Canberra is known as the Bush Capital of Australia, as it is a city interspersed by bushland, and surrounded by forests and national parks.
However, the devastating bushfires of 2003 not only destroyed over five hundred homes in Canberra, but also burnt through forests around Canberra.
As a result the ACT government decided to develop the National Arboretum in Canberra, as a centenary gift to the city.
48 000 trees have been planted in 94 forests on a 250 hectare site.
Amongst the developing forests of the National Arboretum is a wonderful regional botanic garden called STEP (Southern Tablelands Ecosystem Park).
We recently visited STEP early one spring morning…..
The Sulphur Crested Cockatoos have a dawn gathering at the small dam near STEP….
and feed on the grasses nearby. As usual, they are very noisy, but it is lovely to see them in their natural environment…
At STEP an enthusiastic group of volunteers have gradually designed and developed an area to represent the native plants and trees typical of the Southern Highlands.
Built into the landscape is a rock amphitheatre. It is used as a gathering place for educational groups and others visiting STEP. On this cool morning, the smooth rocks ringed by the Eucalyptus trees make this a very peaceful place to visit..
The Eucalyptus trees are characteristic of those found in the region’s hills, slopes and valleys, and as it is spring it is wonderful to see some flowering Eucalyptus in the gardens ..
After a long dry winter, the spring blossoms have arrived, and not just on eucalyptus trees…the colours of the bush change from muted greens and greys to yellows, fuchsia, purples and whites..
I took a photo of this wonderfully coloured shrub, (Mirbelia xylobioides) on Sunday morning, and by the following Thursday it had finished flowering ….you have to be quick..
When I arrived on Thursday for a second visit, the day after much needed rain, everything looked fresh and green and shiny..
Some shrubs have finished flowering and others have just begun..
In recent years, through blogging, and travelling, I have read about and seen grasses being used in design and landscapes all over the world. Now I have a new appreciation of grasses in Australia.
One of the volunteers called me over to look at and feel these young grasses, Poa Induta. They are soft to feel with long silky stems and delicate seed heads.. my absolute favourite for the day…
The gardens have some impressive metal sign posts to mark various areas around STEP. Here you can see the flowers of the She-oaks (Casuarina) sculptured into the metal.
Unfortunately I missed the opportunity to take a photo of the friendly and very knowledgeable volunteers sharing morning tea under the shade of some of the bigger trees.
However, here is a photo from my visit a few years ago, the shady trees have grown and are still a welcoming spot for morning tea.
The volunteers come to STEP every Thursday, rain, hail or shine and work tirelessly to keep this wonderful regional botanic garden growing and developing.
STEP has a very interesting newsletter for Members, and it is very easy to become a member and/or a volunteer.
Copyright Geraldine Mackey: All Rights Reserved.