We recently spent a week in Sydney, house-sitting for Paul’s brother, Martin and his wife Kris.
Paul’s mother is 96 years old this week, so it was a wonderful opportunity for Paul to spend some time with her every day.
Martin and Kris live in a leafy suburb, with many trees, colourful flowers and cool green lawns. Sydney gets a much higher rainfall than Canberra, so we are always somewhat blinded by this bright sunny green city.
We soon found a walking track with a notice saying, “A Blue Gum High Forest in your Backyard”
Some thoughtful planners have managed to preserve land in the suburb to keep a small amount of Blue Gum forest. There is a path through the forest, and it is a bonus for suburban dwellers to have this small forest within reach of walking every day.
The Blue Gum High Forest only occurs in Northern Sydney. It gets its name from the tall Eucalyptus saligna, or Sydney Blue Gum with its distinctive smooth bark and trunk.
The timber of the Blue Gum high forest was valuable to Sydney’s early settlement, and ongoing clearing, farming, development and weed invasion meant that less than 5% of the original forest remains in the world.
Needless to say, all the birds love the Blue Gums, and cockatoos gather amongst the trees every day. ( a mixed blessing).
Paul and I have also been inspired by the wonderful garden Kris has made…
When we arrived the Flowering Pink Gum tree had just started to flower…
and the day we were leaving the beautiful Flowering Gum put on a show for us, and the Rainbow Lorikeets did the same!
We are back in Canberra now, after an enjoyable week in Sydney.
We are so impressed with Kris’s Flowering Gum Tree, we are going to try growing one ourselves.
Many thanks for reading my blog post today, and best wishes to everyone, especially friends and relatives in New Zealand who have been battling the elements for some time.
During the summer holidays, we stayed at Flinders, in the Mornington Peninsula.. as we did last year.
This year, Paul and I took time off the beach to visit an open garden, a garden high on the hill and surrounded by farms and vineyards.
This garden is owned by gardener Jo Ferguson, and her partner, Simon Hazel.
Jo Ferguson is a gardener designer, and takes charge of design, the planting and the day-to- day care of the property.
Jo has a simple, but interesting idea on planning a garden; imagine a place where you are most happy, or a place in your childhood where you were happy. Try to bring elements of this into the garden.
Simon liked to see bees on flowers, and Jo liked grasslands, “when I was little I would sit in the grasslands on the foreshore of Merrick beach.”
They have made a unique garden on a hill in Flinders, defying harsh winds and heavy clay soil, and following what makes them happy.
The garden has Echinacea, Kangaroo Paws, alliums, dahlias, paper daisies, and many more flowers, all waving in the breeze and searching for space amongst the local and exotic grasses.
Jo’s partner Simon Hazel works in commercial landscaping, and deals with the larger-scale aspects of the landscape.
Simon tops up their heavy clay soil with a mix of sand, compost and course mulch.
He makes his own compost by incorporating 100 cubic metres of horse manure and vast quantities of grape marc (the solid remains of grapes after pressing, from local vineyards in the region.) He then turns the mix with his Digger, and leaves it for a year, before use.
I’m sure that this kind of dedication to compost would bring excellent results!
Jo and Simon have impressive water tanks, used for the house and garden, the vegetable garden, chickens and alpacas, and the odd sheep.
They have an abundance of vegetables growing in the garden, unfortunately I could not get photo of some parts of the garden. It was very popular with visitors.
It was easy to see that this garden was a labour of love, and every season would bring more surprises.
On the way back to our holiday house Paul and I chatted about what brings us joy in the garden.
When we arrived back at our holiday house and garden, our grandchildren were very excited because there were two Eastern Rosellas in the garden, and even better two Magpies, our granddaughter was sure they were the same Magpies as the ones that entertained us last year.
It occurred to me that one of the many things that brings me joy in the garden is being able to attract a variety of birds, with the help of birdbaths, and shrubs, bushes and small trees that provide safe haven for birds looking for food.
If you are lucky enough to have a garden, what brings you joy in the garden?
