Sign for Cooks River Valley Garden.  To the left you can see new bitumen has been laid alongside the Fig trees from the car park

Sign for Cooks River Valley Garden. To the left you can see new bitumen has been laid alongside the Fig trees all the way to the car park

"Gathering area' in the Cooks River Valley Garden

“Gathering area’ in the Cooks River Valley Garden.

The view of the Cooks River Valley Garden from the new 'gathering area.'

The view of the Cooks River Valley Garden from the new ‘gathering area.’

Marrickville Council has completed Stage One of the Cooks River Valley Garden upgrade & they have done some very nice things.

Council’s Press Release said that the Cooks River Valley Garden, created in 2001, was inspired by the book, ‘Missing Jigsaw Pieces:  The Bushplants of the Cooks River Valley.’    Money for the upgrade came from a Greenspace Grant of $35,000 which was matched by Council – a total of $70,000.

The first thing I noticed were the new trees.  These are all around 1.8 – 2 metres tall & already make a positive impact.  Once grown, they should provide much needed shade.

At the western entrance, a large amount of grass has been removed in an arc-shape.  This area has been mulched with woodchip & planted with 6 new trees.   Hopefully the woodchip acts as a deterrent to people going near the trees while they are young, as this area of Tempe Reserve has a history of trees being vandalized to death.

Two other trees have been planted in the remaining fenced tree spaces of which there were once seven.  I can understand Council not replacing the other five until they see whether the users of the park allow these new trees to live.   I hope these are replaced eventually.

There is now an attractive sign at the entrance of the Cooks River Valley Garden, which instantly shows that this is a special place.  Again, this may help lessen or stop vandalism completely.  I hope so.

New bin holders, which will prevent bins being removed & tossed into the Cooks River.

New bin holders, which will prevent bins being removed & tossed into the Cooks River.

Woodchip has been laid between the Cooks River Valley Garden & the barbeque area providing a border to the garden.  It looks considerably neater than previously.  Quite a few dead & dying trees have been removed.

I was very pleased to see that concrete had not been laid between the picnic kiosks & the garden as I interpreted from the plans.  In my opinion, this is a too large area to concrete.  Grass is much more attractive than concrete, softer to the eyes & the feet, as well as not heat attracting/retaining.  It gets very hot here & concrete would have only made this area hotter.

Close up of part of the new sign

Close up of part of the new sign

At the lower section of the Garden, Council has created a central gathering area constructed of sandstone, which looks nice.  It follows the same design as the others that have been placed along Marrickville’s section of the river.

Beside this & just inside in the garden is an delightful sandstone sculpture of Banksia flowers.  It is child height, so I imagine would be exciting for kids to discover.  This is a great way of including passive education regarding the environment.

Another smaller gathering place, also in the same sandstone design has been installed at the far end of the Cooks River Valley Garden.  I have no doubt that people will enjoy being able to sit in these places that offer a nice view over the garden, as well as the opportunity for peace.  Quiet contemplative spaces are important in parks.

I think Marrickville Council has done well with the upgrade & thank them for this.

New trees & mulched areas at the entrance on the western side of Tempe Reserve

New concrete, trees & mulched areas at the entrance on the western side of Tempe Reserve

Another view

Another view

The smaller 'gathering area.'

The smaller ‘gathering area.’

Two trees replaced in front of the picnic kiosks.

Two trees replaced in front of the picnic kiosks.

I am glad this whole area was not concreted as I understood was in the plans.

I am glad this whole area was not concreted as I understood was in the plans.

The banksia sculpture in the Garden.

The banksia sculpture in the Garden.

It's hard to see, but the red dot shows the location of the new 2-metre tree.

It’s hard to see, but the red dot shows the location of the new 2-metre tree.  You can see the stakes on either side.

Bravo to the Tempe Bus Depot who replaced the magnificent Eucalypt  that died recently. It looks to be another native gum. I hope this tree does well & lives a long & healthy life.

