Marvellous Melbourne, and a flashback to Covid days..

The two biggest cities in Australia, Sydney and Melbourne, are often compared and contrasted.

There was, and still is, much rivalry between the two..

Melbourne Royal Exhibition Gardens

I once asked a gracious old lady what she thought of Melbourne and Sydney….

She said “Well of course, Melbourne is marvellous..…”

‘but my dear………. what could compare with Sydney Harbour?”

Sydney Harbour Bridge and Opera House
Sydney Harbour and skyline

So never the twain shall meet.

Our family became more familar with Melbourne when our elder daughter and family moved to this gracious city, full of colour and movement!

Red Hot Pokers
Cliveas
The local tram

Melbourne is well known for its trams, they are a novelty for us and fun to take the tram in the city, and watch the world go by…

One of many Melbourne Arcades, food, coffee, people!

Melbourne has become a very multicultural city, and is represented by many many different cultures. Needless to say there is a great variety of foods, markets, coffee, cafes and restaurants.

We often visit this café because it is near the Botanic Gardens…

In the older suburbs of the city, it is easy to see the early pioneers and gold rush days… (my father’s family came from Wicklow, Ireland.)

Our daughter and family live in a well kept inner city suburb, with lots of parks and lovely gardens.

The small Eucalyptus trees are perfect for the streets, and the flowers bring the birds too.

During Australia’s Covid Lockdown, we travelled to Melbourne to help out with our daughter and son-in-law, as they were expecting their second baby in September. Lockdown rules still applied, with social distancing, wearing masks and restricted numbers of people socialising together.

The highlight of our day was a slow walk with our three year old granddaughter

Thanks to her we noticed every ant, insect and bug along the path, all of which was very interesting….

Kind and thoughtful neighbours helped by putting toys in street trees, Winnie the Pooh was very popular, and we looked forward to seeing Winnie every day.

The Rainbow Lorikeets enjoy the parks and seem to be everywhere..

Gardening continued through Covid…

Before Covid this park was full of people, playing sport, sitting under trees, having picnics, children swinging on play equipment.

Looking at these photos now, the very quiet and strange life of Lockdowns and Covid seems a long time ago, and what an uncertain, and worrying time it was!

We were very grateful to have an enthusiastic three year old on hand!

However, we realised flying a make-shift kite was harder than we thought..

A bonny baby boy was born, and before long it was Christmas..

The Eucalyptus flowers were decorated by kindly neighbours, and, for us, Melbourne was marvellous..

Some time ago I have written a blog post about the Covid Lockdowns in Australia, and there might be some overlap of photos. My apologies.

Thank you for taking the time to read my blog post today. I hope you are having a day of sunshine…

Copyright: Geraldine Mackey: All Rights Reserved.

What brings a gardener joy?

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.

Golden Oats (I think) and Echinacea

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?

Copyright Geraldine Mackey: All Rights Reserved.

Spring flowers at Tulip Top Garden and flooding in Victoria

After a long and isolated two years of Covid, everyone I know is cautiously enjoying a normal life again. However, another hurdle for some states in Australia is the excessive rain we have had this year, and in the last three years.

Every year Canberra has a spring festival called Floriade in September to October. (except for the last two Covid years.)

I wondered if the rain would ever stop long enough for all the bulbs to grow, and the potted flower displays to survive.

Unfortunately Paul and I missed Floriade, but we visited another wonderful flower display, on the outskirts of Canberra called Tulip Top Garden.

The weather was warm, bright and sunny! Oh the joy of it all…

It seemed hard to believe, but for a week or two in early spring we had sunny days and no rain!

We arrived very early and avoided some of the crowds.

As I have often mentioned, Paul and I frequently drive to Melbourne to visit our daughter and the family. In September we planned a trip to Victoria to see them.

The drive from Canberra to Melbourne takes about 8 hours, so we always plan a few stops along the way. Our first coffee break is usually at a Victorian country town called Benalla.

The Art Gallery and café have table and chairs on the deck, to sit and look over the lake. On warm mornings, it is a wonderful spot for coffee, and sometimes scones and cream.

Wrapped around the Art Gallery is a lovely park, and during Covid we sat in the park with our flask of coffee and a sandwich and enjoyed the greenery.

Benalla is the kind of town where the cars wait for a Draught wagon with patience.

One summer as we parked the car near the Gallery and we saw a lovely old fashioned horse drawn draught wagon. The wagon was advertising beer, but the handsome looking Clydesdales stole the show.

We made our trip to Melbourne, and it rained all the way. It was lovely to see our family, and we were able to do all the things we planned, but as the week went by, the rain continued and there was some flooding in Melbourne’s lower lying suburbs.

With so much rain in Victoria last year, all the catchments were completely soaked. Rivers were flooding and lower lying country towns around Victoria began to flood. Many of the farms around these areas lost all their spring crops.

We delayed our trip home, and fortunately the highway re-opened at the end of the weekend. We were able to drive home, but we could not stop at either of our favourite towns, Benalla and our lunchtime stop, Seymour. This is another friendly Victorian town, where the café menus are varied and the food is delicious.

