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Parliament House opens its secret gardens for beautiful autumn tours

Vaseline 2 months ago

people stand under a tree in autumn leaves

Each of the building’s 17 courtyards is designed to create a “different feeling.” Photo: Australian Parliament Building.

It’s almost budget time for the federal government, which means Treasurer Jim Chalmers will be standing in the Senate courtyard in front of the cameras and microphones to touting the government’s financial performance over the past year, and what the coming years will bring.

But a lot of attention will also be drawn to what is behind him.

The ‘Budget Tree’, as it has become known, is a red maple that shows its most vibrant fall colors in early May, when it provides the backdrop for the Treasurer of the Day.

A few days earlier, on May 3 and 4, you’ll get the chance to take a selfie with the famous tree when Parliament House opens many of its forbidden courtyards to the public for its autumn tours.

Guides lead groups of twenty people through the courtyards on Friday and Saturday, so that participants can enjoy all the colors of the exotic trees planted everywhere.

Interpretation services manager Catherine Roach says it is a chance to enjoy the landscape design, plant selection and sculptures behind the white walls of Parliament House.

Oh, the peace and quiet. Photo: Australian Parliament Building.

All told, there are approximately 4,500 trees and 135,000 shrubs spread across the site, and 17 courtyards woven throughout the building’s ground level. Most are private and others are only visible from the building. Others appear only occasionally on the news.

“Many of the courtyards are used by the press gallery,” Catherine explains.

“They come down and interview parliamentarians and that’s quite often what we see on television.”

The original design vision was to provide MPs and other staff with places where they could “just come out and sit in a quiet, reflective space”.

“It’s a wonderful space to have lunch and have fun chance encounters with other people who work here.”

Each of the courtyards has been designed to provide a “different feel” and complement the building’s architecture, Catherine explains, while also celebrating different aspects of Canberra’s seasons.

“A lot of thought went into the landscape and how the courtyards would accommodate the seasonal changes through a variety of trees.”

There are also practical and symbolic factors.

“The courtyards also allow a lot of natural light into the building, which is interesting in terms of the openness and transparency we have here as the home of democracy in Australia.”

young people on a tour of the parliament building

The tours last one hour each. Photo: Michael Masters, Australian Parliament Building.

Spring and autumn tours are held every year, and of course the emphasis at this time of year is on those areas shaded by a “canopy of red and gold leaves”. And yes, that also includes the Budget Tree.

“We chose these two beautiful days in May because our garden team says this is the time when the Budget Tree will appear in its most beautiful burgundy color,” says Catherine.

The tours take place on Friday, May 3 and Saturday, May 4 at 10:00 AM, 11:00 AM and 2:00 PM and each last one hour.

The cost is $38 for an adult and $29 for a concession. A refreshment pack for an additional $10 includes discount on a scone and hot drink in the Queen’s Terrace Café.

Visit the Australian Parliament House website for more information.

Original article published by James Coleman on Riotact.