It will be great to have another gorgeous tree break up the skyline here & being so close to the Princes Highway, will benefit us all by adding beauty & cleaning the air.  Thank you Tempe Bus Depot.

Such a shame to lose this magnificent tree.  There are two others close by.  This will be replaced with a Jacaranda.

Such a shame to lose this magnificent tree. There are two others close by. This will be replaced with an ornamental Jacaranda, which means less food for wildlife.

Showing the branch failures.

Showing the branch failures.

Tree number 1: a Red Ironbark (Eucalyptus sideroxylon) outside 26 Morton Avenue Lewisham.

They give the following reasons for removal -

  • “This tree has experienced multiple branch failures (2 first order branches and 2 second order branches, followed by one third order branch).
  • Risk mitigation options such as pruning are likely to have a detrimental effect on the tree.
  • The tree in its present state poses an unacceptable level of risk to the public and property.”

Council says they will replace this tree with a Jacaranda mimosifolia during the 2015 planting season.

The deadline for submissions was Friday 12th December 2014.

Three comments were left on my Facebook page about this particluar tree removal –

  1. “Why would they take away an Ironbark for a jacaranda!  A new home the mynas whilst the natives move on.
  2. This is pure ignorance.   A flowering ironbark like this would be well known to all the blossom migrants (for generations) who move through the area.   Your local council is simply ripping food from the mouths of so many creatures and the shelter for just as many more.

  3. and denying a generation their shade.”

Tree number 2: Lemon scented gum (Corymbia citriodora) outside 15 Old Canterbury Road Lewisham.

They give the following reasons for removal -

  • “The tree has a long history of branch failure, including three branches within the last 8 months.
  • Weight reduction pruning previously undertaken as risk mitigation has been unsuccessful in reducing risk- any further pruning is likely to have a detrimental affect on the tree.
  • The tree poses an unacceptable level of risk to the public and property.
  • Large amount of epicormic growth indicating the tree is in a state of stress.”

Council says they will replace this tree with a Spotted Gum (Corymbia maculata) during the 2015 planting season.

The deadline for submissions is Monday 22nd December 2014.  

Lemon scented gum - a magnificent tree.  It is a shame to lose it.

Lemon scented gum – a magnificent tree. It is a shame to lose it.

Showing the epicormic growth

Showing the epicormic growth

Marrickville Town Hall June 2014

Marrickville Town Hall June 2014

Marrickville Town Hall - 11 December 2014

Marrickville Town Hall – 11 December 2014

_________________

“Just drove past Marrickville Town Hall and all the trees have gone – looks shocking.” - text I received dated 29th November 2014.

_________________

I went to have a look the next day & it does look shocking.  It made me feel very sad to lose these healthy trees for nothing more than a design whim.

Pines are symbolic trees for fallen soldiers, so were entirely appropriate around the Town Hall & the War Memorial.

Yes, the forecourt looked neglected & ugly, but it wasn’t because of the trees.  It looked ugly & neglected because of the chipped pebblecrete on the ground, the half empty garden beds, the neglected & dirty war memorial, the absent very beautiful Winged Victory statue & the empty pebblecrete planter boxes.  All this was topped off with the bus stop placed in front of the Town Hall & the Forecourt being used as a car park on a regular basis.

I read a lot about trees & greening urban environments.  Globally the push is to add trees & green the environment, not take them down.

In Australia we have the 202020 Vision – a campaign by the Institute of Sustainable Futures at the University of Technology, Sydney. They have mapped the urban forest in 139 municipalities across Australia & Marrickville is down there at the bottom with only 16.3% tree canopy. This is nothing to be proud of.

According to the report, ‘Benchmarking Australia’s Urban Tree Canopy: An –Tree Assessment, Final Report,’ dated May 2014, Marrickville LGA has –

  • 63.4% hard surfaces
  • 16.3% tree canopy.

If the truth be stated, a massive number of our street trees have very little canopy & therefore very little impact on the environment in terms of carbon sequestration, pollution uptake, cooling & shade.  I constantly pass street trees so small that I wonder if they should have been included in the Tree Inventory. But of course they were.