Canberra’s usual spring planting was lost to rainy weather. Finally, close to December, the rain stopped falling and the sun came out, but most of us were still struggling with Hayfever, after months of long grasses growing in between suburbs and on verges of gardens.
The rain prevented the lawns and pathways from being mowed.
Once the rain stopped and the sunshine came through, it was lovely to walk through the garden and see it blossoming for summer.
We’ve never tried growing Lupins before, but during Covid we ordered three Lupin plants online, and this was the only one of three that survived, and thrived! The bees loved it.
The Salvias have also attracted the bees, and although I was tempted to trim this red Salvia as it spread, I took my cue from the bees buzzing around me!
When we visited the UK I was amazed to see hedges of fuchsias growing like weeds. They are tricky to grow in this part of Australia, but these two seem hale and hearty.
This hydrangea is loving its place under the plum tree and this year it has the right amount of water and sunshine.
Paul has grown an impressive crop of garlic this year, and to think he was worried that our continual rain in November, might affect the crop. Once the crop has dried out, (in our garden shed) Paul will keep the garlic under the house, in a cool dark shelf.
I have included this lovely plant although it grows in Melbourne, near the home of our daughter and family. Our granddaughter, aged five, said she watched a cartoon about bees, and when they saw tempting flowers, they said to each other “Let’s have a party!”
This gorgeous blue flower is always full of bees having a party, and if we ever have a space in our garden, we’ll try to grow it.
Canberra has many paths between suburbs and plenty of choice of walks. During the summer months Paul and I walk almost every day. One of our favourite walks is near “Five Ways” otherwise known as Ken’s garden, which I featured last year.
We live on the side of Mount Taylor and so we walk up a path called Heartbreak Hill (named by one of our neighbours) and along to Ken’s garden and then back home.
Ken began by planting some Red Hot Pokers and Agapanthus on the verge of his house and garden, and then gradually extended the garden.
It is a wonderful social space where people tend to linger on a summer day, chatting to Ken, his wife, or other passers-by. It is very much valued by the community.
Not to mention birds, and Wattle Birds in particular, as you can see.
The birds in Canberra have never had such a feast of grasses, flowers, seeds and berries. As a result we now have far more big birds than usual, many living on Mount Taylor near us. (Currawongs, Ravens and Cockatoos)
When it comes to Cockatoos, the War of the Roses has nothing on the Wars for space in the best Eucalyptus trees. We live opposite two mature Eucalyptus trees, and this summer, there has been constant screeching and chasing each other in and out of the trees. Their wingspan is incredible and their screeches can be ear-splitting.
When they are in the trees, they often peel the bark and drop it, or they shred flowering trees, (or our Almond tree.)
Mercifully they all seem to fly off to the mountains once their young are mature enough to be self-sufficient.
Paul found this wonderful card in the National Library, and it just sums up cockatoos perfectly……
Thank you for taking the time to read my blog today, and may you be happy and healthy in 2023.
Every morning in summer we walk down to the shops to buy the paper…and we always stop to admire this view…
This garden is on the verge of the road and the footpath. It has been planted and cared for by a very generous gardener who lives in a house nearby. He and his wife bought and prepared the soil, fertilizer, and plants. They have even installed a watering system, and keep it watered all summer at their own cost.
How is that for a gardener’s generosity of spirit!
These colour co-ordinated Eastern Rosellas are up early and enjoying the morning sun.
Further along the path is a neighbouring garden spilling over with a shrub that seems to be saying…”It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas, and summer”.
Every morning we pass the cockatoos and galahs enjoying breakfast at this bird feeder …(a mixed blessing)
The galahs seem to understand the pecking order, and wait for their turn. Occasionally they all eat together.
And far off on the lamp post, a female cockatoo is on parenting duty….
Nearby, a young cockatoo is holding on tight to the branch …. perhaps his first flight without his mother..
Oh dear, he had a slip, but luckily his beak is strong enough to steady him.
His tail feathers look like a wedding dress!
