Bermagui, birds, swamp wallabies, and deep sea fishing.

Bermagui Hotel photo: Sapphire Coast

Bermagui is a pretty town on the south coast of New South Wales.  It is not far from Canberra, and, needless to say, it is a holiday destination, and second home to many city dwellers.

We occasionally stay with friends in nearby Mystery Bay, and this often includes a visit to Bermagui. Along the way, we enjoy the magnificent scenery, a coastal bush walk, and, at end the day,  wonderful fresh fish to eat.

In 2012 Bermagui Dune Care began introducing native plants to Cuttagee Point. A year of so later, I took the above photo of early planting of the native plants. A sign nearby says,

Weed removal (such as Kikuyu and blackberries) and native re-generation and re-planting of addition local species is helping to restore the landscape and biodiversity value of the headland.”

The photo below was taken a few years later, just after much needed rain…ongoing planting but progress.

On our coastal walks we often see the hardy coastal Banksia.

Occasionally we see or hear a Kookaburra, also very  common in this area. Isn’t he perfectly camouflaged in his natural environment?  Along with the smaller bird, perhaps a Wattle bird.

If we are lucky we sometimes catch a glimpse of one of these little swamp wallabies…so very cute!

Prior to European settlement, this area was inhabited by the Yuin people, who lived, hunted and fished in the area.

The first Europeans to pass along  the coast were Captain Cook and his crew in 1770.

Camel Rock: Visit NSW

In 1798 the explorers George Bass and Matthew Flinders sailed down the coast and named this rocky piece of coastline, Camel Rock.

All along this coastline the sea is a turquoise colour, and thus the area is known as the Sapphire coast.

This coastline is the closest land in Australia to the Continental shelf. As a result, Bermagui has long been famous for deep sea and game fishing, including yellow fin tuna and marlin..

In 1937 the American western writer, Zane Grey was responsible for the town becoming more popular, when he wrote about his experience in a book called ”An American Angler in Australia.”

Zane Grey: Famous Biographies

Despite its occasional brush with fame, Bermagui remains a quiet pleasant town, with just enough music festivals, craft shops and eateries to make life interesting.

On this visit we stopped off at the fish shop for lunch, Paul and I had John Dory, and our friends had Blue Grenadier…I wonder if these fish are called different names in different countries?

We sat  in the shade of the enormous Norfolk Pine trees, looking up at the young cones above.

We enjoyed the view while we sat eating our fish and chips, and chatting about local and world events. By the time we left, there were very few world problems left to solve.

I hope you are having some sunshine where ever you are in the world today, or at least, may the snow be melting!

Copyright Geraldine Mackey: All Rights Reserved

 

Canberra’s summer ends, farewell to the Eastern Koel…

The shadows of the trees are longer in the evening light, the air is cooler, and sweeter..

…autumn is on its way.

The lovely green (watered) lawns of Lennox Gardens are deceiving, after this long hot summer, the landscape  of Canberra is looking very dry.

At the end of summer there is a changing of the guard with our local birds.

In autumn the tiny Silver-Eyes venture out to feed from our neighbour’s blackberry bushes. They are a welcome sight.

 

 

 

Perhaps as a result of so little rain this last month, more birds are flying into the garden to use our birdbaths.

This morning while we were having breakfast on the deck, it was fun to see two young Crimson Rosellas, always shy birds, having the big birdbath to themselves.

What a thrill, bathing in the water, and having  a shower from the sprinkler.

As these two finished their bath, they flew up to the archway in the garden, their long tails spraying water as they flew…a lovely sight. Unfortunately I was unable to catch it with my camera, but here is a similar one, taken almost exactly a year ago!

Young Crimson Rosellas begin life with green feathers mixed in with red and blue, last year’s Rosella is still very green in colour.

Here is a mature Crimson Rosella in the Australian Botanic Gardens… just look how vivid his colours are, and how long his tail is. What a handsome bird!

Fully grown Crimson Rosella at the Australian Botanic Gardens.

In summer we have three Magpies visiting every morning.  Every year there is at least one Magpie who loves water just a little bit more than the others. Often the youngest one potters around the garden by himself in autumn, a little bit like the youngest member of the family, we enjoy his company….before he too, leaves to join a new group of Magpies.

The youngest Magpie, lingering in the water..

