Tag Archives: plants

An Autumn Stroll in Sydney…

For those of you who don’t live in Sydney, I apologise in advance that there are no photos of the Sydney Harbour Bridge, or the Opera House on this walk. That’s because this walk isn’t about Sydney. Rather, it’s more about immersing yourself in the golden yellows of Autumn and appreciating nature in all her finery.

If you live in many parts of the world, you might take such Autumn colours for granted. However, I live close to the beach and there aren’t many English style gardens around here. With our sandy soil and low rainfall, they just don’t grow or are extremely high maintenance. Our Australian natives are evergreen and so we just don’t have those forests of Autumn colours you see elsewhere. This all means that I get quite dazzled by Autumn colours and that despite being forty something, I’m still prone to collecting Autumn leaves.

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So, now that I’ve started painting this story from my perspective, perhaps you’ll better understand my excitement when I emerged from the underground tunnels of St James train station, and saw Macquarie Street all lit up with glowing, golden leaves back lit by a bright, blue sky. It was glorious!

So, I wanted to invite you to join me for a bit of a stroll today, which starts out in Hyde Park and goes along Macquarie Street, through the Domain and finishes on the Art Gallery Steps.

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As I walked along Macquarie Street, the photographic focus became historic Sydney Hospital, which was opened in 1811 and is Australia’s oldest running hospital. While in other parts of the word such a building would be relatively “modern”, by Australian standards it’s “old”, but not quite ancient.

You can take a short cut through Sydney Hospital to get to the Art Gallery. The short cut has a lot of rustic charm and you really feel like you’re stepping back in time, and yet you’re not if that makes any sense.

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A rear view of Sydney Hospital with modern skyscrapers peering over her shoulders.

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I thought this sign was rather funny. Hospital Road runs in between Sydney Hospital and The Domain (park). I am a bit concerned about where a trip down Hospital Road might take you…a one way trip with no return.

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Playing sport in The Domain under the shadow of high rise.

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Lunch time joggers running through The Domain. Note the huge fig trees, which are very popular.

And finally we arrive at the Art Gallery of NSW.

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Hope you enjoyed the walk.

Best wishes,

Rowena

Back to Earth.

A devout Anglican and stalwart leader in women’s ministry, Margaret Wesley didn’t believe in magic. Magic was the Devil’s work.

However, unwittingly Margaret’s new gardening book had taken her into unchartered territory, promising remarkable growth through talking to your plants.

Putting on her reading glasses, she started with the struggling Ipomoea purpurea vine:

“What comes out of the earth, returns to the earth…”

Astonished by the instant results, Margaret almost choked on her dentures. The vine was growing faster than a triffid, and was about to engulf her house.

“Mrs Wesley? Mrs Wesley?”

WHAT would she say to the Reverend?

……

This has been another contribution to Friday Fictioneers.

 

Up the Garden Path, Port Arthur.

“A garden to walk in and immensity to dream in–what more could he ask? A few flowers at his feet and above him the stars.”
― Victor Hugo, Les Misérables

Although I’d never heard about the stunning gardens at Port Arthur before our visit, I was happily led up the garden path. Indeed, the gardens were a serious, botanical feast…especially for a brown-thumbed sod like myself unable to convert our sandy soil into a floral paradise.

It’s hard to comprehend that stunning, specialist gardens were growing in such a brutal, violent penal settlement. However, line most things, one thing led to another.

In 1849, several scientific groups joined together to form the Royal Society of Tasmania for Horticulture, Botany and the Advance of Science, the first Royal Society outside of Britain. Members had connections with Kew Gardens and other nurseries. This society  took responsibility for managing Hobart’s Government Gardens, later to become the Royal Tasmanian Botanical Gardens.
Among Royal Society members were numerous Port Arthur administrators and officials including Commandants William Champ and James Boyd. Many plants were ordered from England. Cuttings, tubers, corms, rootstock and seeds were also collected by plant enthusiasts on the eight-month journey to Van Diemen’s Land. The genes of some of Port Arthur’s plants map the ports of call in South America, South Africa and India. Boyd alone ordered hundreds of plants, including dahlias, marjoram and fruit trees.

