and when ever possible we try to visit a Dreamscape garden on our travels.
I hope you have time to look, and enjoy, this stunning and unique garden called Eagle’s Bluff near Tenterfield in New South Wales, which is featured in Australian Dreamscapes.
Carolyn Robinson, a garden designer and plantswoman, had travelled to many parts of the world with her husband Peter, before they settled in the picturesque town of Tenterfield in New South Wales. Carolyn became well known for her garden design and for creating a lovely, more traditional garden called Glenrock near Tenterfield.
However, for the next chapter of their lives, Carolyn and her husband Peter fell in love with a a more rural property, Eagle’s Bluff, overlooking the Bluff Wilderness area near Tenterfield.
In a remarkably short space of time, they built a house, surrounded on three sides by a river with a backdrop of hills in this rugged landscape. Equally remarkable, Carolyn has planted an expansive garden, full of native and exotic plants, trees and gently swaying grasses.
Carolyn says in Australian Dreamscapes, ”At Eagle’s Bluff the landscape was far more imposing, I could open my mind to the landscape and flow with it. It is a wonderful feeling of being free and not hindered by traditional gardening styles.”
The house has magnificent views from the large windows, looking out onto their pond which reflects the sky, the clouds and the mountains.
The view encourages the eye to look further into the garden and across to the river and the mountains.
Amongst her many talents, Carolyn has been collecting stones and rocks for twenty or so years, and uses them to make stone walls to provide structure in the garden. When she and her husband Peter bought the property, she was delighted to find that there was a jumble of rocks, many of which were flat sided, and able to be used in her new garden.
Carolyn says the stone walls act as a ha-ha foreshortening the distance to the river. Sweeping gardens by the pond are filled with low-growing shrubs and perennials…..absolutely breath-taking on this glorious autumn day.
The paths and the soft green lawns lead us on through a wonderful series of gardens. Carolyn is renowned for her appealing plant palettes, using a variety of shapes, colours and textures.
The gardens spread out like an amphitheatre for the surrounding hills. There are Salvias, Westringa, Lavenders, Grevilleas and many more well chosen plants for the climate.
Another of Carolyn’s quotes from the book ”Foliage colour is more important than the flower colour, and the use of purple foliage is a signature of my design because it works well with glaucous shades in the native vegetation and acts as a foil for the harsh Australian light.”
Carolyn and has planted to encourage the bees, butterflies and birds, and all were in abundance the day we were there.
Tenterfield has cold frosty winters, (occasionally light snow), and moderate hot wet summers. However, as with many parts of Australia, there can be floods and droughts and fires….all of which have occurred in the last few years.
The Robinsons’ main water supply comes from the river, but mindful of the vagaries of the Australian climate, they also have a small dam and two large tanks in case of drought. There is a sprinkler system through the garden, a feat in itself!
Carolyn also plants with drought hardiness in mind and says it is crucial to put plants with similar water needs together.
Deciduous trees, claret ash, golden ash, pistachio, pear and crabapples and prunus are all grouped together, and give shade, but on 40 degree summer days they can be given a drink if needed.
Most of the garden beds are covered with pebbles or crushed rock, and even small amounts of rain can soak through the gravel and stones.
Carolyn loves a mix of plants, massing ground covers, shrubs and formal hedges contrast against textured foliage, spreading natives and flowing ornamental grasses..
To soften the look of the hill on the south side, which was sadly denuded of trees some years ago, Carolyn has added eucalypts and chosen companion plants that would be able to handle competition as they matured.
One distinct lesson Carolyn has learnt from her previous garden, is to plant everything together, when the Eucalyptus are tiny. That way, all the plants around have a chance to develop their root zones and get their defences going before the Eucalyptus dominate. She says ”I always see it as roots waging war under the ground!”
Carolyn expressed her wish for this garden: ‘‘I wanted to create a garden in harmony with the wider landscape, and , in a small way, enhance the spirit of the place”
Carolyn and her husband Peter kindly offered us coffee and cake when we had finished taking photos. As we sat chatting, looking out across the pond, the gardens and the blue hills beyond, I felt that Carolyn had indeed enhanced the spirit of this captivating landscape.
Eagle’s Bluff is a private garden and not available for general viewing, however, the first garden Carolyn created near Tenterfield, called Glenrock is often open during the year.
There are two Dreamscape books, one called Australian Dreamscapes, and another simply called Dreamscapes, featuring gardens all over the world.
Fisherman’s Bay Gardens As much as we would like to make gardener Jill Simpson an honorary Australian, her garden is set in beautiful Akaroa in New Zealand, and therefore Jill is featured in the first book called Dreamscapes.
All three gardens are featured on Instagram.
Thank you for reading my blog post today, and may you enjoy your garden or nearby greenery, near or far, summer or winter.