Lake Burley Griffin is at the heart centre of Canberra, and it comes alive in spring……the warmth, the flowering trees, shimmering lake and most of all….on behalf of all Canberrans….good morning sunshine!
I hope you will follow me through the next few months of gardens and festivals in Canberrra, including Floriade, some Embassy gardens, Parliament House courtyard gardens and some productive suburban gardens.
Every year, Commonwealth Park, on the northern bank of Lake Burley Griffin, hosts the biggest horticultural event of its kind in the Southern Hemisphere…a spring festival, Floriade.
An amazing one million bulbs and annual seedlings are ordered before Christmas. There are, typically more than 70 varieties of tulips, and a range of daffodils, hyacinths, ranunculus, Dutch Iris, interspersed with pansies, violas, poppies, and a variety of daisies.
There is an almost year round preparation for this event. The Floriade theme for the year is decided about 18 months beforehand. This year the theme is Reflections, a tribute to the 100th anniversary of the Anzac landing at Gallipoli.
Andrew Forster, the head gardener says this theme is very close to his heart, as his grandfather’s two brothers were at Gallipoli.
Preparation begins in earnest in February, the areas are marked out and the paths made around the beds. Agricultural pipe is used for drainage under the beds, and a base of organic soil is spread about 15 cm deep over the growing areas. This is levelled, then patterns are marked out with pegs.
In March the planting of one million bulbs begins! They are placed on the soil and covered with an additional 12cm of soil mix. This mix has a fertilizer added to enhance growth. The annuals are then planted on top…..in total about 2700 cubic metres of soil mix is used to create the beds.
During the month long festival not all the bulbs come out at the same time, but annuals are planted between the bulbs to keep the colour and design clear and vibrant.
I noticed the gardeners have planted some parsley in between the hyacinths and the pansies ….what better plant to keep a rich green colour all month long and it is totally unaffected by wind and frosts.
In fact in this photo the parsley seems to be better behaved than some of those renegade bulbs nearby…
An automatic irrigation system with a diluted liquid fertiliser is pumped over the gardens every three weeks, and all the beds have secure netting and fencing to protect them from wildlife.
Although Commonwealth park is five minutes away from the city, the gardeners have to look out for ever present rabbits and possums, not to mention bats and birds…….what a job!
Fortunately we only found this elegant kangaroo nearby…
Two weeks before the event begins, the barriers are removed and the team of gardeners weed and tidy the beds. I wonder if the gardeners do round the clock watching for pests during those two weeks ? ….I hope they don’t come across the cockatoo who flies through my garden lopping new shoots from roses…just for the fun of it.
This festival is a great tribute to Andrew Forster and his team of fantastic gardeners.