 

As early as the 1830s ornamental trees were planted at Port Arthur. By 1838 the avenue leading to the Church from Tarleton Street was lined with young trees provided by the Governor of the day, Sir John Franklin. In 1846-47, Commandant Champ developed Government Gardens as an ornamental garden primarily for the enjoyment of the ladies of the settlement. The gardens were much admired and reached their peak in the late 1860-70s. After the closure of Port Arthur the gardens were neglected until reconstruction began in the 1990’s.

‘The usual afternoon walk was to be Government Cottage Garden where the officers’ wives, their children and nursemaids used to assemble. They were charming gardens. Lovely green lawns and gay flower beds – even a fountain in the centre – all beautifully kept.’

E.M. Hall, 1871-7.

 

The plants at Port Arthur have been catologued and their stories reproduced in a stunning online catalogue. I found it rather intriguing to read how seeds, cuttings and bulbs from exotic species found in Britain, India, South Africa and more arrived onboard ships in Tasmania, finding their way into the Royal Botanical Gardens in Hobart as well as these gardens in Port Arthur.
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I might not know the botanic name for this rose but I did manage to photograph it. I could curl deep inside and wrap myself up in that petal swirl.

These days it is impossible to conceive the trafficking of plant materials across international borders when you can’t even bring plants, fruits and a swag of other items into Tasmania from the Australian Mainland…at least, not as your average Joe. Quarantine is very important in Australia and Tasmania in order to keep out exotic diseases and  pests.

“Port Arthur is beginning to look springlike. The oak trees are bursting into leaf and there is a profusion of bulbs in bloom in the paddocks which at one time were old gardens.”

The Mercury (Hobart, Tas. : 1860 – 1954) Thursday 30 August 1934 p 5.

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Anyway, I thought I’d share a few stories about the various plants at Port Arthur.

Quercus robur (English oak, common oak)

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The trees that surround Government Gardens and line the avenue up to the Church are mostly English oaks. This is the most common forest tree in Britain.

The botanic name robur means ‘strength’ in Latin, and refers to the hard timber for which the trees have been valued since prehistoric times. Sir John Franklin, the Lieutenant Governor of Van Diemen’s Land from 1836-43, provided the Port Arthur Penal Settlement with young oak, ash and elm trees, some of which may survive today. Deciduous European trees were some of the earliest brought to the new colony, bringing a sense of comfort and familiarity in an otherwise foreign landscape.

Digitalis purpurea (common foxglove)

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A native to western and south western Europe, including the British Isles. Commandant Champ wrote a letter to his mother requesting her to collect the seeds of wild flowers when walking in the woods and send them to him.

 

Lupinus polyphyllus   (garden lupin)

This plant was discovered in the north-west of North America in the 1820s by Mr David Douglas, who also introduced the Douglas fir to Europe.

Seeds of ‘blue and yellow lupins various’ were being advertised for sale by Mrs Wood in the Hobart Town Courier by November 1829:

‘This splendid lupine is now become so common that we can hardly conceive how gardens must have looked without it, though it is not yet quite twenty years that seeds of it were first sent to this country…’

Melianthus major (honey flower)

A common plant in colonial gardens, Melianthus would have been admired for its unusual leaves and growth habit, as well as for its large red flower spikes, unlike any plant found in traditional English gardens. It is native to South Africa, and was collected by sailing vessels on their way from England to the Australian colonies and other trading ports.

Myosotis sylvatica (forget-me-not)

The forget-me-not is so common in Tasmanian gardens that many people consider it weedy and tend to pull it out. A common flower in woodlands throughout Britain and Europe, this would have been one of the early introductions to the gardens in Port Arthur.

The following poem appeared in an April edition of the Launceston Courier in 1829, and captures the sentimentality that people at this time had for the forget-me-not:

There is a flow’r I love so well

That grows within my garden plot

My willing pen its name shall tell

The lovely blue ‘forget-me-not’

‘Tis not within the rich man’s hall,

But near the honest peasant’s cot,

Where grows the lovely flow’r, we call,

The modest blue ‘forget-me-not’.

It does not boast a rich perfume,

The rose-bud’s glory ‘t has not got;

It does not want a warmer bloom,

The brilliant blue ‘forget-me-not’

Through life I’ve lov’d this simple flow’r

Nor ever be its name forgot

In prosp’rous time or adverse hour

The humble blue ‘forget-me-not’

And should I die an early doom

Let no false tear my mem’ry blot;

But let there spring around my tomb,

The azure blue ‘forget-me-not’

Salix babylonica (weeping willow)

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Weeping Willow at Port Arthur 2017.

