It's no secret that I have my issues with Canberra, not least the fact that I don't consider it to be a real city, more a conglomeration of four shopping malls connected by suburbs and roundabouts. (Actually, I like
roundabouts. Whee!). While it's well-served by museums and galleries, it's by virtue of the fact it's the national capital, not that there is a particularly lively arts scene here. But my biggest issue is the fact that the people are so
homogonised. It's been a bit of an adjustment living in such a white-bread city.
Anyway, enough of the gripes. Canberra is, however, spectacular in the autumn. The city is fairly flat, but has substantial greenbelt (mainly eucalyptus and scrubby shrubs - it's too arid for ferns or podocarps) areas and conical tree-covered "mountains" which pop up from the landscape at semi-regular intervals. Canberra is an artificial city, kind of like Australia's version of Milton Keynes, but, it must be said, a lot more attractive.
In the 1910s, the city was designed (complete with circles and roundabouts), and the Molongolo River was finally dammed in the 1960s to form Lake Burley Griffin
. The actual building of the city started shortly after its design, with brickworks being built in Yarralumla
, as well as the Yarralumla Nursery
also being founded at that time. Now, the nursery is crucial, since they grew all the trees which are currently showing beautiful colours, especially in the inner (lakeside) suburbs and around the lake itself.
There are gorgeous reds and purples and yellows and golds, with the leaves in huge drifts in the parks. There are still enough trees with bright green leaves to provide contrast, and there is always the dusky purple/green/grey of the eucalypts as the underlying note. The weather is cool enough that you can actually walk around for more than 10 minutes without expiring and engage in other vigorous physical activity, ditto. I went for a nice walk by the lake on Sunday morning, and happily quacked to the ducks who were fossicking around on the shore. (The two joggers who went past gave me googly-eyed looks, but if they don't want to quack at contented ducks, that's their problem). The sky was dark with imminent rain, but there were shafts of sunlight through the clouds which highlighted the leaves against the dark backdrop. Quite spectacular, really.
The other useful thing is that the Yarralumla Nursery cultivated the "Canberra Gem
" Grevillea, which I am going to plant for my girlfriend as a hedge this weekend. The bushes grow 2m high by 3 wide (which is sufficiently hedgelike), are drought-resistant, love full hot sun, prefer low-nutrient acidic soils, and happily resist frosts down to -10 deg, as well as attracting nectar-feeding birds. I got out there with the soil-testing kit a few weekends back and ascertained that the soil pH is between 5 and 6, so we're good to go. I did think of camellias, but they tend to be more disease-prone, want more water, and aren't native or so bird-friendly. Also, grevilleas are just cool
. Anything to avoid the dreaded conifer-hedge blight. If you live in sub-Arctic regions, great, or if you're surrounded by native varieties, also great. Otherwise, I hate the buggers. Anyways, with a 30m long frontage, I'll need to get 20 plants. I think
they'll fit in my car boot (if I lie them down).
Eee! I like digging things. And pruning. And it's apparently the perfect time of year to plant the grevilleas. Yet another reason to love autumn.