A week of perfect spring weather has brought out the Floriade blooms so that when the Commonwealth Park gates open on Saturday, Canberra’s 31st festival of flowers will dazzle the senses.
This year, the theme is Pop Culture and your favourite icons such as Marilyn, Dame Edna and the Beatles will emerge from the garden beds across the venue, with the ferris wheel being the perfect place to view the floral images. You can even find Wally from way up there!
The flower banks and hanging baskets of the Regatta Point entrance have been designed for immediate impact, with a riot of colour and wall of intoxicating scent as you pass through on the way down to the main vista – this year created in the form of a village – with a fountain, seating, the trader’s stalls and the Pialligo Urban cafe forming a hub of activity.
It is one of a number of precincts created this year as places to enjoy and relax in.
Floriade’s Executive Producer Vikki Cotter said organisers were really excited about the villages. “They have such a beautiful feel. And it’s a place where you’ll be able to go and feel like you’re just in a little village and potter around and shop and sit. They are so so pretty,” she said.
Head Gardener Andrew Forster, who has been involved in every Floriade since the beginning in 1987, loves his job, comparing it to being a parent.
“It’s a little bit like having a child – the child is born, and you watch them grow up. It’s like that every year,” he said.
We came to you LIVE from Floriade for a first look ahead of its opening weekend. Tim Gavel spoke to head gardener Andrew Forster and NightFest comedian Christine Ryan about what visitors can expect at Australia's biggest celebration of spring in 2018.
Posted by The RiotACT on Thursday, 13 September 2018
On the go from February to Christmas, it’s a never-ending job that keeps him fit and well in what he calls a ‘really nice office’. The other day his pedometer told him he’d walked 22 kilometres or 30,000 steps.
The million or so bulbs loved this year’s colder overnight temperatures but the annuals needed a bit more nurturing, and welcomed the week’s warmer weather.
The mix of plantings will ensure constant blooms throughout the month-long festival, with the Ad rem tulip, a multi-coloured variety, Mr Forster’s favourite.
The mornings are a special time for Mr Forster, who loves to watch the tulips open as the sun rises.
“When you come in the morning at six all the tulips are closed up and look like soldiers in a line, ready to show off their wares for the day, and then they open up a bit more as the sun comes out and it warms up,” he said.
He recommends the morning Heart Foundation walks that start at the traffic lights on Commonwealth Avenue for those wanting to see the park before the gates open. It’ll only cost you a gold coin donation.
While the main vista will be buzzing, Mr Forster says the Nerang Pool displays round to the Ferry Gate were among his favourites. He recommends families take the ferry across the lake and enter there, so they can enjoy the range of kids activities on offer.
While the flowers remain the main focus, Floriade is much more, with organisers working hard to provide a mix of activities and entertainment to satisfy young and old, and a stage for home-grown talent and the many community groups to particiapate.
In fact, there has been a deliberate bid this year to stay local, partnering with Canberra region producers.
Pialligo Estate has joined Floriade for the first time to treat festival goers to its cafe delights, while Wamboin winery Contentious Character will be available on site, as well as to take home a bottle from its stall.
For the craft beer lover, Capital Brewing has its own beer garden near Stage 88 where over the course of the festival a host of entertainment will take place, including Jazz in the Park with vocalist Emma Pask.
A new venue called the Green House will host the Let’s Talk series – free lifestyle and gardening talks from authors with topics such as the low-tox life and how to have indoor plants and not kill them.
The closing day, 14 October will host Dog’s Day Out. Join a breed photo at Stage 88 or come dressed as your favourite superhero.
NightFest this year will run over five nights from Wednesday 26 September to Sunday 30 September, with each night themed differently.
Wednesday is movie night with classics Back to the Future and Ghostbusters, Thursday and Friday is music night with Caiti Baker, Jeff Duff and a stellar band in Bowie Unzipped and award-winning singer-songwriter Kate Miller-Heidke, Saturday is party night with Canberra’s Cell Block 69 and Sunday will be comedy night with Canberra comedienne Christine Ryan, The Stevenson Experience, Akmal Saleh, Matt Okine, Melanie Bracewell, Andy Saunders, Nikki Britton and Arj Barker.
A triple ticket can be bought to get you three nights of your choosing.
In keeping with the Pop Culture theme, Pialligo Urban cafe will also host a Mad Hatter Tea Party.
And as in previous years, Nightfest patrons can also wander among the beautiful Nautalis Forest light installation.
It’s a whole month of activities at Floriade and after a long Canberra winter, what better way to celebrate the perpetual promise of spring?
For more information and the full Floriade program, go here.