Still smiling: Owners Ray & Freya Grant cleaning up Café 96 Seymour. Photo by Wayne Herring.
Seymour Rotary along with other services, organisations, volunteering at the emergency relief centre. Food is cooked for all who had to evacuate.

This is an aerial photo of Seymour before the flooding, and after ..

An aerial view of Seymour’s oval and surrounds before the floods
An aerial view of Seymour after the floods. Photos by Near Map.

I must add that many parts of New South Wales and Queensland have suffered severe floods during 2022 and all the states affected are struggling to get back to normal.

photo by Jason Edwards (Sun Herald)

Best wishes to all the families who are experiencing flooding this year, and especially to those having to evacuate their homes.

During a few short weeks we went from Tulip Top gardens to serious flooding…. Australia’s weather is either a feast or a famine, and add that to climate change!

Thank you for taking the time to read my post today and may your weather be settled where ever you are in the world.!

Copyright Geraldine Mackey: All Rights Reserved.

Jawbone Marine Sanctuary in Melbourne….. a gift for the future

Urban green spaces are the markers of what we value in our land. They are our commitment to history and our gift to the future. Alisa Piper.

The evening light across the water from our accommodation

As regular readers will know, we frequently visit our daughter and family, who live in Melbourne. During our visit in May we stayed in accommodation close to our daughter’s suburb, but in a new area for us to explore; Jawbone Marine Sanctuary in Williamstown North, (named Jawbone because the shape of the sanctuaries are roughly the shape of a human jaw.)

We drove south from Canberra (Australian Capital Territory) to Melbourne and Jawbone Sanctuary is on the Port Phillip Bay.

We arrived in the late afternoon, and as good fortune would have it, our apartment had views across the Sanctuary to the sea.

When we looked out of the apartment window in the morning, I felt as if I was back in my childhood home in Africa.

The grasses, the colours, the still water…. I almost expected to see a hippo coming up out of the water!

Barely ten kilometres from the heart of Melbourne, two coastal havens, Jawbone Marine Sanctuary, and Jawbone Flora and Fauna Reserve, provide a peaceful stretch of nature reserves, in what was an industrial area (and in some parts still is..).

Years ago this particular area was a rifle range, (once famous for target practice leading up to the 1956 Melbourne Olympics.)The range only closed in 1990 as surrounding housing was developing.

This reserve land, with uninterrupted views of the sea could easily have been swallowed up by developers, however, finally, it was decided that the reserve should be set aside for conservation.

Fortunately the local community formed what is now known as The Friends of Williamstown Wetlands. This wonderful community group have worked tirelessly ever since to ensure the reserve continues to be well protected.

Salt water plants such as Samphire and Glasswort grow and can change colours with the seasons, and at the end of autumn there is a wonderful mix of colour to see.

The mangrove amongst the basalt rocks, along with saltmarsh mudflats and seagrass beds, provide an important habitat for many species of seabirds and shorebirds.

On our first morning walk we could see the long landscape of land and sea, and the big skies…

This photo was taken on my iPhone, and somehow seems to make the sky endless!

In the distance the tankers and ocean liners are sailing by…

The houses built along the edges of the reserve all have enormous wide windows, and ever -changing views of the weather on the reserve and out into the sea.

Bird watching is very popular in this area, and more than 160 bird species have previously been recorded at the Reserve. Migratory seabirds and shorebirds can be seen among the mangroves, mudflats and saltmarshes.

This was just one of the colourful signs showing some of the birds sighted in this area. The Royal Spoonbill looked quite regal I thought.

Our grandchildren enjoyed seeing a Purple Swamp Hen (with unbelievable claws) and her chick coming very close to the window of our apartment every morning. Our granddaughter’s favourite was the black swan and her signet.

This peaceful sanctuary protects 30 hectares of coastal waters and fishing, netting, spearing or taking marine life is prohibited.

The Reserves are now well known, and enjoyed by all for diving, snorkelling, walking, jogging, bird watching, photography….and I was very pleased to read the Sanctuary is also well know for sunset watching… here are two of the sunsets we saw….

The water near us turned golden one evening as the birds settle down for the night.

A lovely memory on our last evening at Jawbone sanctuary.

Many thanks to the The Friends of Williamstown Wetlands and, indeed, to volunteers and community groups all over the world who give up so much of their own time to maintain public places for us all to enjoy.

Just a week later and here we are back home, looking out over the almost constant rain, wind and freezing cold weather……..winter has arrived with a vengeance.

Paul and our daughter’s dog Charlie are bravely walking around our garden in this wet windy weather…Paul is checking on our veggie crop and Charlie thinks he can smell possums (and he is right!)

Many thanks for taking the time to read my blog today, and may the sun shine even in winter!

Copyright Geraldine Mackey: All Rights Reserved

Flinders Village, the Mornington Peninsula…… beautiful one day and perfect the next…

It is ”blowing a hooley” here in Canberra today. I first read the expression ‘‘blowing a hooley” from bloggers who live on Islands or coastal landscapes, where you expect severe wind. However, in Canberra, a landlocked city, we are joining the coastal crew today.