Here is a young Magpie watching her mother, who has her head tilted listening for insects and grubs in the grass and in the ground. Another youngster, learning her survival skills.

An unwelcome guest in our neighbourhood in summer is the Eastern Koel. This bird migrates all the way from tropical New Guinea to Australia for the breeding season. In recent years the Koel has progressed further south each year.

The male Eastern Koel

The juvenile Eastern Koel

The Eastern Koel is a member of the  cuckoo family. The female lays an egg in the nest of another bird, (usually a Red Wattlebird) and when the baby Koel hatches it pushes the other eggs out of the nest.

For the past three years a Koel pair have visited a neighbourhood garden, left an egg in the Red Wattle bird’s nest, and moved away.

All through the summer, a pair of Red Wattlebirds  are the hosts, and the young Koel cheeps incessantly while the significantly  smaller parents desperately  search for food for the nagging youngster. During the summer the young Koel grows to twice their size.

The Red Wattle Bird feeding from a Bottlebrush bush.

According to Birdlife Australia, it is still uncertain as to why the Koel comes so far south to breed, perhaps because the weather is warmer, the berries and fruits are in abundance in Canberra, and also the poor unsuspecting Red Wattle birds have lived in this region for a long time, and have proved to be excellent parents.

The Red Wattle bird looking slightly annoyed, and with good reason!

Unfortunately the cheeping, beeping young Koel seems to nest near our garden every year, but finally in autumn it disappears, fully grown. (Phew!)

However, one of the most welcome bird calls in autumn is the Eastern Spinebill.

Yesterday this tiny delicate bird arrived on the deck, and with a powerful call, it settled into feeding from the fuchsia. Autumn has truly arrived!

The Eastern Spinebill favours the flowers from the Peppermint Sage, but, this year, either he is early or the flowers are late, so I have used a photo from last year.

The Eastern Spinebill feeding from the flowers of the Peppermint Sage.

Canberra also has its birthday in March, so there are lots of concerts, picnics, hot air balloons,  and general outdoor gatherings. It is a wonderful time to catch up with family and friends.

I hope you are enjoying your changing seasons, where ever you are in the world.

The best birthday present for Canberra’s autumn would be good soaking rain for a sustained period of time. Crossing fingers for that.

 

Copyright Geraldine Mackey: All Rights Reserved

 

 

 

 

Food and family: this is where our stories begin..

Canberra is a small city, so a book launch for two really enticing cookery books, is not to be missed.

We arrived at the speciality kitchen shop, The Essential Ingredient, to hear Emiko Davies and Tessa Kiros talk about their beautifully illustrated cookery books, called Tortellini at Midnight,and Provence to Pondicherry respectively.

Emiko Davies demonstrating her cooking at her book launch

It was an inspiring afternoon, full of wonderful stories of food, family and traditions, in Italy and France (and some food tasting and wine later).

Emiko Davies is Australian-born with a Japanese mother and an Australian father. When she left home to travel the world, Emiko lived in Italy for a while. On a cold miserable night in Florence she made a meal for a young man she did not know very well. All she had in the fridge was broccoli, pecarino and some garlic. When he began to eat the meal he said ”I’m going to marry you!” and two years later they did get married!

The cover of Emiko’s book Tortellini at Midnight

Emiko now lives in Italy with her husband and two children. She has written three cookery books, but in this one she shares stories and some of her favourite recipes from her Italian family. These recipes she has learnt through tasting and watching, usually from the kitchen table.

I cooked the recipe called Nonna Anna’s meatballs (Polpette di Nonna Anna) and it was delicious!

Tessa Kiros was born in London to a Finnish mother and a Greek Cypriot father. When she was young the family moved to South Africa.

Tessa Kiros talking about her writing life in Italy

She is now married to an Italian, living in Italy, and she has written and published many books on food, family and the countries that inspire these recipes.

Provence to Pondicherry by Tessa Kiros

Her most recent book is called Provence to Pondicherry: Recipes from France and Far Away.   Tessa re-traces the steps of early French explorers travelling to Guadeloupe, Vietnam, Pondicherry in India, La Reunion, and Normandy in France.

Tessa has written many books and my favourite is her first book called Falling Cloudberries. 

