Sydney: The Royal Botanic garden, the Harbour, and the North Head Quarantine station

Early morning at Balmoral beach

We recently spent a couple of days celebrating our anniversary in a beachside area of Sydney.

Sydney on a summer’s day is full of sunshine, colour and birds. I had fun taking photos of the suburban gardens and our ferry trip into the city..

Frangipani
Red flowering eucalyptus Corymbia ‘Summer Red’ It is a hybrid between two different Western Australian species (C.ficifolia and C.ptychocarpa

This small tree is one of the most widely planted ornamental eucalyptus trees in Australia. It only grows about 5 metres tall so is suitable for gardens in Sydney. It has a pretty cluster of flowers dripping with nectar for the birds…..a win/win for any garden.

Purple Fountain Grass Pennisetum species advena Rubrum

This grassy ever green (and purple) plant is used in many gardens in Australia. (alas not Canberra as it is not suitable for cold winters.)The wispy feathery grass is also often seen in public parks and gardens or embankments, but I have rarely seen one so healthy and well placed. It was tempting to run my hands along it every time we passed by…

Relatively speaking Sydney did not have many COVID cases or lockdowns during this last year, however the lack of tourists and people moving around the city was very obvious. Only three people boarded the ferry with us, and we chose to sit outside…absolute bliss on a sunny day!

After the ferry ride, we went to an art exhibition, had a quick lunch, and then a stroll through the Australian native section of the Royal Botanic gardens .

Canna Lilies ”Yellow Giant”
Spider Lily Hymenocallis
Grevillea ”Molly” Proteaceae
Kangaroo Paw The common name for a number of species. (Haemodoraceae) They are unique, bird attracting flowers
Banksia robur (swamp banksia).

Banksias are well suited to Australian conditions, not only do they provide food for birds, but they can re-sprout after fire! A fellow gardener told me that after the Canberra fires, a Banksia in her garden, quickly re-grew, and two or three gardens in the street also found they had new Banksias in their gardens too!

A glimpse of the Opera House, and the Harbour Bridge

The Royal Botanic Gardens of Sydney spreads from the city centre to the edge of the harbour.

How very enlightened were the city planners to save this slice of heaven for all to enjoy!

Once we were back at Balmoral beach we stopped off at a small restaurant, and had some lovely fresh fish and dessert.

This photo was taken from the restaurant window. The Manly ferry rocking and rolling into the Harbour.

When I showed Paul the photo he pointed out that I had also taken a photo of the old quarantine station.

North Head is known as Car-rang-gel by the Gayamagal People and was once used for spiritual ceremonies and rituals. This land was part of the setting for the earliest interaction between Aboriginal people and early European settlers and explorers.

here is an aerial view of North Head coastline in Sydney, and the longest operating quarantine station.

This quarantine station was in operation from August 1832 to February 1984. It was established to regulate the risk of disease, with the arrival of free and convict Europeans and the merchant trading ships.

1920s. Mrs N. Skinner, 11/31 Wycombe Rd, Neutral Bay

The practise of quarantine began in the 14th century in an effort to protect coastal cities from plagues and epidemics. The word quarantine was derived from the Italian words ”quaranta giorni” which meant ”forty days” Ships arriving in Venice from infected parts were required to sit at anchor for 40 days before offloading on shore…at least the ships coming to Australia did not have to wait quite so long!

During the period 1910-1950 the facilities increased and improved and in 1918-19 the centre held the maximum number of people following the influenza epidemic.

Despite our beautiful surroundings it was a timely reminder of the epidemics of the past and the fragility of the world we live in.

sun rising over the headlands of Sydney
Are you talking to me?Cockatoos rising above it all….as usual!

Thank you for visiting my blog today, and I hope your days are filled with sunshine and gardening, and perhaps some left-over chocolate from Easter.

Geraldine Mackey Copyright: All Rights Reserved

Sydney: The Harbour Bridge and suburban garden design..

In my last post we visited Barangaroo in Sydney. As I was writing that post, I noticed that I had quite a few photos of the surrounding area…. and this is the stroll we took around the Sydney Harbour Bridge in 2018.

Many of the old harbour wharves have been made into a mixture of restaurants, cafes, a theatre, and some apartments.
It is always interesting to see the Harbour Bridge from the under side.
The Harbour Bridge offer Bridge Climbs, and you can just see people walking along the edge of the pylons
On a beautiful day the view is stunning. Photo : TripAdvisor
It is just possible to see a group of people climbing up to the top of the bridges… Photo TripAdvisor

Paul and our daughter Jessica have climbed the Harbour Bridge (not for me, I’d be terrified). The bridge climbs are so popular bookings have to be made months in advance (pre CV 19). There are very specific preparations and instructions given by the group guide before the climb begins. Everyone wears the same overalls, no one is allowed to carry personal items of any kind, all photos are taken by the guides.

Both Paul and Jessica said it was an experience of a life-time.

For those of us who prefer something a little more sedate, a ferry ride around the harbour is easy, and a lovely way to spend a summer’s morning.

On this visit, in late June, we spent some time with my brother and sister-in-law, who live in one of the many coastal suburbs around the dramatic cliff-faces of Sydney.

No matter what time of the year we visit Sydney, there is always colour, movement, and usually sunshine. Sydney’s climate is subtropical, shifting from mild to cool in winter, to warm and hot and humid in summer. A gardener’s paradise I should think.

During our many visits I am always delighted by the local landscapes.

Even on the verge of some gardens there are interesting and thoughtful designs and planting, for the passer-by to enjoy.

The succulents in this garden are particularly striking.

