Canberra was an extraordinary place- specially-created as the capital city to avoid tensions between Melbourne and Sydney, with architecture from the inspired end of concrete brutalism that is pretty much all of a piece in the city centre. This photograph taken close to the National Museum of Australia sums up the strangeness of it, the Prisoner-like hovering ball art installation, a solitary car, one person. It was like no other capital city I have ever visited. Healthy middle-class professionals jogging round the paths and lakes of the city centre juxtaposed with the dug-in determination of the 46 year Tent Embassy Aboriginal protest outside the old Government House- these colliding presences seemed to capture something of Australia. A country struggling with the tensions of colonialism still. But from a British perspective, I felt shame for our overlord activities, and some pride that Australia shows its tensions openly- heart on sleeve.
There is huge pain in the Aboriginal Memorial, 200 hollow log coffins which commemorate the thousands of indigenous people who have lost their lives since 1788 in defence of their land and their ways of life. I was deeply moved and shamed by it simultaneously.
The museums are world-class and absolutely to be recommended. Three hours was not long enough to take in the history of white settlers and indigenous loss, but history can smack you in the face and overwhelm sometimes.
Later in the afternoon, with warm golden sun shining, we visited the Australian National Botanic Gardens. The world’s largest collection and archive of Australian flora did not disappoint- there was so much to be seen that was new and strikingly different from European flora that I was a little bedazzled. We were yet to see the incredible flowering wattles later in our trip to the Flinders Ranges, but there were some fabulous varieties on show in the Garden, a feast of yellow. And orange and red…without a botanical label I had no chance, and I have tried via the internet, but maybe Jane from Mudgee can help with this Banksia, as she kindly did in confirming the Grevillea robusta from the previous post.
And three views of the simply gorgeous Dendrobium falcorostrum– I defer to the Rock Lily Man here (follow the link)- he says it all about this fabulous plant- which, if you need a short-cut, is an epiphytic orchid. In other words, a non-parasitic plant that fastens onto other plants but is, in fact, air and water-fed- the host simply provides an anchor.
I loved the starkness of the Red Centre– the part of the Gardens that re-creates the harsh, elemental conditions of central Australia. The stunning grass clump to the left of the photograph is Triodia scariosa.
And the postman has just knocked with my Australian- inspired parcel- my order of Callistemon sieberi ‘Widdecombe Gem’, a medium sized frost-hardy (to about -8 hopefully) Callistemon with a lemon yellow flower, and three massive Dianella caerulea ‘Cassa Blue’– which I have just re-potted to make 8 smaller plants to over-winter. Australian heaven.