Tuesday, August 11, 2020

Sandstone springwatch 2020, Wollombi Valley

Patersonia sericea©AP

People often ask about our place in the Australian bush in the Wollombi Valley. In contrast to my beloved English cottage garden, this wide treescape with its soaring sandstone ridges and deep valleys is a little harder to explain, especially when I talk about the plants.

Sandstone cliffs, our place. ©AP

While the wider view is fabulous, hidden here in the woods are treasures that are often hard to spot. I've been cataloguing the native plants and wildlife here since we came in the 1990s, always particularly excited about orchids and the beautiful carpets of Patersonia (flag irises) that appear in spring.  I have a ton of reference books, but some of the plants come in many varieties ... !

The irises like certain parts of the property and knowing if they are flowering takes a little guesswork – they like a warm sunny morning so it's not hard to harness the energy and take off for the 30-minute walk around the ridge to see if they are flowering. I thought the anomalies between one area and another were solely the shade or the soil, then I realised there were two varieties. The first to show is Patersonia glabrata, usually standing shoulder-to-shoulder on tufted stems, but razed to the ground by a very hot fire (aided and abetted by the dropping of incendiaries!) three years ago this spring. While the ground is still barren, the irises have re-appeared and I hope will thicken out to cover the hillside as before. This is the first of the 2020 season - a little early?  They are on a very sheltered, north-facing sandy slope. I don't think it is Patersonia fragilis as that's rare.

Patersonia glabrata, Leafy Purple Flag. ©AP

The top block is flat and the irises bloom later there. On closer inspection in other years I found that they are a different type, patersonia sericea. These aren't out yet, but hopefully soon. Note the tufted stem:

Patersonia sericea.  Photo: October 2016. ©AP

Meanwhile  I've seen tiny Pterostylis – greenhood orchids again for the first time since our fire. Over the years I've seen several different varieties and they are notoriously similar so difficult to pin down. As a friend said, they resemble little triffids and it's hard to think of them as orchids. These have little 'waists' and are green and white.

Pterostylis, Greenhoods, July 2020. ©AP

Next to erupt throughout the bush has been the Hardenbergia vine, a vivid purple people pleaser, seen here blooming over a burnt area that's still struggling to recover even after three years.

Hardenbergia. ©AP
There are more plants in bud and the birds are gathering. So thrilled to have seen the white goshawk again today for the first time for years! Also spied this Wonga vine, Pandorea pandorana:

Pandorea pandorana, Wonga vine. August 2020. ©AP

Thursday, August 6, 2020

Revving up for 'The Motorcycle: Design, Art, Desire' at QAGOMA.

Brisbane Gallery of Modern Art
28 November-26 April, 2021

Featuring over 100 motorcycles from treasures of the past to the electric bikes of the future, this summer exhibition is world exclusive curated by US-based design curator/physicist Professor Charles M. Falco and writer/filmmaker Ultan Guilfoyle in collaboration with Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art (QAGOMA).

 Indian Scout Streamliner 1920. Courtesy Clyde Crouch Collection.
Photograph: Robert Laprelle.

The exhibition explores pioneering motorcycles including the steam-powered 1870 Perreaux Vélocipède à vapeur, on loan from Paris, classic commuters, off-road bikes, custom creations and futuristic designs such as the Savic C-Series Alpha 2020 release from Australian Dennis Savic.

Savic 2020. Courtesy Savic Motorcycles.
Photograph: Jason Lau.

QAGOMA Director Chris Saines says, ‘The Motorcycle’ offers multiple interactive experiences for visitors of all ages and it includes a green screen motorcycle riding experience, a motorcycle design studio where you can build and customise your own virtual bike and a mobile companion site to help you navigate 150 years of motorcycle design history and learn the stories behind each of the bikes on display.'

Harley-Davidson Chopper c. 1973 (engine 1941). Private collection, Mackay.
Photograph: Andrew Beavis.