These succulents have been so carefully planted, I wonder how difficult it is to maintain this almost perfect design…

Sydney is always a treat to visit, and I’ll end with the exotic bougainvillea which almost grows wild in Sydney, and reminds me of my childhood in Africa where it seemed to take over every garden!

Many thanks for taking the time to read my blog, and may your days be filled with sunshine and warmth!

Copyright Geraldine Mackey: All Rights Reserved

Sydney harbour and Barangaroo Reserve

Has anyone told Sydney it is the middle of winter in Australia?

Paul and I have come to visit my brother and sister-in-law in Sydney. It is mid-winter in Australia, and we left our home in Canberra very early in the morning, frost melting on the grass. Four hours later, here we are sitting in Barangaroo Reserve, peeling off jackets and coats, and reaching for hats and sun cream, and looking at Sydney harbour.

Paul and I sat on a bench eating our lunch looking at this view…..

It is always a miracle when a prime piece of real estate is partly given over to parkland and public use, and this beautiful, relatively new piece of green space in Sydney, is one such miracle.

The former Prime Minister, Paul Keating, a long term resident of Sydney, was an early advocate for a public reserve. His vision was to return the area, known as Miller’s Point, to a ”naturalistic park”.

One of Sydney’s oldest industrial sites on the Harbour has now been transformed into a six hectare headland of open spaces. The planting and landscape is designed to replicate the vegetation before European settlement, making it as natural as possible.

Views of the harbour, on this glorious winter’s day.

Huge blocks of sandstone re-create the original harbour foreshore, and the sandstone is weathering and changing with time.

Over 76,000 plants and native trees, palms and tree ferns, native shrubs, small trees, native ground covers, grasses and ferns, have been planted in the last few years. Needless to say the native birds love this natural habitat.

The Barangaroo Reserve stands on the land of the Gadigal clan. Barangaroo is named after an indigenous woman who was married to Bennelong. She was a spokesperson between indigenous Australians and the new British penal colony… and was, from all accounts, proud of her culture, and a feisty character at a time when she needed to be so!

The Rainbow Lorikeets feeding from the Banksia bushes

Many years ago I lived in Sydney, near Balls Head Reserve, and Paul has taken a photo of me with a view of my old ”stomping ground” in the background.

Happy memories!

As you can see around this area, there is plenty of construction work going on with apartments, hotels, restaurants, being built on the right hand side of the harbour.

Buildings around the harbour with the distinctive Crown Sydney Casino looking very like The Shard in London.

The walking and cycling pathways take us to the edge of the city, not far from The Rocks (where you can see some of the original houses of early Sydney.) It is possible to walk to well known parts of the city, from here, for example, Darling Harbour and The Rocks and Circular Quay.

We chose to take the steps to the top of the Reserve, and have one last view of Sydney Harbour.

Salute to Paul Keating and many others who persisted in this vision, we now have a wonderful reserve for everyone to share.

Thank you for taking the time to read my blog today, and may your day be as bright as a winter Sydney day!

Copyright Geraldine Mackey: All Rights Reserved.

Sydney’s Royal Botanic Gardens

‘Have you ever noticed that botanical gardens often make you think of Paradise?”  Francis Halle French botanist 2004

Welcome to the Royal Sydney Botanic Gardens, a little piece of paradise in Australia’s largest city.

….who would be anywhere else on a lovely summer’s day?

Sydney Harbour, Royal Botanic Gardens, Harbour Bridge

The Royal Botanic Gardens were established in 1816 and cover an area of 30 hectares along the foreshore of Sydney harbour.

Plants, lawns, trees and bush line the edge of the city right up to the Opera House and give views of the Harbour Bridge.

Can you imagine trying to preserving that amount of prime land for the public today?

Salute to our visionary forebears!

The Gardens are home to nearly 9000 plant species from all over the world, with a focus on Australia and the South Pacific.

A sign near the sculptures says…

‘ Before European settlement this foreshore was a mud flat. Seeds, flotsam were washed up by waves. Ships arrived in the tide in 1788 and crops were planted soon after. This area has been dedicated ever since to the introduction and propagation of plants reflecting the changing culture and horticultural needs of the day.”

Palm by Bronwyn Oliver

 

 

 

 

 

 

Magnolia by Bronwyn Oliver

These sculptures symbolise the seeds washed up by the tide, blown by the wind, eroded by the water, and laden with potential for vigour and transformation.

The huge older trees, like this fig tree have been given space and time to grow, and now they provide plentiful shade in summer. (They say the shade of a big tree is worth one air-conditioner)

The flowers of the mature Magnolia trees are magnificent at this time of the year.

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This tropical garden has lush colourful foliage, and flamboyant flowers and plants…orchids, hibiscus, palm….sensory overload while I sit nearby drinking iced coffee!

Cannas

 

Frangipani

Our home in Canberra, a four hour drive away, is a world away in terms of  plants and climatic conditions. We have hot dry summers and cold, frosty winters. The Sydney climate of long humid summers and mild winters is a big contrast.

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The Botanic Gardens provide habitat for wildlife….colourful birds, fruit bats and water dragons..

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Rainbow Lorikeet

The Herb gardens, not far from the city streets, have blossoming herbs, sunflowers and all kinds of bee attracting flowers…

…what a bonus to have so much variety in such a big bustling city…

 

 

 

This beautiful sundial was fascinating for tourists and especially children…..imagine the sun directing our time rather than our Iphones ….incredible!

I love visiting big cities like Sydney…but, thank goodness for gardens like this glorious one…..

I return to my favourite quote….(one day I will find out who wrote it..)

”when the world wearies, and society does not satisfy, there is always the garden”

Salute again to those generous forebears who had the wisdom and energy to started this wonderful garden… for everyone.

Copyright Geraldine Mackey All Rights Reserved