Bonsai at the National Arboretum in Canberra

Pictured above are just a few of the beautiful bonsai plants we viewed in the National Bonsai and Penjing collection of Australia.  Situated at the National Arboretum in Canberra, this collection – the best bonsai exhibition in Australia – has trees from almost every country represented, including Chinese elm, cedar, maple, banksia, angophora and paperbark.
This amazing exhibition, which is carefully tended by enthusiastic and very knowledgeable volunteers, usually has about 80 bonsai on display.
Australian natives make up about 20 per cent of the exhibition, and I was particularly impressed with the banksia bonsai (which is featured above).


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Mt Ettalong Lookout

Mt Ettalong Lookout is a 1.4km return hike which takes about 30 minutes to complete. This short walk, with great views and easy access through the bush, takes you from a large water tank along an old trail to a fenced lookout platform with views over Umina Beach. 

Numerous unofficial lookouts lead off the main trail, revealing stunning coastal scenery. Great views can be seen from this rock platform overlooking Pearl Beach, with Lion Island and Pittwater in the distance.  

Banksia integrifolia (above), commonly known as coast banksia, are growing in profusion in this exposed area near the lookout.

The Grass tree Xanthorrhoea, which grows from 1-5m in height, is a uniquely Australian plant. In the above photo the grass trees grow happily among the rocks and look amazing with the spreading branches of the Sydney red gums.

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Banksia Picnic Area at Strickland State Forest

Located on the Central Coast of New South Wales, the Banksia picnic area in Strickland State Forest is a good school holiday destination.  It’s a great place to enjoy the natural bushland and go for a leisurely walk on one of the many walking tracks, or just relax and have a picnic.
The Banksia picnic area has picnic tables, fire pits and a large area for children to play. They can make a swing, a bush Teepee/cubby house, or a fairy house – like the one made by our granddaughters (pictured above).

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Strickland state forest NSW

Fire-pit at Banksia picnic area
A covered table at Banksia picnic area
Views from the Strickland Falls track
A mossy creek on the Strickland Falls track

Strickland State Forest is a 10 minute drive from Gosford on the Central Coast of New South Wales. It has extensive walking tracks through varying forest types – past waterfalls, under cabbage tree palms and along creeks.
There are excellent facilities at Banksia Picnic Area, including picnic tables and wood burning pit-fires. A short walk from the picnic area is a large rock platform with views to Gosford and Brisbane Waters. This area is also the starting point for some of the walking tracks, which were built and are maintained by the Friends of Strickland (a volunteer group).
Gymea lilies, waratahs, rock orchids, ferns, banksias, and cabbage tree palms – as well as creeks, waterfalls and rainforests – can all be viewed along the walking tracks.
Our family have been gathering at the Banksia picnic area for more than 30 years, to celebrate special occasions, or just because we want to have a family get-together, light the fire, have a barbecue and go for a walk.

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Picton Botanic Gardens, NSW

White-faced Heron
Copper-clad Bee Bell

Returning from a driving trip to the south coast of New South Wales, we decided to stop and have lunch in Picton. Following a street sign to the botanic gardens, we found the ideal lunch spot and spent an hour enjoying the walking tracks.
Many birds and ducks, including the White-faced Heron, were enjoying the pond.
Featured in the gardens were three sculptural Bee Bells, launched as part of Pollinator Week 2016. The bell (pictured above) was built on a wire frame and clad in shaped copper pieces with a clay cob centre. Designed to be a habitat for bees, the bells hang gracefully from Casuarina trees in a cool sheltered area of the gardens.
Established in 1986, the Picton Botanical Gardens covers 4.1kms and has 90% Native Australian Plantings.

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Sulphur-crested cockatoos

Picture taken by my 11-year-old granddaughter.

Surveying the world from the branches of a Melaleuca quinquenervia, commonly known as the broad-leaved paperbark, are these Sulphur-crested cockatoos.
A common sight in suburbia on the central coast of New South Wales, the Sulphur-crested cockatoo is a large white parrot. It has a dark grey-black bill, a distinctive sulphur-yellow crest and a yellow wash on the underside of the wings. This is a noisy, conspicuous and highly intelligent cockatoo.  Its diet consists of berries, seeds, nuts and roots.
This beautiful 40 year old paperbark has grown to a medium-sized tree of about 20metres – large for the front garden of a suburban block. It has provided shade and amusement for the children who love climbing on the sturdy branches, swinging from an attached swing and writing messages on the peeling bark.

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Strangler Figs at Sea Acres Rainforest Centre

The strangler fig starts life as a tiny seed in the rainforest canopy.  It begins to grow on the forest floor and as it grows, the fig gradually wraps itself  around a host tree.
These strangler figs we viewed from the boardwalk at the Sea Acres Rainforest Centre near Port Macquarie, make an interesting pattern on their host trees as they grow and widen, their size and strength evident as they slowly surround the host’s trunk.

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Epiphytes at Sea Acres Rainforest Centre

Look up into the canopy as you walk on the boardwalk at Sea Acres Rainforest centre, and you can see the Staghorns, Elkhorns, Birds Nest Ferns and Ribbon Ferns growing high up on the tree branches.  These plants are called Epiphytes and grow on host trees but are not parasitic.
The long leaves of a Ribbon Fern in my photo are growing from an Elkhorn, while another tree is supporting a Birds Nest Fern.

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Ninox – at Sea Acres Rainforest Centre

Apart from the wonderful rainforest to be seen from the boardwalk, there are some amazing sculptures at the Sea Acres National Park.
A sculpture by Stephen King of Ninox, the powerful owl, is part of a memorial to Boyd Laut, who was a senior national park ranger.  The owl, larger than life, greets you in an open-air classroom on the boardwalk.
I couldn’t resist including this photo I took of a curled frond on the branch of a Tree Fern, which reminds me of an owl with its large eyes and head slightly turned.

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Sea Acres Rainforest Centre

Close to Port Macquarie is the Sea Acres National Park.  This 76 hectare park has an easy 1.3km boardwalk through the subtropical rainforest canopy.
Majestic cabbage tree palms growing beside the walkway and vibrant birds nest ferns deep in the undergrowth made this walk a photographers paradise.
After our walk we enjoyed a delicious lunch on the deck at the Rainforest Cafe, which is surrounded by trees and palms.


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