Floriade – Canberra’s Spring Celebration

Its heartening to realise that humans can’t deny the natural instinct to celebrate seasons. We’ve done it for millennia and still today we love to visit gardens resplendent in the full bloom of the season.

Tulip Walk

Canberra puts on the best springtime show in Australia, being blessed with a climate that has distinct seasonal changes and (for good bulb displays) has a cold enough winter to trigger vibrant blooms from daffodils, hyacinth and tulips.

DaffodilThey also have a public park in an idyllic setting alongside Lake Burley Griffin where the municipal gardeners have created huge display beds that erupt in a riot of colour in mid September.

With over 300,000 visitors every year from Australia and overseas the organisers also have to ensure there’s plenty to amuse the kids as well as provide a tempting variety of food outlets and musical entertainment to serenade the garden guests.

 

Tulip Walk Floriade

StiltwalkerStreet entertainers, wandering musicians and old fashioned pipe organs help generate an atmosphere of the traditional country fair and a large stage also provides a platform for a variety of entertainers, both amateur and professional.

But it is the massed displays of intense colour that are the prime attraction with over a million plants arranged into artful patterns on an awe-inspiring scale.

Most regular domestic garden borders feature relatively sparse layouts but as the originators learned from the Dutch at Keukenhof, you’ve got to cram them in tight and in huge quantities to make a world class attraction.

Flowers En-MasseFerris WheelMy only gripe with the displays (and it does seem a bit ‘cranky’ to criticise after all the hard work involved) is that the patterns created are just not possible to appreciate unless you hover over the beds in a helicopter.

Making intricate patterns from Pansies, Daisies and Tulips that cannot be observed from street level does seem a bit daft.  Though if you take a ride in the Ferris Wheel you can at least see the display of a map of the world that is situated directly in front of it.

Essentially though, Floriade (which comes from the latin Floriat – meaning ‘to design with flowers’) is a triumph of horticultural skill and love of nature at its most flambouyant.

Tulipa FabioEstablished in 1988 Floriade is the largest tourist event in the Capital’s calender.

Hotel rooms are at a premium, but Canberra is blessed with plenty of accomodation so there’s no excuse, you’ve just gotta make the trip.

Entry is free during the day and it’s impossible to not have a good time.

At night there’s a $25 entry fee but there’s plenty to entertain  at ‘NightFest’ with ‘Son et Lumier’ shows, cafes, bars and a packed schedule of top class DJs and entertainers on the main stage.  And for the Social Media addict there’s free WiFi too !

I’ve been meaning to go for years – I’m so glad I finally made the effort.

 

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Peas – Garden, Snap or Snow, which is best.

Garden Peas

Whatever happened to the garden pea?  Finding them in veggie shops is so rare these days.  Yet the Chinese Snow Peas or Snap Peas (sometimes called Mange Tout) seem to have taken their place.  Seems a pity really as the common Garden Pea is so sweet and tasty and we were always told they were full of goodness.

Well its one of the examples of how big business technology actually serves us better because 90% of all Garden Peas consumed today are frozen or canned.  And this is simply because they are generally better this way, being blanched and flash frozen within a few hours of picking.  The process really does lock in the flavour, texture, nutritional value and freshness –  unlike any other vegetable.

Pisum sativumGarden Peas – Pisum sativum – do taste best when hand picked and eaten right away but they do become dry and mealy in texture after a day or so.

Shipping them to veggie stores is therefore a very difficult operation with the distinct possibility that they’ll just not be at their best.

Then you have to shell them as the pods are bitter to taste and stringy in texture ! Not many of us want to do that.

Snow PeaSnow PeasPisum sativum macrocarpon – on the other hand have edible shells and can be popped into boiling water for the quickest preparation of any vegetable.  They are sweet and tasty and also go very well in stir fries.

But the drawback is that they are lower in nutritional value.  This doesn’t mean they are not good, just less good than the fuller shaped garden pea that has had more time to develop.

Snap Peas or Sugar Peas are a cross between the Garden Pea and Snow Peas are plumper in shape and have a crisp, snappy texture.  The pods are also edible.  Again though, they are lower in nutritional value and calories than Garden Peas.

So next time you scoff at a slick TV commercial claiming that Frozen Peas are better . . well Mr Birds Eye and Mr McCain have actually  got it right this time.  Unless of course you are patient enough to grow them yourself then you can have the best of both worlds.

What do you reckon?  Is it worth the effort to grow them yourself?

Pak Choi – Power Greens

Pak-Choi

Brassica rapa chinensis, otherwise known as Pak Choi, Bok Choy or Chinese Cabbage has to be one of the best ‘quick grow greens’ to raise in your veggie patch.

 In Australia’s warm climate it tends to grow quite quickly, especially on the east coast where the combination of warm days and nights along with summer rains has the seedlings literally sprouting up overnight to produce crisp and nutritious crops that are a delight steamed or flash cooked in a stir fry.

Pak-Choi

Its best to keep an on-going supply of seedlings to plant out as these brassicas don’t last long at optimum size/condition in your garden before going to seed, especially when the weather is warm.  When you harvest them keep them in the crisper drawer of the fridge but no longer than about three to four days or they’ll go limp.

The stems tend to take a little longer to cook than the green parts of the leaves so boil or steam the stalks first for two to three minutes then toss in the leave for the last two.

Like all brassicas they provide plenty of good dietary fibre to aid digestion and are loaded minerals and vitamins like Thiamin, Niacin, Phosphorus, Vitamin A,  C,  K, Riboflavin, Vitamin B6, Folate, Calcium, Iron, Magnesium, Potassium and Manganese.