So with only 16.3% tree canopy, Marrickville Council is now removing healthy trees to upgrade an important site in Marrickville.  I don’t understand it.

I believe that upgrade will result in a hot & harsh Forecourt, especially in summer.  One Magnolia, a deciduous ornamental tree, will be planted to the left of the Forecourt.  It may yet be beautiful when the upgrade is completed.  We shall see.

I shall miss those trees & I bet the hundreds of birds who slept in them every night for the past few decades will too.  Progress.

Marrickville Town Hall - 11 December 2014

Marrickville Town Hall – 11 December 2014

Angus Stewart mid lesson

Angus Stewart mid lesson

 

Dave Rose mid lesson

Dave Rose mid lesson

Last weekend we did a workshop on Gardening with Native Plants held at the Sydney Wildflower Nursery at Heathcote.   The workshop presenters were nursery owner Dave Rose & Angus Stewart of the television show, Gardening Australia.

Although I took notes, I won’t post the whole content of the workshop as I highly suspect they will hold this kind of event again, as both workshops on that day were full.  Not surprising given the presenters & that it was free.   It was very generous of the nursery to do this.

The Sydney Wildflower Nursery has undergone a lot of vegetation changes in the last six months. Raised garden beds have been installed, & new Australian native trees, shrubs & plants & a new frog pond were put in.

It was explained that this area will showcase native plants, shrubs & trees to show what they grow into & how they appear in a garden setting, as compared to what they look like when you buy them in a pot.  They are doing this with the aim to increase the use of native plants to increase biodiversity across Sydney.

It is a good idea.  Many people still think of native plants as drab & messy plants, but they are anything but.  Good choices, planted in the right way & pruned at the right time will set you up with a garden that looks after itself & attracts wildlife.  I firmly believe that birds in the garden makes life better.

Some of the advice included –

  • When designing your garden, put the big things in first (like shrubs & trees) & then work around these.
  • Imported soil usually has a high pH level.  The pH level can also fluctuate throughout the soil mix.
  • Australian natives prefer an acid soil with a low pH of between 5.5 – 6.   A high pH tends to lock down the nutrients that native plants need.  You can add Iron Sulphate to the soil to bring the pH down fairly quickly.
  • If you have rich soil, it is best to grow natives that come from desert areas in pots, as this allows you to create the ideal soil conditions for them – sandy & free draining.
  • If you add cow manure to your soil, make sure the manure comes from free-range cows & not feed-lot cows.  What the animal eats depends on the quality of manure it produces.  Feed-lot manure has very little nutrient content & is not beneficial for your garden.
  • Plants look better if there are an odd number – 1, 3, 5 & so on.   It is more pleasing to the eye, so it is better to plant three of one species & place them together.
  • The average potting mix is comprised of 60-65% composted pine bark, 10% coir & the rest is sand.
  • Soak your plant while still in the pot before you plant it, as this will help retain water in the potting mix.
  • Dig a hole twice the size & twice the depth than your pot. Then mix in some potting soil & some slow release fertilizer.  Doing this will help the roots make a transition into the soil of your garden.  Plants frequently stop sending out roots into the surrounding soil because they prefer the soil that came with the pot.  When this happens, your plant will not grow to its optimum.  I am sure many of you have removed a plant months later only to find that the roots come out in the shape of the pot you bought it in.   This is because the roots did not make the transition into the soil of your garden.
  • Wet & hot weather makes slow-release fertilizer pellets break down more quickly, so you may need to fertilize more often.
  • Do not be afraid to prune native plants & shrubs.  Pruning thickens them up & prevents them from becoming leggy & straggly.  Prune in the time when flowers are not being produced, otherwise you will remove all the flowers & not have blooms for the following season.

Angus spoke of his 35-year love of breeding Kangaroo Paws & said the taller flowering varieties are the toughest & can be long-lived in Sydney.  The smaller varieties flower well in Sydney, but are not as long-lived.  We were all given a Kangaroo Paw for our garden, which was a nice treat.