As we walk across the playing fields, we often see the male Red Rumped Parrot and the lighter coloured female….these parrots are always feeding in the grass, and are totally unperturbed by sporting events going on around them.
By the time we walk home, it is getting hotter, but the Red Hot Pokers are still a treat to see as we walk…
This summer we have had a heatwave and dust storms ..
This makes for some beautiful sunsets across the Brindabella Mountains
When I look across at this view of the Brindabella Mountains, I think there really is no place like home..
I hope you are keeping warm or cool where ever you are in the world, and enjoying your home as much as I enjoy mine.
This wonderful Sturt Desert Pea, from the desert of Central Australia, seems to be singing..
‘It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas..”
Canberra is nowhere near the desert in Central Australia, but the Sturt Desert Pea grows here in the Desert Garden of the Australian National Botanical Gardens.
Canberra usually becomes very hot, and dry-looking the closer we get to Christmas, but this year we’ve had unexpected rain, and the Brindabella Mountains stayed blue for a long time.
The development of the Arboretum in Canberra was very controversial at first….one hundred forests of trees from all over the world were planted.
This was an act of faith really because a ten year drought had not long ended. However, we have had regular rain since then, and despite the difficulties there may be, the Arboretum looks stunning now, and is a great tourist attraction….
Not far from the south side of Canberra, (where I live) is Namadgi National Park…
These last couple of years, with abundant grasses and vegetation, there has been an explosion of babies in spring….
On the edge of Namadgi is Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve…used by bushwalkers, and families alike, and it is a joy to see all the animals and birds around after a rainy day..
I believe two new koala babies have been born since our visit…
…closer to home, one kindly gardener has planted red hot pokers, red geraniums, and blue agapanthus along the verge next to her house…it looks wonderful in the morning sunshine, and the red hot pokers are stunning against the white trunk of the Eucalypt tree.
I often walk along the backtracks (fire trails) with Paul and also with friends and neighbours..
Paul had just finished painting the deck (luckily it was dry) when an unexpected hail storm occurred.
It only lasted about 15 minutes but caused some damage around the neighbourhood.
Luckily no damage for us, but most of the plants looked a bit bedraggled….. one minute it is 33 degrees Celsius and the next minute there are pieces of ice in pot plants!
These Liliums and the Gazanias get the prize for resilience….they began flowering again the next day.
The Gazanias must wonder what is going on here….one day a Sulphur Crested Cockatoo is lopping its flowers, the next….pieces of ice are landing in the pot!
My favourite part of summer is sitting on the deck having breakfast, the sound of sprinklers and happy birds flying in and out of the water.
So much fresh stone fruit to add to our breakfast… the birds eat from our fruit trees and we buy ours from the markets…something seems wrong with that equation….but where would be we without them?
yes…its beginning to look a lot like Christmas….
The Good Food website has this variation on a Pavlova (an Australian/New Zealand favourite summer dessert) …and there is another one with honeycomb…they are worth looking at…
Season’s greeting to everyone, and thank you for your company this year, I’ve enjoyed writing about Canberra’s Green Spaces, and travelling the world through blogs I read, and the people I’ve met.
…best wishes to you all, and may you have enough time to enjoy family and friends and green spaces (or snowy white spaces from the comfort of your warm fire..) where ever you are in the world.
Canberra’s summer has been hot and dry, and as a consolation, the sunsets have been stunning..
A recent survey of birds in suburbia recorded that nearly 50% of households in the Canberra region provide water for birds in summer..
Birds in our garden have a choice of bird baths, and a sprinkler system occasionally which they can fly in and out of…(a five star bird friendly garden)
…..this provides us with daily amusement and joy.
Last week this tiny kookaburra appeared on the back wires…(a good place to check out the water situation in safety) I have never seen one so young in our area…..his Mum was not far behind..
All babies are beguiling, but this little kookaburra is at the top of my list for cuties…he hasn’t even got the Kookaburra crew cut hairdo yet!