Falling Cloudberries by Tessa Kiros

She wrote this book about her family, starting with her grandparents, taking each one and weaving the memory of them into stories and  traditional recipes, giving a rich and colourful family history. The title is taken from her memory of living in Finland, and picking the falling cloudberries.

My mother had an old recipe book called “Ouma’s Cookery Book” full of practical recipes for life after the war when food was scarce and people ‘made do’. The book is also full of quotes and comments about life, and could be used as a social history book too.

I love this dear old book because it is a companionable reminder of my mother, and I still have some of her hand written recipes tucked into some of the pages.

It seems, no matter where you come from, food and family create the first memories, and this is where your stories begin..

During a time when I was teaching English to children newly arrived in Australia, a little girl from Lebanon came to me with her painting…all I could see were three colourful moving circles, and a bright yellow sun in the corner of the page. I asked her to tell me about the painting and she said:

“these are my aunties, sitting in the sun, eating, talking and laughing”

Sometimes a happy memory of food and family doesn’t have to be part of a book, it is just a snapshot of life that stays in your heart….

Do you have a favourite recipe, or a cookery book that brings back family memories?

 

(My apologies for some of my photos, they were taken with my Iphone.)

Copyright: Geraldine Mackey All Rights Reserved

 

 

 

 

National Library of Australia: the quiet achiever..

The very pleasant part of living in Canberra is that the city is designed within a landscape, and even the heart of the city is surrounded by  space and bush land.

National Library of Australia in winter

Today we are off to the National Library of Australia, my favourite building in Canberra, surrounded by trees, greenery and the beautiful Lake Burley Griffin.

Developers are eyeing off other parts of the lake for a hotel and blocks of apartments, so what better time to appreciate what we do have and can never be changed.

To add to the mix, we are taking our old car for a drive into the city. It has been neglected lately and we know our 25 year old car needs regular drives to keep it going…(it has been largely replaced by our newer car…but not a word to Bessie).

So here goes, may this be the first of weekly drives, in our dear old Magna, and perhaps inspiration for a few blog posts as well.

In 1927 the National Library was moved from Melbourne to Canberra with the relocation of Parliament.

Canberra, as a new, planned city, was not entirely welcomed by the bigger established cities in Australia, until Robert Menzies became Prime Minister in 1939.  He gave Canberra his complete support, and also took a great interest in the building of the National Library of Australia.

Planning for the building of the library began in 1961, and there were many differences of opinion:  position, finances, compromises…

Harold White, the first National Librarian threatened to ‘‘throw in the towel” if a purpose built National Library was not built.

Finally, an Act of Parliament in 1960 formally separated the National Library from the Parliamentary Library and a new building for the National Library’s growing collections and services was opened on the shores of Lake Burley Griffin in 1968.

An emotional Harold White said at the opening of the National Library ‘‘after 40 years in the wilderness, the Library had finally reached ”The Promised Land”

Oh such passion for a building!

Would we have this today?

Robert Menzies Prime Minister of Australia (1939-41) (1949-66)

The National Library of Australia was designed by the architecture firm, Bunning and Madden, with  associate Tom O’Mahony. Noel Potter was appointed as the Library architect by Robert Menzies.

The principal architect  Walter Bunning considered the library to be his most important project (his ashes would be scattered in the sight of the Library in Lake Burley Griffin following his death in 1977.)

He described the building as being ”a contemporary building in the spirit of classical design.”

There is something very calm and welcoming about the Library, perhaps it is the cool marble floors in the foyer, the space, the quiet environment.

In a previous blog post I have used a quote by Minnie Aumonier about a garden, but perhaps if I could change garden to the National Library

”when the world wearies, and society does not satisfy, there is always the National Library.”

The foyer has a lovely bookshop on the left, and a cosy popular cafe called Bookplate on the right. Each of these has the stunning multicoloured stained glass Leonard French windows.

Although we arrived early, it is late summer, and the sun is streaming through the building and across the stained glass windows. Lovely to look at, but hard to photograph..

Our family, over many years, have enjoyed the National Library’s many tours, exhibitions, book launches, discussions. My daughter reminded me that she and friends studied here while at University. Paul is a regular visitor here while doing his PhD, and we often meet friends and family there for coffee/lunch and walks.

Getting ready for a walk around the lake before coffee!

No wonder the writer Marian Halligan said she could never leave Canberra because she could never leave the National Library!