Angus also spoke about his new website, which has a database of more than 1,000 plants & is continuing to grow.  It’s a comprehensive site with pop-up photos of native plants allowing you to have a good look at the plant.  http://www.gardeningwithangus.com.au

Sydney Wildflower Nursery specializes in Australian native plants & is a wonderful resource if you are looking for something different.  They are at 9 Veno St, Heathcote NSW 2233.   Ph:  (02) 9548 2818.  Parking is easy.  http://www.sydneywildflowernursery.com.au

Yellow Buttons - Chrysocephalum apiculatum - an Australian native groundcover that thrives on neglect. Butterflies love the flowers & it can be propagated from both seeds & cuttings. Good in well drained soil & in hanging baskets. This is a good example of planting in odd numbers.

Yellow Buttons – Chrysocephalum apiculatum at Sydney Wildflower Nursery.  This is an Australian native groundcover that thrives on neglect. Butterflies love the flowers & it can be propagated from both seeds & cuttings. Good in well drained soil & in hanging baskets. This is a good example of planting in odd numbers.

Angus Stewart holding a couple of his books.  We bought 'Lets Propagate,' which was written for Australia. At  282 pages it is packed with information & very useful for the gardener & the verge gardener.

Angus Stewart holding a couple of his books. We bought ‘Let’s Propagate!’ which was written for Australia. At 282 pages it is packed with information & photos making it very useful.

The playground at Hoskins Park is lovely & naturally shaded by the surrounding big trees.

The playground at Hoskins Park is lovely & naturally shaded by the surrounding big trees.

After a long & solid campaign by the community, Marrickville Council is proposing to classify Hoskins Park as a Heritage Item & classify Hoskins Park & surrounds as a Heritage Conservation Area.

The deadline for submissions is Thursday 18th December 2014.   See – http://bit.ly/1I6pv8I

You can watch a short video of beautiful Hoskins park here – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7CoNGNX09Vc

Our boiling atmosphere - a screenshot from NASA's video.

Our boiling atmosphere – a screenshot from NASA’s video.

NASA has recently released an ultra-high-resolution computer model of carbon dioxide produced & travelling throughout the Earth’s atmosphere over 12 months in 2006, almost 10-years-ago.  It is much worse now.

In 2014 carbon dioxide exceeded 400 parts per million across most of the northern hemisphere.  The deemed ‘upper safe level’ of atmospheric carbon dioxide is 350 parts per million.

This is the first time such high levels have ever been recorded. The trees, plants & oceans, absorb about half of the carbon dioxide produced, while the remainder becomes a part of our atmosphere for hundreds of thousands of years.  Every year more carbon dioxide is accumulated in our atmosphere.

The northern hemisphere is literally boiling in CO2.   Australia is mainly affected by carbon monoxide, but it won’t be long before that changes.

Dr. Charles Miller – Principal Investigator, Carbon in Arctic Reservoirs Vulnerability Experiment mission said the following -

Current [atmospheric] CO2 values are more than 100 ppm higher than at any time in the last one million years (& maybe higher than any time in the last 25 million years). This new record represents an increase of 85 ppm in the 55 years since David Keeling began making measurements at Mauna Loa. Even more disturbing than the magnitude of this change is the fact that the rate of CO2 accumulation in the atmosphere has been steadily increasing over the last few decades, meaning that future increases will happen faster. When averaged over 55 years, the increase has been about 1.55 ppm CO2 per year. However, the most recent data suggest that the annual increase is more than 2.75 ppm CO2 per year.

These increases in atmospheric CO2 are causing real, significant changes in the Earth system now, not in some distant future climate, and will continue to be felt for centuries to come. We can study these impacts to better understand the way the Earth will respond to future changes, but unless serious actions are taken immediately, we risk the next threshold being a point of no return in mankind’s unintended global-scale geoengineering experiment.”

You can watch the 3-minute video here -http://www.youtube.com/watch?list=UUAY-SMFNfynqz1bdoaV8BeQ&v=x1SgmFa0r04

This is not cool breezes, but methane gas.  Australia is in there somewhere.

