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
The morning and the evening lights at Canberra are wonderful.
The shadows of the clouds and mists as they cross the mountains are very beautiful indeed.
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..”
It is possible to go rowing before work..
or keep an eye out for the sleeping cockatoos as you drive to work…
or walk along the backtracks behind our suburbs..
The corridors of bush means that wild birds and kangaroos live in a companionable way around us….
Magpies are part of the family…(sometimes not in spring, but that is another story)
These parrots visit our cabin in the garden for some unfrozen water in winter …
In summer our fruit trees are given over to the birds
They are worth it!
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.
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..
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.
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.
While we were there a magpie was feeding her chick perched on the nest alongside that formidable looking eagle. Nice to see.
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!
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.
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.
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!
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!
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.
Meanwhile, on this sunny spring day, a family is already taking advantage of the grassy amphitheatre to fly a kite.
We live on the south side of the city, in a quiet suburban street with a view of the Brindabella mountains.
Our street is on a gentle slope leading up to Mt Taylor. My father, coming from Scotland, always corrected me when I called Mt Taylor a mountain, because he definitely thought of Mt Taylor as a hill. Whichever way you look at it, Mt Taylor is a good climb, with a fantastic view of the Brindabella mountains when you get to the top. Even my Scottish Dad conceded that the Brindabellas are indeed mountains, and very fine ones at that.
Our garden has gone through many changes in thirty years, and is always a work in progress. Children, dogs and chooks have been replaced by vegetables, flowers and bird-bath antics to keep us amused.
Occasionally (not often enough) we just stop, sit down and enjoy the peace and tranquility of the garden, the hill, and the mountains.