Not far from the National Library along the water’s edge, is a long row of mature Manchurian Pears, a master stroke of landscape planning. They provide shade in summer, colour in autumn and spring, and beauty all year round.

For many Canberrans these trees mark the changing of seasons every year..

Instagrammers love this part of the lake..

In his speech at the opening of the National Library, PM Robert Menzies said

“despite the beauty of the building, the grandeur and classical dimensions, the true quality and international stature (of this building) lies in the collections contained within the building. These are the ‘‘great interpreters of the past to the present, the present to the present, and the present to the future”

Many thanks to the former Prime Minister Robert Menzies, to the architects, and to Harold White, and most of all to Walter Burley Griffin and his wife Marion, without whom Canberra would not be the garden city we have today.

Hope springs eternal that communal land will remain for everyone.

Thanks for visiting Canberra’s Green Spaces, and we hope to have many more (slow) drives around Canberra this year.

 

Copyright Geraldine Mackey: All Rights Reserved

Sydney: Neutral Bay and a trip down memory lane..

Sydney in summer…beautiful one day, and gorgeous the next!

The day I took these photos a sea mist was coming in, consequently the photos are slightly hazy.

National Geographic tells me that a sea mist can form when warm air from land suddenly encounters cool air over the ocean.

We overheard some early morning joggers say that this usually means a hot steamy day ahead…and that was true.

Sydney is about a four hour drive from our home in Canberra, and it is a trip we do often because we have many relatives and friends living in this beautiful city.

Neutral Bay

The aerial  photo below shows Sydney’s inlets and bays, and those who are lucky enough to live around the bays, can take a ferry into the city.

We stayed in Neutral Bay on the right in the photo below..

Sydney Routes and Tours Maps Big Bus Tours

This is a trip down memory lane for me because I began my teaching career in Sydney, and l lived in a shared house in Neutral Bay….

Isn’t it grand? I shared the ground floor of this house with three other people, and a couple lived upstairs.

it seems amazing to think, in the ’70s, there were many large houses, (I lived in two) that were relatively cheap to rent…this is now one of the most expensive suburbs in Sydney.

The name Neutral Bay comes from the early colonial period of Australia when Governor Arthur Phillip declared this bay as a neutral bay where foreign ships could anchor and take on water and supplies, but far enough away from the settlement to avoid trouble!

We did a family walk back to my lovely rented accommodation, but it is now surrounded by high walls and is hardly recognisable.

Never mind, I have wonderful memories of sitting on the ferry to go to work, and there is no better way to de-stress from a noisy class than to come home on a ferry in the afternoon and feel the cool breeze from the harbour.

the sea mist across Sydney..

We went for plenty of early morning walks and I was reminded of how important trees are in  all cities, but especially those with long hot summers.

In summer Sydney is full of incidental colour, plants love the climate..

Hibiscus

 

Bougainvillea

 

Penstemon

 

Perhaps it wouldn’t be too bad living in a unit (apartment) if you looked out on these tranquil gardens..

We passed this Uniting Church every day. They had a flourishing vegetable garden

and this little  Internet garden with free Wi-Fi and two comfy chairs… so thoughtful!

In some ways the suburb hasn’t changed since my relaxed days living here.

It still has a village feel, with locals enjoying the warm night air, sitting outside small restaurants eating good food and drinking wine and craft beers. (well, we were anyway)

The Uniting church street library.

Since our trip to Sydney the weather has deteriorated, and we are now experiencing a heatwave across the country.

….so I hope you are keeping cool or warm where ever you are in the world..

Thanks for going down memory lane with me!

Copyright Geraldine Mackey: All Rights Reserved.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Canberra’s summer: Red Hot Pokers, Cockatoos, and sunsets…

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!

Red Hot Pokers

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”.

Acca sellowiana, Feijoa of the Myrtaceae family

 

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.

Copyright:  Geraldine Mackey: All Rights Reserved.

 

 

 

 

Canberra the Bush Capital, bird song in summer…

In the summer time, most Canberrans living in the suburbs, wake up to birdsong.
Australia is well known for its big noisy birds, but in summer, the blackbird, tiny in comparison, has a melodious song that can be heard all through the garden, and beyond..

His sweet song, is only heard when the bigger birds are not around.

The blackbird usually sings in the morning and evening, but today he is singing right through the midday heat….. maybe he knows the summer holidays are on their way.

