As part of the spring festival in Canberra, many Embassies have opened their doors and gardens to the public, and South Africa is one of those Embassies.
The South African Embassy is one of the oldest in the diplomatic circle in Canberra. The beautiful Cape Dutch building was established in 1956, and the gardens were designed at this time. The elegant buildings and grounds reflect the era in which it was built.
It is surprising these lovely long lawns have survived the drought. Nowadays many embassies, including this one, have very large water tanks to store rain water. Some years ago, Canberra suffered 10 years of drought, and since then there have been permanent water restrictions for watering gardens.
However, this year we have had plenty of winter rainfall and everything is looking very green and lush.
The Galahs have found some tasty seeds in the lawns of the Embassy, and, a Magpie is making a nest in one of the many trees nearby.During nesting times, Magpies become very territorial, and I’m watching her, watching me…..
In the front of the building is a wonderful bush full of proteas, the emblem for South Africa. My mother spent her childhood in South Africa, and she felt homesick every time she saw a protea…(or a Red Hot Poker, or Flame Lily)
The plants in the garden are a mix of those that grow well in Canberra and those that represent South Africa..
and some flowers that seem to have strayed in from Monet’s garden…
We visited South Africa a few years ago and enjoyed the markets, the colourful fruit and vegetables and the lovely fresh food served in restaurants…….
As one of the South African waiters said to me…when I mentioned that she had given me a very large serving….
“‘ What are you worrying about?……you can go on a diet when you get home….”
I’m using this logic today at the Embassy cupcake stall…even though home isn’t very far away.
Eighty bags of manure a year, plenty of mulching, slow release fertilizer, a couple of water tanks, an artistic sister, a sense of humour, and a whole lot of love for gardening….that is all you need to have a garden like Christine Fernon’s.
In February this year I visited this wonderful cottage garden in the inner city of Canberra. Christine bought the property ten years ago, and although it is hard to believe now, the garden was completely overrun, and she began from scratch to re-build it. Now the garden is crammed full of plants, flowers and vegetables. In a space smaller than many Canberra gardens, she has four vegetable beds, and another area where she grows rhubarb, strawberries and chives.
There is espaliered fruit along the driveway with almond, feijoa, crab apples and quince trees.
The rest of the garden is packed full of colourful flowers and shrubs. Her sister has taught her ceramics and the garden is dotted with ceramic figures, pots and whimsical garden labels.
She has three slimline water tanks, two aerobin compost bins, plus a worm farm. The water tanks are mainly for the veggies and potted plants, and no pesticides are used in the garden.
But I’m sure the key to this lush and healthy looking garden is the end of winter ”energy drink” of cow manure/mushroom compost/blood and bone, and slow release seaweed solution and mulching during summer. …….very hard to sustain that kind of dedication!
Every bit of the garden is inspiring and needless to say the bees and birds abound. Christine has 6 birdbaths in all; one show-off magpie was taking his daily constitutional despite all the Open Garden busy-bodies in his garden.
Christine has included a birdbath on the nature strip in the front of her property and it is used in summer for the kangaroos who stop off at night-time for a drink….so very close to the Parliamentary Triangle.