Dandenong Delight

I spent what I thought was an inordinate amount of time in the garden as a child.  My mother loved gardens, with a major passion, and if I was ever foolish enough to say I was bored, in 2 seconds flat she had me on some form of garden job.  I figured that by the time I was 14, I was ‘gardened out’.  So visiting gardens has never been on the top of my to-do list.  The odd botanical garden visit in new cities, or walking around a friend’s garden as she has shown me her new Amorphophallus titanum (exactly!). Now that I’m getting involved in veggies, and native food plants, I’ve started having a sneaking interest in plants,  for their pragmatic qualities.

However, a friend took me to a couple of her favourite gardens in the Dandenong Ranges just outside Melbourne, and we had a lovely wander though a very formal garden, a wild garden and possibly the most formal of gardens, a bonsai nursery.  The beauty of these places, the serenity and relaxation they bring, the appreciation of the work that has gone into them, and gentle refreshing of the soul has made me consider that maybe I should be on the lookout for more open gardens to wander in.

(But please don’t ask me to work in them…)




Posted by DeborahH in Australia, Community, conservation, Gardens, Melbourne, Nature, Travel, Weekends, 0 comments

Run-away weekend – Hobart

Hobart is at the bottom end of the world – not so far from the Antarctic – with that potential of Roaring 40s weather, and snow.  It was settled originally by the Palawa people, and later by the British when setting up convict colonies, and outposts to stop the French from further colonisation. It’s Australia’s second oldest city, with plenty of convict remnants about.  Not only that, it is has the steep, rocky Mt Wellington guarding it.

But those facts are all very well, but is it a good city to visit?  Oh yeah!  It’s an energetic vibrant city, and has one of the best private museums I’ve ever been to. MONA is on a must visit list every time I head Hobart way.  Twice a year Hobart also holds the MOFO celebrations, with Dark MOFO the winter celebration – but more about that next post. This one focuses on a short weekend enjoying MONA and the Farm Gate markets.

Posted by DeborahH in Art, Australia, conservation, Cultural dimensions, Exhibitions, Tasmania, Weekends, 0 comments
If Wishes were (Sea) Horses

If Wishes were (Sea) Horses

I was one of those horse crazy girls – to the extent that if I saw a stray horse, I’d have my school tights off in a flash to make a bridle, and bring the horse home to protect it from being run over. Must have driven my parents nuts.  However, older, wiser and living on a small house block in the middle of town really prevents my horse dreams… but is there another way??

Ohhh, maybe….  Seahorse World in Beauty Point has thousands (millions?) of (sea) horses, and has created a fabulous industry in exporting these black and white, dappled and grey beauties of the underwater world to the world. Small industries like this fascinate me.  A beautiful niche market, but with such reach, and open to the public to wander through.

The company has a breeding program for the Tasmanian seahorses, as well as a program to breed specific colours.  Seahorses can change colour, but apparently not as camouflage (maybe it’s just a yellow kind of day?).  They are found all over the world, but the majority live below the equator, and around Tasmania, a careful check of the kelp beds can help you find your very own horse.

Every child is taught that seahorse dads (stallions?) are the responsible parent, carrying the babies after fertilisation until birth.  Mum specifically looks for a dad with the biggest pot-belly as a partner, and very quickly hands over all of the fertilised eggs and swims off to graze another day.  Around a thousand ‘foals’ can be born, looking like wee, little wriggly specks in the water.  Out in the ocean, this is a dangerous time.  They grow very quickly, and in specially designed tanks to mimic their home environments (warm for the tropical types, a touch on the chilly side for the tougher Tasmanian breeds), they can live for up to four years.

Watching these fascinating creatures prance about, attempt to strangle each other, and feed was amazing.   Patting a seahorse is not quite the same, but without the risk of a solid kick, or a squashed foot.

Which one will you choose?

