ACT News


Canberra Bells to make our day

What a tragedy it will be, horticulturally acute Canberrans, if there's nothing gaily in flower in your gardens or on your apartment balconies on our city's Centenary Day, March 12, 2013. But wait! With one canny purchase you can avoid this catastrophe, affirm your love of our young metropolis and of your continent's amazing flora, and, if she's looking down, gladden the heart of Marion Mahony Griffin.

For Canberra's centenary shrub, the Correa ''Canberra Bells'' has just gone on sale in discerning plant nurseries. One of its many virtues is that, like lots of Australian natives, it begins to flower in late summer and then flowers on towards winter. This virtue, that everyone's Canberra Bells will be in flower on March 12, 2013 (I've got two young ones and they're in flower as I write) is one reason why it won the centenary guernsey.

Your columnist played some tiny part in evangelising for an Australian native centenary plant after being left what the tabloids call ''ashen-faced'' by the discovery of plans to have as our birthday plant only another mouldy, unAustralia old rose. Then I played a tiny part as a member of a panel that chose this fabulously floriferous Correa from among a cast of several dandies created by Peter Ollerenshaw at his nursery at Bywong.

The only boring thing about this shrub is its name. Why not a name that embraced some Canberra history?

Why not Correa ''Marion's Magic'' after Marion Mahony Griffin, so vital to our city and a woman who loved Australia's flora?

Or why not Correa ''Gertrude's Glory'' after Gertrude Lady Denman, the announcer of our city's name on March 12, 1913?


Ollerenshaw said yesterday that Canberra Bells is a hybrid made from the mating of two other kinds of creditable Correas. Alas, Ollerenshaw's detailed description of the process (with lots of steamy talk of ''nice long filaments'') is too pornographic for a family column. Facilitation couldn't be left to the birds and big insects that do these things for Correas in the wild because that would have been too random for what Ollerenshaw was trying to do. And so the two consenting, mating Correa species had to be found a room together.

Ollerenshaw said that although every new hybrid ''gets me excited'', it was obvious as soon at this one flowered that it was rather special. Now it's being sold all over Australia and always with the label proudly proclaiming its Canberra centenary significance. And there are plans afoot to try to sell it in Japan where, because Canberra Bells works so well in a pot, people are expected to buy it and hand it to the objects of their affections still in its pot, rather as here in Australia we gladden someone's heart with a bunch of cut roses, gerberas or gladdies.

Blandfordia in the 'burbs

Last week's reference to the early suburb of Blandfordia (Walter Burley Griffin and Marion Mahony Griffin gave it that beautiful botanical name in about 1915, but the government changed it to Forrest in 1927) has prodded lots of history-conscious readers into wakefulness.

One advises that, yes, Blandfordia was a real place with all of the qualities of a suburb, including having its own football team that played its home matches at a Blandfordia oval.

In the poignant Christmas 1925 edition of Canberra Illustrated (poignant because this optimistic-sounding first edition of the Illustrated was to be its last) every nuance of the 1925 season of the Federal Territory Football League (Australian rules) was reported.

Canberra was tiny with not many able-bodied chaps to make football teams from (and lots of them public servants prone to being whisked in and out of Canberra without much warning). And so the creation of the four-team league was a plucky early attempt to plant that great boon of civilisation, Australian rules, in early Canberra's thin and stony soil. Blandfordia had a petal-bruising 1925 season. Did a team named after a flower perhaps have a psychological disadvantage in such a manly game? It won only one match and finished the season last with four points (behind Federals on 40, Acton on 24 and Queanbeyan on 16).

It would be lovely to be able to report that while Blandfordia was the worst team it was by far the prettiest, wearing a bright red and yellow strip that echoed the spectacular flowers the suburb was named after. Alas, the Blandfordia strip was an unremarkable yellow and black.

The eternal tensions (continuing today) between refined Canberra and rough Queanbeyan reared their ugly head in 1925's first semi-final played at Blandfordia's paddock.

Queanbeyan's initial 45-33 victory over Federals was later overturned when officialdom agreed with Federals' indignant protest that Queanbeyan had brought in ''ineligible players'' for this crucial match.

Federals, awarded that match, and then perhaps riding a wave of righteousness, crunched Acton 52-24 in the 1925 grand final.