In the nearby Eucalyptus tree is a juvenile Cockatoo….just waking up….look out…
When we came to Canberra, the house we bought faced due west, which meant we got the punishing summer sun on all the living room windows. It was like living in an oven!
At that time we had a one year old daughter and another baby on the way! Fortunately we were young and just pleased to have our own home!
In those days no thought was given by planners or developers to siting houses to take account of the climate.
Over time we extended the house, and put insulation in the roof, and the walls. Eventually, we bought solar panels for the roof, and best of all, double glazing for all the windows.
What a difference all of that made!
In the meanwhile we built up shrubs and trees, especially in the front garden to give us shade and protection. We bought two water tanks for the garden, which helps, but is not enough during dry months.
We planted agapanthus because they are tough and drought resistant. I was once told they are the ”bully boys” of the garden, and when you look at their roots, this is certainly true. But they earned their stripes by surviving a drought and a nearby fire some years ago.
In the past couple of years we have had good spring rain, and this has set them up to flower very well this summer.
The garden is now shady and green, and the house is cool and quiet.
Having a simple, well functioning home give me a sense of wellbeing…it is a port in a storm.
I have mentioned the Chinese Tallow tree in previous posts, and this is our Chinese Tallow tree during summer, full of tassel like flowers which attract bees and butterflies by the millions (it seems)
I have read, in New South Wales, these trees are considered weeds because they sprout and grow prolifically. However, the up side is the bees are prolific here in summer. (we will get rid of new young trees appearing …one is plenty)
IN February we had about three days of extreme heat (41 degrees). At times like this the birds stay hidden in our thick bushes and trees, and come down to the bird baths in the late afternoon.
Now that we get more bees and insects in the garden, I noticed many of them coming for water too. In fact, after rescuing a bee swimming desperately in this small blue bird bath, I have put some small stones in the bird bath and reduced the level of water to give them solid places to land on when they need a drink.
The rest of the garden is now quite well established, and has held up well in the days of extreme heat.
One advantage of heat is, the fruit is nice and soft to eat…
On Valentine’s day I heard these two galahs chatting away in the Eucalyptus tree. They are very sociable birds, and it looks like love is in the air on this summer’s evening…
I have so many photos of our lovely sunsets, so here is one more…..
May you enjoy your change of season, as we will be soon…autumn is my favourite season in Canberra and I look forward to hearing what yours is…
We have also had an incredible amount of rain this year. After ten years of drought, everyone is collectively holding our breath and hoping it will continue…
Canberra is cool Temperate and Alpine Zone 8-9. In theory we have:
mild or warm summers (I would say, often very hot summers)
cold winters (heavy frosts)…Yes!
and spring is a pivotal event…Yes!
Tim Entwisle, the Director of the Royal Botanic Gardens in Melbourne, has written a book about Australia’s changing seasons, called Sprinter and Sprummer.
He says we should adopt a five season approach, early spring should include August and be called Sprinter (August September)
And late spring should be called Sprummer (October, November)
He bases his seasonal categories on the timing of the plants, the activities of the animals, and the unsettled weather before we move into summer.
It is true that much of Australia has no real spring or a very short spring, and not many of the flowers and plants common to the European spring.
However, in Canberra, as you can see, we do have a joyous spring, after a cold winter. (by Aussie standards, of course..)
Paul suggests that we have should have our own season called Sprindy because we do have a lot of windy weather in spring.
However, during our Canberra spring, we brave the windy, often cold weather , to plant and enjoy English cottage garden flowers like Jonquils, daffodils, aquilegia, tulips, Iris.
Many flowers only come out in late spring, (November) and then we can smell summer in the air.
However, during the spring and summer the real stars of the garden are not the pretty spring bulbs and flowers, but the flowering long lasting, ”foot soldiers” of the garden. I’m coming to appreciate them more and more. For example..
The Orange Sparaxis, grows in poor soil and has survived through drought and wind and rain. They are striking to look at, and these flowers, right by the walkway, are often admired by passers-by.
