Pride of Madeira (and bees!)

I love those pink/purple stamens sticking out.

On a visit to the Royal Botanic Garden Sydney a couple of weeks ago, I came across a very large planting of Pride of Madeira (Echium candicans)*. The large flower spikes are at about eye level — and the bees absolutely loved them. I was very glad these were non-aggressive bees!

It’s interesting how the flowers appear in spirals.

Let me at that pollen!

The photo below is a crop of the one above, to zero in on the bee. That “pollen basket” (thanks to Jude for introducing me to that term) is so blue that it looks like an enamelled jewel adorning the bee’s leg.

This bee is kind of cute with its hairy front.

*Don’t be too impressed by my plant knowledge — being a botanic garden, everything has a label. 🙂


Familiar but strange

This is a photo I never thought I would ever take! There is usually a mass of people walking here, with waiters dashing back and forth across the flow from the restaurants on the right to the outside seating beyond the pillars on the left.

On Sunday I ventured out of my immediate neighbourhood for the first time in weeks. I took the ferry from my local wharf (I’ve never seen more than a handful of people of that route, so social distancing was absurdly easy) to Circular Quay, where I stepped into an alternative universe: the buildings were all there, but the vast majority of people had been stripped away. My goal was the botanic garden (still open in the lockdown, although all its buildings and cafes are closed) and the easiest route is to walk along the quay and past the opera house. All so unthinkingly familiar — but this time, also so very strange.

I generally scurry along this stretch, dodging dawdlers and tourists. No need for that now.

Where are the hundreds of restaurant tables?

The next shock was the forlorn, stripped-down Opera Bar. This place I avoid like the plague — so noisy, so crowded!

Opera Bar — no tables, no chairs, no bar, certainly no people.

Looking back at Opera Bar from the other end. I’ve never taken a photo with all the people; the one on the right, below, is from

I then walked around the opera house, rather than crossing in front. At the harbour end, I encountered one other person; there are usually dozens here.

At the harbour end of the opera house.

It was time to head for the gardens. My ferry is only hourly, and this eerie ghost town with its memories of happier times was not somewhere I wanted to have to kill time if I carelessly missed my return. I took one look at the hordes on the main path that runs along the water and chose another route.

And indeed, away from the harbour, the gardens were fairly deserted, and as lovely as ever.

Bridge and birds of paradise.

Something bushy sticking through a fence.

Bonus points if you spotted the man up the tree!

This is the approach to the cafe. A lovely spot, with good food (and it’s licensed).

These chairs and tables are usually spread all over this area, full of people.

This looks like a painting, doesn’t it? The reflections give everything an undefined look.

More reflections.

Clumps of plants, backlit by the low autumn sun.

The various little buildings where you might sit with a group are closed.

But the benches are still open! I sat here for a while.

This protea caught my eye while I was sitting. Protea Cyanoides ‘Little Prince’, according to its sign.

Usually, after a stroll around the gardens I’d finish off with a glass of bubbly at Portside, another venue at the opera house but much quieter and more civilised than Opera Bar.

No bubbly at Portside this time, alas. Certainly quiet, however!

So it was back on the ferry and home again.

Heading home.

Posted as part of Jo’s Monday Walk. (I see she has a cheese fest this week, oh yes!)



Tomato Festival

A celebration of tomatoes.

A celebration of tomatoes.

In February, a friend and I went to the Tomato Festival at the Royal Botanic Gardens in Sydney. There were tomatoes to taste, tomatoes to eat, tomatoes to drink, cooking and canning classes, a food market — a veritable celebration of tomatoes! And there were many more people than I expected for such a quirky event.

There was tomato artwork in the form of a mandala (a circular figure representing the universe in Hindu and Buddhist symbolism), albeit with non-tomato elements.

Mandala made with tomatoes and friends.

Mandala made with tomatoes and friends.


I arrived before my friend, and indulged in something sweet while waiting.

Time to taste!

Tomato Festival tasting. Grab your toothpick and get stuck in!

We both agreed that this was our favourite:

Brown Berry

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Fountains: Sydney Whatever – Sensory Fountain

Sensory Fountain  Royal Botanic Gardens Sydney

When wet, this spherical fountain is as reflective as glass.

I’ve always loved this spherical fountain in Sydney’s Royal Botanic Gardens, but had no idea it was known as the Sensory Fountain until I looked it up online for this post.

Sensory Fountain  Royal Botanic Gardens Sydney

The whole fountain, sheeted with water and as reflective as a mirror ball. I’m the small spec in the middle, between two white shrubs.

“A spherical fountain designed to be touched, seen and heard — water begins to flow as you approach. Designed for the Herb Garden in 1994 by Victorian artist Tim Jones and made by Dave Mune at the Art Foundry in Victoria. The fountain is surrounded by a bronze ring of herbs drawn by Gardens’ illustrator Marion Westmacott. Donated by the Australian Bank Ltd to commemorate their 10th anniversary and the 175th anniversary of the Royal Botanic Gardens.” source

Sensory Fountain  Royal Botanic Gardens Sydney

The water has just begun to burble from the top and is flowing along the sphere.

November’s fountain challenge theme is Typical for your Region, but I’ve morphed it into a joint effort with December’s theme of Whatever and am going with Sydney Whatever for two months.



Fountain Series: Stately – The Governor Phillip Fountain

The Governor Phillip Fountain, Royal Botanic Gardens, Sydney

The Governor Phillip Fountain, Royal Botanic Gardens, Sydney

A fountain such as this one is a big, bold public statement, but at its heart it’s all about the water — and if you click here you’ll see a much larger version of the header image in which the spouting water has been frozen for an instance of time, bright and glittering like misshapen droplets of glass caught in a spotlight.

Jim from Sydney – City and Surrounds has already described the fountain perfectly, so I hope he doesn’t mind if I quote him: “The Governor Phillip Fountain is located in the Royal Botanic Gardens, close to Macquarie Street. It was created by the Italian sculptor Achille Simonetti and unveiled in 1897 to honour Captain Arthur Phillip, the first Governor of New South Wales. This magnificent 15.24 metre high fountain features a marble pedestal for the 4.5 metre bronze statue of Captain Phillip. The pedestal features three reliefs of Justice, Patriotism and Education. Below the pedestal are the reclining bronze figures of Neptune (Navigation), Agriculture, Cyclops (Mining) and Commerce. The four marble consoles are embellished with bronze plaques of Aboriginal people. Between the figures are four giant marble clam shells each surmounted by bronze prows of ships and twin giant sea serpents which feed water into the white marble basins.”

Sea serpents on the Governor Phillip Fountain, Royal Botanic Gardens, Sydney

Sea serpents on the Governor Phillip Fountain, Royal Botanic Gardens, Sydney

As much as I love those sea serpents, I would really prefer not to encounter one in real life!

October’s fountain theme is Stately.


fountain in botanic gardens Sydney