Floriade is Australia’s biggest celebration of spring. This iconic Canberra event, which is now in its 27th year, runs for 30 days over the months of September and October. It showcases over a million flowers in bloom throughout Canberra’s Commonwealth Park, and entry is free. iiNet is a proud event partner of this spectacular festival that welcomes more than 400,000 local, interstate and international visitors each year.
Getting more than one million bulbs to bloom on cue is no easy feat; it takes a lot of planning and preparation. Our preparation for the 2014 event started back in February/March with the help of about 25 gardeners to mark out garden bed patterns and dig out all the pathways. The gardening team do a wonderful job of making Commonwealth Park look fantastic during Floriade.
The first bulbs were planted in early April, starting with the Pac-Man garden, as it’s located in the coldest area in the park. We finished planting at the end of May.
Planting the garden beds is a lengthy but rewarding process with accuracy at the heart of it all. To ensure sizing is correct, our gardening team completed numerous detailed checks using plans, and the measurements of light poles and fixtures within the park.
This year we had a mix of bulbs – Tulips, Daffodils, Dutch Iris, Grape Hyacinth, Tritelia, Pansies, Violas, English Daisies, Poppies, and Chrysanthemums.
Our mix of bulbs and flowers was chosen by the Floriade design team based on their ability to last for the whole 30 days of Floriade. The bulbs come from Broersen Bulbs in the Dandenong Ranges, and the annuals come from Oasis Horticulture in Sydney. We also use parsley and kale to achieve contrasting colours, texture, and green coverage – something that not many people know!
Throughout the year, our gardening team includes my leading hand and three or four apprentices. We are very well prepared in the lead up to Floriade, so maintenance during the festival usually consists of watering the plants every two to three days to keep everything looking neat.
My job as head gardener is to ensure everything is on track, comes together on time, and looks good. It’s a big job, requiring me to be on site each day of the festival… except for my son’s birthday, I took that day off!
My favourite garden bed was definitely the Pac-Man one as I played video games as a kid; it really came to life during NightFest, our awe-inspiring after-dark experience. The elevated garden beds were also particularly interesting.
2014’s flower beds reflected a literal representation of things that people are passionate about; from the pulsating hearts depicting romance, to the cookbook portraying food, and the pencil box representing art.
Removal of the flowers at the end of Floriade is almost as involved as planting them in the first place. So on the last night, volunteers were invited to have a dig and take some bulbs home. All the soil went back to Martins Fertilizers in Yass who screened it for re-sale as a Floriade mix.
To find out more about Floriade, make sure you visit www.floriadeaustralia.com