This year Canberra’s Floriade celebrates its 25th anniversary with an explosion of spring colour and a feast of activities, writes Helen Young.
If flowers were lollies, then Canberra’s annual Floriade would be the ultimate sweet shop. And for this year’s event, running from September 15 to October 14, there will be more than a million brightly coloured flowers on show, looking and smelling delicious, to mark the 25th year of Australia’s premier annual floral display.
Held four weeks from mid-September to mid-October, Floriade is not only spectacular, it’s also a free treat for day-time visitors. Commonwealth Park, on the shores of Lake Burley Griffin, is transformed for the event with massive garden beds crammed with spring bulbs such as tulips, hyacinths, ranunculus, daffodils and irises. Each bit of spare space between is filled with violas, pansies, tiny daisies and other flowering annuals. The colour combinations swing from giddy to gaudy but never lack the wow factor. This is eye candy at its horticultural best.
Each year Floriade has a different theme – for 2012 it’s Style and Design – that is interpreted in the floral designs. Viewing platforms and a giant ferris wheel help visitors fully appreciate the patterns. From the best vantage point, high atop the ferris wheel, the blocks and swirls of colour are laid out like fabulous carpets. The setting is beautiful, with a backdrop of the serene lake mirroring Canberra’s landmark buildings and the natural beauty of the park surrounds.
Floriade will come alive after dark for five magical nights for the annual NightFest, from September 26 to 30. Nightfest offers a totally different perspective on the floral displays. Special lighting effects change constantly, illuminating the flower beds as well as the tree canopies and skies above. Take a picnic along to the outdoor cinema or be entertained by stand-up comics, DJs and live bands performing to different themes each night. Sip cocktails under the stars, watch fire-twirling buskers or shop at the bustling night markets. With plenty of food stalls to choose from, you won’t go hungry. Nightfest tickets cost $25 for adults and $50 for a family pass.
Floriade features a series of display gardens, created by local landscapers and designers, which present ideas on outdoor living and entertaining. In the Floriade Gourmet Garden, you’ll see and hear expert sessions on growing, harvesting, preparing and sharing fresh, seasonal food. In the Look ‘n ‘Learn marquee, workshops and demonstrations offer the chance to learn about flower arranging, water savings and minimising your environmental footprint, among other things. In another marquee, flowers and fashion combine in the Passion for Fashion competition, where students create incredible floral gowns. In Kids Corner, there are fun workshops, rides and the Bally circus troupe, and the littles can pat baby farm animals. Buskers, community performance groups, school bands, stilt walkers and other roaming performers entertain throughout the day.
For more information, including accommodation options, packages, maps, brochures, events and details of things to see and do call, 132 281 or visit www.floriadeaustralia.com.
TERMS AND CONDITIONS
Entries close 11.59pm (AEST) on 9 September 2012. Open to NSW residents only aged 18 years and over. One entry permitted per person. Prize does not include travel to and from the departure point. Prize is tickets only on the Murrays Coach to Canberra from Sydney only. For full terms, click here. Please see www.acpmagazines.com.au for location of privacy notice. The Promoter is ACP Magazines Ltd (ABN 18 053 273 546)
Murrays also has a Floriade web special. Travel from Sydney to Canberra for $59* per person return.
Floriade facts and figures
*For this year’s designs, 506,000 bulbs and 540,000 annuals were ordered 12 months previously.
*Work starts in February when designed is marked out on the turf.
*Around 3200 cubic metres of growing media is brought in to create raised beds.
*Planting of bulbs and annuals starts in April and continues until the end of May.
*After planting, plants are given liquid fertiliser every three to four weeks
*After Floriade ends, volunteers are offered some of the plants, then remaining blooms are cut and sent to hospitals and nursing homes.
*The area is re-turfed by November, using more than 20,000 square metres of turf rolls.
A dedicated team of gardeners works daily to keep the displays looking fresh and pristine. Any damaged plants are replaced, edges are raked and pots watered. And the task of dead-heading is continuous. How do you cut off the dead flowers in a garden bed that’s 10 metres wide? Believe it or not, you tiptoe through the tulips (all 78 varieties of them). Garden staff need to have good balance, flexibility and – we suspect – small feet!