Given the changeable weather all over Australia, it is nothing short of a miracle that we recently had a wonderful holiday at the very tip of Australia, in a small village called Flinders, along the coastline of Victoria.

Flinders is a beautiful and historic coastal village overlooking Western Port and Bass Strait on the Mornington Peninsula ..an hour’s drive from Melbourne. We visited this area a few years ago, and I’ve always wanted to return because the landscape is stunning and the clear air is a photographer’s dream. The first few photos were taken on our first visit.

This golf course would be a challenge for golfers on wild windy days
Views stretching across the coastline of Victoria
One of the earliest buildings in Flinders.

There are many bushwalking trails in this area and we decided to walk along the pretty fern gullies to the coast to see the lighthouse at Cape Schanck… I’m wondering how people could live in a lighthouse, without going slightly mad from the winds, which would be perpetual.

We were lucky enough to go for this walk on a gloriously warm sunny day.

When I looked at a map of the coastline there were some interesting names, Mushroom Reef Marine Sanctuary, Bushrangers Bay, Cape Schanck, a town called Rosebud…..so much history in this area…

The countryside on the drive back to Flinders

The village itself has a General Store with an ever cheerful staff, and we spent a lot of time buying food there because it had such a range of tasty ready-made food. Nearby there are some craft shops, small restaurants, and a well known chocolate shop with delicious ice-cream. What could be better on a holiday!

In the early days of the twentieth century, the clean air, and (usually) mild climate made the village a popular destination, especially for people who live in Melbourne.

This quiet village atmosphere has over time attracted many people from Melbourne to build holiday homes in the village.

I enjoyed many early morning walks watching the sun rise, as I walked around the quaint beach roads and houses tucked away from the winds.

The gardens of these homes were full of plants that could survive sandy soil and salty air. Piet Oudolf would have been proud of the use of grasses by many homes owners…

The small coastal roads wind around interesting gardens, and houses dotted on coastal cliffs…

This was a family holiday, which made it extra special, and our holiday house was not far from a lovely lookout where we could watch the sunrise …

and the sunset….

We were lucky to strike those sunny, warm days in such a lovely part of Australia.

Many thanks for taking the time to read my blog, and I hope you are able to enjoy some fine days wherever you are in the world today.

Copyright Geraldine Mackey: All Rights Reserved

Lambley Nursery and Gardens…

In September, we did a trip through Victoria, and visited Lambley Nursery, which is featured in my favourite gardening book, Australian Dreamscapes.

David Glen, a highly respected nurseryman and owner of Lambley Nursery has been a passionate gardener since his childhood in England. However when he moved to the harsh windswept plains of Central Victoria, and opened a nursery, he soon realised he would have to re-think his garden and plants.

we decided to use plants that would not only survive our hot, dry summers and cold winters, but could survive on very little water. Extremes are the new normal now and every season is unpredictable.”

Lambley, in the Great Dividing Range, Victoria has temperatures that range from -6 degrees (C)  (21F) in winter to 45 degrees (C) (113F) in summer. The nursery, and every section of the garden are surrounded by thick hedges to protect it from the winds that frequently sweep across the plains.

Our Canberra climate is similar, so we were very interested in the nursery and gardens and hoped to buy some plants for our own garden. We began in the enclosed dry garden…

….. what a treat to see such colour and texture in a garden that receives so little extra water.

Although David specialises in dry climate plants, as you can see from this garden, this doesn’t necessarily mean only native or cactus plants, but plants from all over the world that have a similar climate. David researched plants from places like Turkey and California, tested and propagated them.

 

After the dry garden, we strolled around this beautiful property, following wide paths, hedges and pines leading from vegetable gardens to spring bulbs to fruit trees…..a sight to behold!

The paths and hedges leading to garden ”rooms” were reminiscent of Monty Don’s garden (as seen on BBC Gardeners’ World).

These gardens are full of tulips, poppies, more flowers, vegetables, fruit trees and beds resting before new planting begins..

 

 

The nursery is extensive, and we were guided by their seasonal catalogues. Lambley is one of the few places in Australia that propagates a wide range of frost hardy and drought tolerant evergreen and deciduous plants and shrubs, and their online business is very popular.

As you can imagine we spend a lot of time buying plants…. the heart always rules the head, and I hope we can fit them all into our garden now…..but that will be for another post.

It would be wonderful to have this nursery nearby if you were starting a big garden as we were years ago.

The countryside around Lambley is picturesque, with wide skies, long stretches of farm land amongst the gently rolling hills.

As we drove  away we watched a farmer and his family gently herding some sheep along the road, (unfortunately I didn’t get a photo)…the youngsters were riding quad bikes very slowly, and the little boy was being shepherded by his mother…

What a very different life he will have to our little granddaughter, being brought up in the city of Melbourne, not far away.

The church at Ascot, close to Lambley.

www.lambley.com.au

Thanks for taking the time to read my blog, and I hope you are enjoying your season where ever you are in the world. If you are a gardener in Australia, may the sun shine and the rain fall.