Highlights will include:

A rare 1906 Spencer, one of the very earliest Australian motorcycles designed and manufactured in Auchenflower, Brisbane;

A 1920 Indian Scout “Munro Special” created by the legendary NZ rider Burt Munro;

A 1927 Harley-Davidson FHA 8-valve speedway racer with sidecar;

The 1951 Vincent Black Lightning that set an Australian land speed record in its day and more recently a world record for the highest price paid at auction for a motorcycle;

Impressive speed machines such as a 1916 Indian 8-valve board track racer, a 1974 Ducati 750SS and a 1994 Britten V1000, created by New Zealand design engineer, John Britten;

The 2016 Dakar winning KTM Rally 450 motorcycle ridden by celebrated Australian motorsport champion Toby Price;

Accompanying the exhibition is a major film program screening in the Gallery’s Australian Cinémathèque that includes classics such as The Great Escape 1963 starring Steve McQueen and contemporary interpretations of motorcycle culture captured in films such as Akira 1988, The Motorcycle Diaries 2004 and Finke: There and Back 2018.

‘The Motorcycle’ is accompanied by a hardcover 320 page book co-published with Phaidon. Celebrating the history and future of the motorcycle, the book includes images of the motorcycles featured in the exhibition and essays from the exhibition co-curators. Purchase at GOMA store or online at

Tickets to 'The Motorcycle: Design, Art, Desire' are now on sale at

'The Motorcycle: Design, Art, Desire' is supported by the Queensland Government through Tourism and Events Queensland and features on the It's Live! in Queensland events calendar.

Source: QAGOMA media news release.

Vespa GS150 1960. Courtesy Vespa House and Frank Tonon.
Photograph: Anne -Marie de Boni.

Sunday, July 26, 2020

Janet Luxton Online Exhibition, Paintings & Works on Paper, Australian Galleries

Yellow Tailed Black Cockatoo 2019 by Janet Luxton ©
Oil on Belgian linen, 120cm x 175cm
One of my favourite artists is Janet Luxton and I'm excited to see her current online exhibition with Australian Galleries. I often look at Janet's art and love her animals, cockatoos and other birds, not to mention the detail of works such as these lobsters.
Lobsters 2004 by Janet Luxton©
Etching and aquatint, 59.5cm x 85cm

Fat-Tailed Dunnart – Under Siege 2020 by Janet Luxton ©
Oil on Belgian linen, 150cm x 115cm
Janet studied painting at the San Fransisco Art Institute with photorealist artist Richard McLean and studied etching and other printmaking techniques with Arik Kilemnick at the Jerusalem Print Workshop in Israel.

Yeni Cami, Istanbul, by Janet Luxton ©
Etching and aquatint, 30cm x 30cm

Monday, July 6, 2020

Million Stars Hotel - Forget Counting Sheep

How uplifting! These inspiring images just came through on a release from Switzerland Tourism and I'm in love! Not a great fan of skiing, I get my mountain fixes in the summer and these places look like they tick the boxes. If only I could go now ...!

Summer in Switzerland and reopening borders mean some lucky souls can stay in 50 rooms around the country in amazing locations with uninterrupted sky views!  Named the Million Stars Hotel, locations feature views of the mountains, lakes, rivers, the countryside or cities with accommodation in the likes of gondolas, bubble tents, pods, tree tents, huts, exposed beds, rooftops and more.

Chosen by Switzerland Tourism for their characteristics and exceptional locales, 33 of these “rooms” are situated along the 'Grand Tour of Switzerland'. “Forget about counting sheep,” says Martin Nydegger, CEO of Switzerland Tourism. “During the Swiss summers, people can now enjoy counting stars from the comfort of these cosy rooms instead. This is relaxation at its purest!”

Available from now until end October 2020, the Million Stars Hotel will be open for booking again in summer 2021. Price guide between CFH80 - CHF800 (AUD122-1233), see Bookings.

Source: Press release.

Monday, June 8, 2020

But first into the blue, Pearl Beach NSW


Just glorious. Sunset foreshore walk from Pearl Beach enjoying the fascinating rock pool formations as well as the views to Lion Island (left) and Palm Beach.

Sunday, June 7, 2020

Into the green, Hunter Valley NSW

View from the ridge. ©AP
Just the place to soothe the mind, feed the soul. Ready for the next chapter ... writing about our beautiful Wollombi Valley and beyond. So many stories ...