This is not cool breezes, but methane gas. Australia is in there somewhere.

Petersham Park has an elegance that should be preserved.

Petersham Park has an elegance that should be preserved.

Good news for historic Petersham Park today after the government announced a new route for the WestConnex Motorway. Instead of taking some of Petersham Park (see – http://bit.ly/1zYWHK4), the motorway will now travel through a tunnel from Haberfield, duplicating the City West Link & connecting to the Anzac Bridge & Victoria Road at Rozelle. Another tunnel from Rozelle will exit at St Peters.

Minister for Roads & Freight Duncan Gay said, “…the motorway would not impact on Petersham Park, & the new route would take the tunnels further from the historic park.”   

This is one bit of good news about a motorway that will severely impact on the community of Marrickville municipality. More information when it comes to light. See – http://bit.ly/1tDcUiL

 

I took hundreds of photos of Sylvan Grove Native Garden.  It is hard to capture, as it has so many looks.

I took hundreds of photos of Sylvan Grove Native Garden. It is hard to capture, as it has so many looks.

Bankstown Council has a total of 524.2 hectares of bushland, which they are committed to save for the benefit of future generations. They also have the intention to create more areas of habitat for wildlife. Commendable.

Bankstown Council has created something amazing for the community & for Sydney as a whole with the Sylvan Grove Native Garden.

It all started in 1963 with a small native garden at Padstow Heights.   In 1964 Bankstown Council negotiated with the Georges River Parkland Trust to choose the current site, which adjoins the Yeramba Lagoon.

Sylvan Grove Native Garden is spread over 1.5 hectares & managed by two council staff.   We met one of the staff members – a lovely enthusiastic man who obviously adores native plants & wildlife & also loves his job.  He was a wealth of information & a joy to talk with.

Seen in the rainforest section.

Seen in the rainforest section.

The entry is gorgeous & you know from the road that you are in for a treat. The entrance has gardens filled with shrubs, small trees & ground plants & a massive Scribbly gum (Eucalyptus haemastoma) stands at the gate like a pale guardian. I would not be surprised if it was a remnant tree.

Once inside the gates you take a short walk down a gravel road with impressive gardens on either side to a building that houses information about Sylvan Grove Native Garden.   The building also houses the toilets, which were clean & free of graffiti.

Complimentary insect repellent was available & the staff member suggested we take a bottle with us incase we might need to reapply. We did.  There is a rainforest in Sylvan Grove Native Garden & a massive lagoon next door & the mosquitoes lie in wait.  Don’t let this put you off though, as they are easily managed with mosquito repellent & you would not want to miss such a fantastic experience for fear of something so easily managed.   I only mention the mosquitoes for the people that think they will be okay without repellent. You wont.

Native Rhododendrons lined the path with their spectacular burnt orange-coloured flowers. Large birdbaths were visible & so were the many species of birds having a drink or a wash. I thought it was great that water was supplied for the wildlife.  If birds have water, then they stay & birds make the environment better in my opinion.

From the building you start to walk the winding path through the 1.5 hectares of gardens. The signs give you a choice of a short walk or the longer walk & gives estimated times to complete this. We were there for more than three hours because there was so much to see. We came across a few locals who walk through the gardens as daily recreation.

The long walk travels through the following areas, which include bush food, rare, endangered & special interest plants & trees –

  • Orchids
  • Acacias
  • Syzygium
  • Rain forest
  • Orchids
  • Boronias
  • Moist Gully
  • Chorizemas
  • Lookout
  • Pond.

It is a plant-lovers paradise. There are 2,500 native species gathered from all over Australia.   Some have been gained by trips by Council’s Parks & Gardens staff & some donated by the public.

I was told that September is the best time to visit because so many of the plants are in flower, especially the orchids which grow on rocks, on dead wood & high in trees. We went in October & there were still  lots of plants in flower. It was stupendous.   There was so much variety.

Something else that impressed me was that most plants & trees were labeled, making it far more informative than a simple walk through a garden.