Another beautiful little bird takes advantage of big bird free days in the garden…the male Fairy Wren.

The male Fairy Wren

He and his family fly around the garden, tweeting softly, ducking into their birdbath, and hopping from bush to tree.

I have read that Fairy Wrens never move far from their original home, and our Fairy Wren family have been a welcome sight every year in a leafy part of the back garden.

The striking Crimson Rosellas are part of the Australian parrot families.

The Crimson Rosellas socialising on the netball hoop

They are quite nervous and shy, and fly away easily. However, when they are in the plum tree near our deck they make gentle twittering sounds to each other…and seem very sociable.

I have used this cute baby Magpie photo in one or two of my previous posts, but he deserves his publicity.

A baby magpie warbling in a Dogwood tree in one of the Parliamentary courtyards

He was warbling away oblivious of crowds of tourists and media in one of the courtyards of Parliament House. He may be warbling to try and chase the crowds away, but magpies generally look on people as friends, so he could be warbling out of the sheer joy of living.

Magpies have a very melodious song, and it is perhaps the most well-known Australia bird call, except for the Kookaburra with his more raucous cackle.

 Magpies also make a lower warbling sound. This seems to be more like talking. 

Magpies warbling at each other about who is going to get the rapidly melting strawberry ice-cream.

This summer a couple of magpies have nested not far from our bedroom. They begin warbling to each other about a half and hour before dawn every morning,

…..lovely really, but a bit later would also be fine.




Galahs feeding together near the lake

 

When I first arrived in Australia, and visited a farm in the Central West of NSW, I remember seeing flocks of Galahs rising slowly from the paddocks and flying across the endless blue skies. A lasting memory of an endearing small parrot. (but, of course, not at all endearing to the farmer watching them eating the crop!)

Galahs, like some of the other parrots in Australia, make tweeting noises to each other, and remain in groups where ever possible.

Crested pigeons, enjoying the sun together, not a care in the world..

Crested Pigeons are one of the most common birds in Canberra. I have included them despite their lack of a distinctive song, although they do coo away happily when they are nesting. They live happily in any garden, and have absolutely no common sense, or sense of danger. When they do get scared off, their wings make a kind of whistling sound as they fly away.

…remind me again of why I can’t get through the window?

I thought of writing this post today, as I walked down our leafy paths to meet some friends for coffee. The wonderful blackbird’s song followed me all the way down to the café.

It was also a reminder that in a city with some big personalities, like the Cockatoos and the Currawongs, it is easy to over look the smaller birds.

 

I hope you are keeping cool or warm where ever you are in the world, and perhaps enjoying some bird songs too…

Do you have a favourite bird, or bird song?

Best wishes for Christmas and the New Year. I’ve enjoyed another year of blogging, and being part of a blogging community. Many thanks to all  those who read and comment , and to those who just like to drop in and read occasionally. All welcome and much appreciated.

Copyright Geraldine Mackey: All Rights Reserved.

 

Heronswood, the Digger’s Club, and Gardening Australia…..all on a summer’s day

Since the birth of our granddaughter last year, we have frequently travelled to Melbourne to visit our daughter and family.

In late November, we took a slightly different route to Melbourne, and spent a few days in the beautiful Mornington Peninsula.

On a sunny, almost perfect day, we visited a wonderful property called Heronswood at Dromana.

This historic property was established in 1864, and the Gothic Revival house was built in 1874.

Dromana  is a very scenic part of the world, but the wind and weather can be wild and unpredictable. A tough climate to establish such a beautiful garden.

William Moat was originally employed to develop spacious lawns and  gardens, and large trees were planted to serve as wind breaks. Some of these trees survive to protect the garden today.

 

Clive and Penny Blazey bought Heronswood in 1983, raising a family there while using the garden as a testing ground for new plant species and dedicated to preserving heirloom varieties for the business they established called the Diggers Club.

Like many gardeners all over Australia, Paul and I have benefited from being members of the Diggers Club, getting new seeds, plants and bulbs by mail order, and reading their excellent quarterly magazine.

The garden is layered on a fairly steep slope, and is directly above the beach where the explorer, Captain Matthew Flinders, landed on 27th April 1802.

The garden path winds gently between each part of the garden, showcasing the planting over the years.