This is a Native Geranium ground cover, which will flower and flourish in all conditions, and brings the bees. I have seen a photo of a Geranium just like this called Wild Geranium on Jason and his wife Judy’s great blog called garden in a city .
The Lemon-scented Geranium is another plant that tolerates almost any conditions, and brings the bees and the butterflies too. Another foot solider.
We have three Bottlebrush bushes in our garden, but this one deserves a special mention, for hanging in there, behind the cabin for many years. The winter and spring rain have made it sit up and take notice and it is lovely to see its flaming red colour across the garden.
And now for my spring change of heart……the Iris is lovely, but……. here today, and gonetomorrow.In autumn I spent ages re-planting the Iris into this part of the garden, and very soon the plants were leggy and falling over in the wind and rain. We were away for a week, and the flowers had died off, and the weeds had taken over.
Enough already! In autumn we will dig them up, and keep a select few and replace the rest with the hardy native plants.
Of course I’ll always grow some spring flowers, they are such a joy and sign of hope in a garden.
As Peter Cundal, the previous presenter of Gardening Australia, said one day, as he bent over a some spring plants..
”when I see the first signs of a spring plant coming up, my heart gives a little leap!”
..and I feel exactly the same way.
This has been a big week for our family, as my older brother had a long and serious heart operation and is now successfully recovering. He is a dedicated reader of my blog, and is extremely knowledgeable about birds and plants. He lives in a beautiful part of the world (Port Macquarie) with no winter or sprinter, and I know he will be glad to be back there very soon, and I look forward to him being well and able to enjoy his own green spaces again.
This is the story of Canberra Nara Peace park, celebrating friendship, harmony and trade between Japan and Australia…….and a mighty little bird, the Latham Snipe, that flies between our two countries every year.
The park is set in the Lennox gardens on the edge of Lake Burley Griffin. Even at the end of winter there is a stark beauty to the gardens..
Canberra Nara Peace Park opened in 1999, is a symbol of the friendship between the sister cities of Canberra, built as the National Capital of Australia in the 20th century, and Nara, the first capital city of Japan in the 8th century.
This lovely little park is a joy to visit in any season, but especially in spring.
The dry stream bed is lit up once a year for the Nara Candle festival. We missed this wonderful festival this year, so I’ll keep that story for another spring.
The young magpie in the photo is Canberra’s most well known bird. She is probably looking for insects, but magpies are also very curious birds, so she could be just ”having a stickybeak” as Australians would say…
The park has a gazebo surrounded by Japanese maples and cherry trees.
A relatively new addition to the park is a sculpture, Toku, commissioned to celebrate the1300th anniversary of Japan’s ancient city Nara.
The five storied pagoda form represents Canberra
a floating stone represents Nara…
and the lovely little sculptured bird represents a Latham’s Snipe.
This is a species of shorebird that migrates annually between Japan and Canberra.
The Latham Snipe, weighing only 200 grams, spends half the year in Japan and then flies south to the warmth of Canberra and other parts of south-east Australia for the spring and summer.
Japan and Australia are working together to find out more about these mighty little birds.
On the foreshores of a wetland in Hokkaido in Japan, five birds were skilfully fitted with trackers, before they began their amazing voyage.
Early data showed the birds travelling more than 5500 kilometres in six days of continuous flight from Hokkaido in Japan to Papua New Guinea at an average speed of 40 km/hr.
The visiting birds are starting to arrive in the south east of Australia, to settle in for the spring and summer.
During the summer four more birds will be fitted with trackers to observe their movements here in Australia, and their long return flight.
I’ll never complain about the long flight back to Australia again!
The Nara Peace park is full of colourful trees and blossoms in spring, and shady peaceful places to sit in the hot summer months.
If you are wandering around the park, or just sitting and contemplating the beauty of spring, give a respectful nod to the symbol of the tiny bird near the top of the sculpture, Toku.
…. and wish the Latham Snipe well for summer in Canberra.
To follow the flight progress of these fearless little birds visit the Jerrabomberra Wetlands site and look for the Latham Snipe project.
I hope you are enjoying your season and birdlife where ever you are!