A large birdbath - an amazing & wonderful thing for a local council to offer wildlife.

A large birdbath – an amazing & wonderful thing for a local council to offer wildlife.

Apart from the numerous birdbaths throughout the gardens, there is a good-sized pond under the trees, which provides a great water source for wildlife. I saw my first King parrots & a host of other birds & insects. We saw a Bearded Dragon & I was told Echidnas live in the grounds.  There is also a sign saying snakes live in the park, but we did not see any.

Regular birds include Cockatoos, King Parrots, Wattle birds, Eastern Spinebills, New Holland Honeyeaters, Noisy Miners, Crimson Rosellas, Eastern Rosellas, Yellow-faced Honeyeaters, Grey Fantails Willie Wagtails, Pardalotes & Rose Robins. Across at the lagoon are even more species of birds.

There were so many visual surprises & so much to learn about garden design, natives & the use of natives.

The gardens smelt beautiful & many of the flowers were perfumed. The trees were incredible & so was the dead wood that has been allowed to stay.  These have either been planted with ferns or orchids or are growing bracket fungus. I saw bracket fungus that was tray-sized.   It was good to see trees in various stages of life.

I cannot remember seeing woodchip. The ground was lovely to walk on, a cushion of decades of natural mulch.

Bird's nest ferns & orchids have been placed in trees, in dead wood, on rocks & below trees whereever there is room.  It looks fantastic.

Bird’s nest ferns & orchids have been placed in trees, in dead wood, on rocks & below trees wherever there is room. It looks fantastic.  The path is visible.

This is not a walk for people with mobility issues. Neither the ground nor the terrain is suitable for wheelchairs. There are park benches placed in places to take in a very nice view, so these offer a place to rest. The longer route does require you to walk some inclines.  Trees have not been removed because of roots infringing across paths, which I think is great. Keep aware of where you step & you are not likely to trip.  The beauty of the trees & plants are far more important than a level path.

There is a covered kiosk where you could eat lunch, but there are no wide expanses of lawn inside the gardens for people to picnic.   The gardens are suitable for children, as long as they are supervised.  Signs ask walkers to remain on the path, so as not to cause damage to the plants or the environment.

Sylvan Grove Native Garden is free entry to the public all year round during the week & on weekends in peak season.

Address: 7 Sylvan Grove, Picnic Point – about 30 minutes drive from Marrickville.   Easy parking.  Free entry.   I’d recommend taking water to drink, mosquito repellent & wearing closed shoes & a hat.

If I were to give this garden a rating it would be 11/10. Bankstown Council should be very proud for they have created a native wonderland & a very important place of education & biodiversity.

Large tall trees were everywhere.

Large tall trees were everywhere.

This is the biggest bracket fungus I have ever seen.  It was the size of a tray.  The tree itself has been removed, but they have retained the trunk & therefore the biodiversity.

This is the biggest bracket fungus I have ever seen. It was the size of a tray. The tree itself has been removed, but they have retained the trunk & therefore the biodiversity.

A Fig tree growing over a boulder.

A Fig tree growing over a boulder.

Colour & sceptres near the entrance.

Colour & sculptures near the entrance.

This tree was amazing.  It had fallen & part of the trunk had been removed.  It is still alive & new growth has started.  It offers habitat for small creatures & education to people about the resilience of trees.

This tree was amazing. It had fallen & part of the trunk had been removed, I presume because it crossed the path.  It is still alive & new growth has started.  It offers habitat for small creatures & education to people about the resilience of trees.

I was thrilled to see that this large beauty was retained.

I was thrilled to see that this large beauty was retained.

Callistemon flower

Callistemon flower

The Green Living Centre in Newtown is offering a free workshop called, ‘Talk n’ Tea: DIY Christmas Present – Seed Bombs.’

When:   Thursday 11th December 2014

Time:   5:30pm – 7:00pm

Where:   218 King Street 
Newtown

Cost:   Free

Places limited.   Register here - http://bit.ly/1rCj570

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