It has evolved into a summer garden of perennials and subtropical fruits, shaded by lush mature trees..

 

It is inspiring to know that these colourful perennials can withstand heat of 40 degrees (Celsius)104 (Fahrenheit)

We had, quite by accident, chosen a day when the crew from the ABC series Gardening Australia were filming in the gardens.  They all looked relaxed, friendly, and professional, and we chatted to Jane and complimented her on the program.

 

The Subtropical Fruit Border

This section of the garden highlights the versatility of subtropical fruits in all climates…(who knew bananas could grow this far south?)

The Diggers  best selections are combined with hot coloured (red, yellow and orange) dahlias, to contrast with the lush green foliage.

 

Hidden away amongst the grasses and foliage we could hear frogs before we came to a small bridge and pond ….a great breeding ground for them in this lush garden.

 

This plant, with multiple blue flowers was a ”one stop shop” for many bees.

Clive and Penny Blazey have been amazing custodians of this property for years. Clive is an advisor for the Seed Saver Exchange in Iowa, USA, which was established around the same time as the Digger’s Club in Australia.

The  Digger’s Club has over 75 000 members, and the Blazey family give away a percentage of their profits each year. Penny is involved in many charities, both in Australia and abroad.

In 2011 the Blazey’s gifted ownership of The Digger’s Club and the gardens of Heronswood and St Erth (near Daylesford) to the Diggers Garden and Environmental Trust.

Clive and Penny succeeded in developing a wonderful collection of unusual perennial plants with open pollinated seeds to provide what they called

”…the gardener’s inheritance seeds you save, sow and share forever…”

After enjoying this lovely garden, the last words come from Clive Blazey ….

“”I’m obsessed with living plants. Gardening connects you to biology, archaeology and the environment. It’s a fascinating pursuit.”

I’m inspired!

 

Copyright Geraldine Mackey: All Rights Reserved

 

 

Canberra’s regional botanic garden..STEP

Canberra is known as the Bush Capital of Australia, as it is a city interspersed by bushland, and surrounded by forests and national parks.

However, the devastating bushfires of 2003 not only destroyed over five hundred homes in Canberra, but also burnt through forests around Canberra.

As a result the ACT government decided to develop the National Arboretum in Canberra, as a centenary gift to the city.

48 000 trees have been planted in 94 forests on a 250 hectare site.

View of Lake Burley Griffin, and surrounding mountains from the National Arboretum of Canberra

Amongst the developing forests of the National Arboretum is a wonderful regional botanic garden called STEP (Southern Tablelands Ecosystem Park).

I took this photo of STEP four years ago…and still flourishing today

We recently visited STEP early one spring morning…..

The Sulphur Crested Cockatoos have a dawn gathering at the small dam near STEP….

and feed on the grasses nearby. As usual, they are very noisy, but it is lovely to see them in their natural environment…

At STEP an enthusiastic group of volunteers have gradually designed and developed an area to represent the native plants and trees typical of the Southern Highlands.

Built into the landscape is a rock amphitheatre. It is used as a gathering place for educational groups and others visiting STEP. On this cool morning, the smooth rocks ringed by the Eucalyptus trees make this a very peaceful place to visit..

The Eucalyptus trees are characteristic of those found in the region’s hills, slopes and valleys, and as it is spring it is wonderful to see some flowering Eucalyptus in the gardens ..

 

A wasp feeding off the flowers.

After a long dry winter, the spring blossoms have arrived, and not just on eucalyptus trees…the colours of the bush change from muted greens and greys to yellows, fuchsia, purples and whites..

 

Hardenbergia violacea

I took a photo of this wonderfully coloured  shrub, (Mirbelia xylobioides) on Sunday morning, and by the following Thursday it had finished flowering ….you have to be quick..

Shrub Mirbelia xylobioides

 

Solanum linearifolium (Kangaroo Apple)

 

 

Pelargonium australe

 

Ammobium alatum

 

Leucochrysum albicans

When I arrived on Thursday for a second visit,  the day after much needed rain,  everything looked fresh and green and shiny..

 

Carex appressa

Some shrubs have finished flowering and others have just begun..

Wahlenbergia stricta

 

Podolepis hieracioides

In recent years,  through blogging, and travelling,  I have read about and seen grasses being used in design and landscapes all over the world.  Now I have a new appreciation of grasses in Australia.

