Day 5: Canberra and Floriade

Caught the bus into city centre and then another out to Commonwealth Showgrounds where Floriade is held each year. The town is well laid out with attention paid to keeping trees prominent which meant there were many shady spots and so many parks dotted around. It seems to be a well planned city with a road system that it is yet to find the population for.

Floraide was a huge disappointment for us. Having watched the gardening shows and heard people talking of how wonderful it was we were stunned at how few tributes to landscaping and gardening generally there were. It boasts being the biggest flower show in the southern hemisphere which is hard to believe. Anyway, the tulips were beautiful and the actual Commonwealth park has good walking tracks around the lake and wetlands hosting shags and a family of Pukeko.

There was a pavillion with stands selling a variety of interesting and quirky things but very few that were related to gardening. I think we’ve been watching too many gardening shows over the years because we expected to see a way larger show and had set aside two days to get around them all. We met another couple back at the campground who had similar expectations and they had travelled from Brisbane especially to see Floriade. Basil had a lovely time walking into peoples’ photos and standing looking at what they were trying to photograph – quite impervious to the disruption he was causing.

Tables and chairs were scarce so we settled for the wall as our seats and a spare table to enjoy the salads Basil had made for lunch. Watching the people who had found seats it was evident that some had settled in for the duration having seen as much as they were going to on this visit.

The walk around the park helped shake our lunch down as we loved on our bodies with the exercise and fresh air in amongst the milling groups. We noticed all the walkways and cycling tracks that really encourage people to get out and enjoy the many attractions around the city. We met Robert Menzies on the walkway; a great bronze sculpture larger than life.

The old organ played off large cards that had the tunes punched in holes that it read. No doubt its history would have been fascinating and the old cove who was having his picture taken with the visitors for a gold coin donation would have been more than willing to tell us all about it but the wait would have been too long.

The Gnome Knoll at the far end of the lake, also part of the Floriade effort. The primary school children had painted the gnomes and the were placed in groupings of the different schools and age groups.

The theme for Floriade this year was Innovation expressed in different formats around the grounds. The mass plantings of tulips in single colours and contrasted with other flowering annuals were stunning. Apparently the Dutch gave the first bulbs to Canberra and the tulip festival evolved from that (need to find the correct history).

Some displays were very formal and others a spray of colours that seemed to lift the backdrop against which they were planted. A lot of time and effort no doubt by a large team of gardeners. While I went off to check out one of the stalls a local couple found Basil and caught him up on what’s interesting to do in and around Canberra. The old guy (not Basil, the other one) figured the rains a few days last week brought the tulips on just in time for them to all be blooming for the opening of Floriade.

This stunning piece was created by Bunnings and it’s the kind of display that we were expecting to make up the greater part of Floriade. Simple designs and stunning effects.

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