Monday 8 August 2011 – Australian National Botanic Gardens

Helen landed in Melbourne on Wednesday 3 August and came to Canberra the next day. Arriving to a beautiful clear day of 21 degrees, she seemed in two minds whether to be pleased by the weather, or disgusted that it was better than the European summer she’d just left. (But Canberra can throw a week of warmth – even heat – in August and then go back to freezing till Christmas.)

One way or another, the weekend walk got transposed to Monday, when we had the opportunity to meet Annabel at the Botanic Gardens for lunch. Annabel is Helen’s godmother. She’s a botanist, and works at the gardens.

Magpie, crimson rosellas, honeyeater, kangaroo

The day was so cold and wet that we actually sat indoors at the cafe. (Camilla and I join Annabel for lunch every six weeks or so, and I can’t remember the last time we were obliged to sit inside!) Luckily the rain stopped after lunch and held off long enough for us to have a good stroll.

Val and Annabel

Helen was sad to see that items of upkeep like plant labels weren’t up to the standard she remembered, but she had Annabel to ask when a label was missing. They talked among themselves about what would grow where, as Helen prepares to begin her new life as a farmer up a mountain near Cygnet in Tasmania. Meanwhile, I concentrated on getting up the hills (gentle slopes to you) and keeping up.

Scribbly gum and wildflowers

There’s not much else to tell, so I will do what Jill says one oughtn’t, and fill in between the photos (mostly taken by Helen). We walked through Rainforest Gully, enjoying the strangeness of its microclimate and remembering times we’d enjoyed it even more as an escape from the heat.

Rainforest gully

Next, we headed for the Rock Garden, passing some Wollemi pines on the way.

The Wollemi Pine is one of the world’s oldest and rarest trees. It was discovered [in 1994] by a bushwalker in a national park only 200km from Sydney, Australia’s biggest city.

Strangely enough, I saw my first Wollemi pines in 2009 at De Hortus, the Dutch Botanic Gardens, where they were doing very well. This ancient tree is being preserved by being planted all over the world, but I was glad finally to see a couple growing locally.

Wollemi pines

The tree was released for sale in 2006, and these are only babies, about a metre high.

The Rock Garden

Last time I climbed as high as the Rock Garden, I was with Helen’s late grandmother, Margaret. She was looking at the colours of native flowers, with a view to adding to her garden. Not long afterwards she celebrated a round birthday (70?) where friends and family were invited to contribute native plants to a Friendship Garden. I went to some trouble, via Interflora, to order the delivery of a live native plant, and then they sent an azalea!

In the sky: Black Mountain Tower; crimson rosella

Here’s the obligatory shot of Black Mountain Tower. It’s really close in the Botanic Gardens.

We’d walked for about an hour. Rain was threatening, Annabel had to go back to work, and we had to prepare ourselves for dinner at the Charcoal Grill with Dac, so we went home. It’s a hard life!

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