Carex tereticaulis

 

 

 

Cullen microcephalarm

One of the volunteers called me over to look at and feel these young grasses, Poa Induta. They are soft to feel with long silky stems and delicate seed heads.. my absolute favourite for the day…

Poa induta

The gardens have some impressive metal sign posts to mark various areas around STEP. Here you can see the flowers of the She-oaks (Casuarina) sculptured  into the metal.

Unfortunately I missed the opportunity to take a photo of the friendly and very knowledgeable volunteers sharing morning tea under the shade of some of the bigger trees.

However, here is a photo from my visit a few years ago, the shady trees have grown and are still a welcoming spot for morning tea.

The volunteers come to STEP every Thursday,  rain, hail or shine and work tirelessly to keep this wonderful regional botanic garden growing and developing.

STEP has a very interesting newsletter for Members, and it is very easy to become a member and/or a volunteer.

www.step.asn.au

Copyright Geraldine Mackey: All Rights Reserved.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Canberra’s spring: a garden, a cockatoo and a nervous gardener..

We’ve had some rain in spring, and the camellia is flowering beautifully.  I put the small elephant watering-can close to the flowers one day, and the Wattlebird began to use it for a perch while eating nectar from the flowers.

However, today a Sulphur Crested Cockatoo flew down onto our deck, which, as the nuns at my high school would have said, is a mixed blessing. They are such characters, curious and smart, but they can do a lot of damage in a garden with their strong beaks, and wilful personalities..

Fortunately this is a young one, and he has spotted some of the almonds that have fallen from the tree.

I have just moved these lovely Blue Dutch Irises into the pot…..fortunately the almond is keeping him happy, and it is a lucky thing that the Dutch iris is not flowering yet.

As I have mentioned in a previous post, Cockatoos sometimes take umbrage with flowering plants, and lop their heads off…

Fortunately the Dutch Irises survived and flowered….how lovely they are!

The pink and yellow tulips are true survivors…I confess this was such a busy year I didn’t lift any of my bulbs, and naturally most of the tulips did not flower this year ….So these pretty ones have taken pride of place in the garden…

The orange Sparaxis came from a cutting in my mother’s garden in Port Macquarie….18 years ago or more! However, this is the first year there are so few flowers, the combination of lack of water, and my neglect of the garden… I’ve apologised to them too.

We have Aquilegias flowering all through the garden, such a delicate flower, but yet tough, and a rewarding plant in the garden in our part of the world..

My favourite flower this year is Ixia, sometimes known as the Corn Lily plant, and I have read that it is an exotic member of the Iris family. A small but gorgeous spring plant, and it is surrounded by Salvias here ..

The succulents are doing well. The bowl on the top right is an old birdbath. Last year I described filling the birdbath with succulents, small smooth stones, and a miniature agapanthus. While I was eating lunch on the deck that day, a curious young Magpie flew down and pulled the agapanthus out! I had to cover the whole birdbath with the newspaper to distract him. Everything has survived. Birds and plants!

 

After a day of rain we went for a walk along Lake Tuggeranong. The azure sky and soft blue Brindabella Mountains looked lovely…it is beginning to look like summer..

However, the birds around the lake were still very much on parenting duty with young ones…

The Purple Swamphen is on guard by the nest, and the other adults are venturing further afield with the young ones….it was hard to get a photo, but they did look very cute!

I would love to say the water below is an Australian icon…a Billabong, but it is really a very large puddle!

In the water is a Red-rumped Parrot, (male). Usually a quiet unobtrusive member of the parrot family, today he was splashing about and loving having a bath.

It’s been a long time since he’s had the joy of a bath as big as this…..and he doesn’t care who is watching!

The Red-rumped parrots are always found in pairs and small groups in grassy areas..

The male Red-Rumped Parrot

 

The Female Red-rumped Parrot..

….and back home, we are soon to welcome our daughter and  granddaughter for a visit. This will be our granddaughter’s first visit since she learnt to walk.  The world looks so different when you are up on two feet…. …. and I wonder if she is up to a holding a watering can yet?

I hope you are enjoying your green spaces, whatever part of the world you live in ..and to paraphrase David Attenborough

”The natural world is the greatest source of so much in life that makes life worth living”

Copyright Geraldine Mackey: All Rights Reserved.