The weeping willows that once grew in this garden, and in many other sites throughout Australia and Britain, were taken as cuttings from a tree growing on the grave of Napoleon Bonaparte on the island of St Helena. A quick growing shade tree popular  for ornamental plantings, willows have also traditionally been used medicinally and for basketry.

In 1845, the Commandant of Port Arthur investigated which Tasman Peninsula outstations had suitable conditions to plant willows for basket-making, and supplied these with cuttings from his own garden.

Rosa chinensis (China rose)

China roses were introduced into the west towards the end of the 18th century, and enabled the many cultivars of rose available today to be developed. China roses have the quality of repeat flowering, although they bloom most heavily in the spring.

The roses growing in Government Gardens include ‘La Marque’, a variety released in 1830 with large, fragrant, white flowers.

Solanum aviculare  (kangaroo apple)

Thomas Lempriere, the Commissariat Officer at Port Arthur from 1833-48, wrote in his journal about the culinary value of various native plants. He stated: ‘the Solanum…or kangaroo apple, is a very handsome plant and the fruits, when perfectly ripe, pleasant to the taste’. –1838

In 1828 the kangaroo apple was featured in an  article in the Hobart Town Courier, which commented:

‘…we have had occasion, this season particularly, to remark the great luxuriance of what is called the Kangaroo apple, or New Zealand potato, a species of Solanum common to this country and New Zealand… a beautiful evergreen shrub, with dark verdant leaves… It is covered with small round apples, which when ripe eat exactly like bananas, and a sort of yams grow at its root, it is both ornamental and useful.’

Anyway, I hope you’ve enjoyed our meanders through the gardens at Port Arthur. Adding a few details to my photographs, has become quite a long and interesting journey, even for this serial plant killer.

If you’d like to check out the Port Arthur Gardens’ Plant Guide, please click: here.

xx Rowena

Camellia Dreaming.

In a split second of eternity,

everything is changed,

transfigured.

A few bars of music,

rising from an unfamiliar place,

a touch of perfection in the flow of human dealings…

I lean my head slowly to one side,

reflect on the camellia on the moss on the temple,

reflect on a cup of tea,

while outside the wind is rustling foliage,

the forward rush of life is crystalized

in a brilliant jewel of a moment

that knows neither projects nor future,

human destiny is rescued from the pale succession of days,

glows with light at last and,

surpassing time,

warms my tranquil heart.

Muriel Barbery

The stunning pink camellia I’ve photographed in situ here, was lying on the mossy grass in my parent’s garden yesterday. It was about the size of a saucer and absolutely beautiful!

A taste of a Sydney Spring.

xx Rowena

Nature’s Candlesticks.

Such beauty growing in my own backyard, even if I cheated, planting this  Callistemon as tube stock 15 years ago.

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Red Bottlebrush Tree in our backyard.

So beautiful with their red brushes back lit by the sun, the tree itself can be quite scraggly but still a rugged Australian beauty.

It’s also popular with the locals.

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Rainbow Lorrikeet in a native Callistemon or red Bottlebrush Tree.

Goes to show that you don’t need to travel far to experience nature’s beauty or to find something to photograph, write about or find some inspiration.

What has inspired you lately?

xx Rowena

 

Bird in our Backyard Bottlebrush Tree.

It’s not often that I share any photos from our garden, but our stunning red bottlebrush tree is in full bloom and the local Rainbow Lorrikeets are feasting on what must be the nector of the Gods. I swear they get more than tipsy on the stuff and by the end of the day, you should hear them twittering in the trees. The birds flock to particular trees at the beach on dusk the noise is almost deafening but in a nice way. That’s why you never plant bottlebrush trees (callistemons) near your bedroom window. The same cacophony fires up at dawn and forget trying to sleep through it!

There’s such a thing as too much of a good thing!

What sort of birds do you have in your backyard?

Hope you enjoy the rest of your weekend!

xx Rowena

Midwestern Plant Girl wrote a a great post about seeing Rainbow Lorrikeets in the USA. I realise that I might’ve over-done the noise aspects of the Rainbow Lorrikeet because compared to a Sulfur-crested cockatoo with it’s loud but lovable screech, it’s sweet and musical. Here’s the link: https://midwesternplants.org/2016/10/24/rainbow-lorikeets-trichoglossus-haematodus/