Posted by DeborahH in Australia, conservation, Fun, Human-nature interaction, Tasmania, Tourism, Weekends, 0 comments
One day in Bruny (Island that is..)

One day in Bruny (Island that is..)

Bruny Island is a lovely little island off the south coast of Tasmania, not far from the Huon Valley.  Access is via a car ferry, and sailings are regular.  A very easy place to spend some time, checking out the winery, the whisky and gin distiller, the oyster shack, cheese factory and all sorts of other food places.

But, being an island, it’s also surrounded by ocean, and if you kept going south you’d hit the Antarctic.  I didn’t plan on going that far, but instead opted for an adventure, travelling on a combination of a boat and rubber duckie, down the east coast.  The brochures promised rocky outcrops, sea animals and birds, and lovely seascapes.  A brilliant morning and a reasonably calm sea (for the Roaring 40s) made the start of our adventure lovely.

Later the winds rose, and the sea became very choppy, so we were very glad we hadn’t booked in for the afternoon adventure – it could have been a little too adventurous, and we’d have missed out on entering some of the little rocky inlets or getting up close and personal with sea caves.

Were there animals and birds – yes… by the boat load. A large Australian fur seal haul out (ie hangout for seals when they aren’t breeding), albatross, sea gulls, Pacific gulls, cormorants…

A lovely day out, followed by chatting to a local, and eating as many oysters as we could fit in at a local oyster shack.


Posted by DeborahH in Australia, conservation, Fun, Nature, Tourism, Weekends, 0 comments
Why Tasmania? Highland country.

Why Tasmania? Highland country.

A long weekend away, staying in a “shack” (Taswegian for holiday home), complete with views through the trees to the Great Lake, and watching the snow clouds come in – what more could you want in winter? The Highland Lakes region is beautiful, with alpine vegetation, dolorite rocks covered in moss and lichen, trees twisted and sculpted by the wind, and the lakes themselves carved out by glaciers.

We arrived the day before trout season opened, so the tiny local shops were busy – in a very laid back, “how’s it going, where’re you headed” way – selling lures, and snow hats. The local hotels had roaring fires to warm the travellers, fishers, and hunters up as they waited for their ‘parmies’. “Parmies” are a very Tasmanian delight – chicken in pyjamas (or bread coating if you must be precise) and deep fried. Hunting season also meant that I could warm up with a rich venison casserole.

Our shack was modern, and heated with a fire that was hard to leave, especially as the chilly evening drew in. Scudding showers made sitting and chatting with friends over a few wines a great alternative to going too far, although we did visit the Wall in the Wilderness.  The early history of the highlands carved a panel at a time in Huon pine over 12 years was fascinating.

The snow chains had a nice workout on our way home through the back roads, and down side roads that we wanted to explore. The Highland Lakes will be seeing more of me, in winter and summer!

Posted by DeborahH in Australia, conservation, Nature, Road trip, Tasmania, Travel, Weekends, 1 comment


I was asked recently “Why Tasmania?” as a place to live when I returned from China.  My number 1 answer is always – SNOW!!  But there are a number of other answers that add to why I have chosen Tasmania, including having ocean views from most of my windows that others pay quadruple the price for, proximity to work (5 minutes walk) and spectacular inland scenery within 10 minutes drive.  Tasmania is a smallish island, so if you feel energetic you can drive from the north to the south and back again in one day.  I also felt attuned to Tassie as people here have interesting histories, a different (island?) outlook on life. Many are refugees from the big cities, and others have generations of stories to tell. Tasmania was also in the forefront of the green movement, with what is recognised as the world’s first Green Party beginning here. For me, the use of photography as a driver for the Lake Pedder dam protests is yet another proof of the power of photography to bring about social change.  So, as a beginning to my “Why Tasmania?” intermittent series I offer a tribute to those photographers – Olegas Truchanas and Peter Dombrovskis.

Posted by DeborahH in Australia, conservation, Daily Life, Forestry, Human-nature interaction, Tasmania, 0 comments