But Pak Choi also contains powerful antioxidants and phyto-nutrients which help destroy free radicals to protect cells and reduce inflammation.

All this and its easy to grow – therefore clearly deserves the title of ‘Power Greens’.

New Warm Climate Climber – Mandevilla Sun Parasol

Its easy to think of Japan only as the origin of many ‘old world’ plants that have been exported and subsequently loved by the rest of the world.

Mandevilla-Sun-Parasol

But Japan is at the forefront of new plant breeding and this fabulous new Mandevilla from Suntory is a striking new example of their passion and perfection.

Its called Mandevilla ‘Sunmandeho’ Sun Parasol, its a hybrid and is set to challenge the dominance of Mandevilla sanderii, which is a naturally occuring variety and very popular throughout the warmer climates of the world.

Mandevilla Sun Parasol on fence

With this new hybrid the breeders have managed to exaggerate the prolific flowering to be almost completely year round, the blooms are bigger and the foliage richer and glossier. They are as easy as can be to grow and require little maintenance apart from keeping them moist in the hotter months and a little liquid fertiliser in spring and autumn.

Mandevilla Sun Parasol red

If you live in cooler climates e.g. temperatures drop below ten degrees C often, then its best to take then indoors during winter.

Otherwise expect a spectacular show for most of the year – you gotta love ’em.

See full Plantfinder entry here.

Author: Bob Saunders (www.gardensonline.com.au)

Claude Monet’s Garden at Giverny

Visitors to Paris will see some splendid ‘grand avenue’ gardens which celebrate the status of France in the modern world and are quite spectacular.  But for those who like their gardens to be a more romantic experience, you cant go past a short train ride to Giverny, just 45 mins west of the capital.

Giverney Artful BulbsThese are the gardens of the great impressionist master, Claude Monet who lived here for 43 years and now attract over half a million visitors a year.

Its a place he was drawn to and found so much inspiration that he stayed the rest of his life here.  Monet once said “I am first and foremost a painter and a gardener, I’m not much use for anything else.”  Well, we all know what a great artist he was and now we know what a great gardener he was too.

Giverny Flower BedsThese gardens are his creation, though he did have some assistance, and are split into two parts by a road (which is a pity but doesn’t detract too much).

Monet's HouseThe charming pink and green shuttered house sits at the top of the property with sweeping views down across the semi-formal gardens that are intensely planted and chock full of areas of delight and colour.

Daffodil at GivernyThe gardener teams put a lot of effort into selecting the most Monet-reminiscent colours and also pay great attention to detail while retaining a very casual feel for a formal garden.

Monet's LakeA small tunnel takes the visitor under the road to the lake – probably one of the most famous pieces of water in the world, thanks to the great works of art that have been inspired here.

Monet's StreamA bubbling stream feeds the lake and plantings of bamboo provide a useful backdrop to keep the eye focussed within the garden grounds.  Again the plantings are intense and immaculate, always providing colour palettes to match the romantic nature of Monet’s work.

Monet's PansysFor those who like to know more about the man then the house is also open.  This provides a wonderful insight into life in the late 19th and early 20th centuries in rural France and it is not difficult to imagine the gatherings of the ‘artistic elite’ who often met here to talk and exchange views.

Monet's Bedroom ViewMy only gripes would be the sound of traffic dissecting the garden now and again – and of course you do have to share these lovely grounds with a few other tourists.

See full Gardens of the World entry here.

Author: Bob Saunders (www.gardensonline.com.au)

Green Goddess – Ixia viridiflora

Ixia Viridiflora

Its a beauty isn’t it?  Delicate, unusual hues, but a certain energy in the shape and form.

Its common name is Green Ixia or Turquoise Ixia – I’d say its more a Duck Egg blue.

Easy to grow from bulbs that are generally available, yet this delightful, frost hardy spring flower isn’t all that common – which is a bit of a puzzle really.

Hence this blog entry – this is quite simply, a promotion for one of nature’s loveliest.

Ixia ViridifloraMore info here.

Author: Bob Saunders (www.gardensonline.com.au)

Patsy Durak’s Rose Garden

On a recent visit to Perth I was lucky enough to be recommended to visit a garden that will go down as one of the “Best Garden Days Out”.

Patsy Duraks Garden

The back garden of Kareela

This is not a huge tourist trap garden, but a specialist rose garden lovingly created and nurtured by Patsy Durak in the Gooseberry Hill region of the Perth Hills.

In 1988 she and her husband Ian Kirton bought Kareela, the old Archbishop of Perth’s house and promptly went about demolishing the existing garden to build a totally new one dedicated to roses.

Floribunda Rose Aspirin

Floribunda Rose Aspirin

They had such success that they then purchased the house over the road to extend the gardens even further.  Today Patsy looks after over 900 rose bushes spread over the two properties.  They include fabulous collections of Hybrid Teas, Grandifloras, Floribundas, Climbers, Delbart and David Austin English roses.

Roses Radox And Carson

Floribunda Roses #1. Radox Bouquet #2. Violet Carson

Her dedication is apparent at every turn with all plants kept in tip-top condition – yet she manages to do this without spraying, just by being diligent in removing any signs of disease or infestation immediately and following best practice in garden hygiene.

Floribunda Rose Magic Fire

Floribunda Rose Magic Fire

She ensures all plants are promptly dead-headed (e.g. around 40cms worth removed) to minimise plant energy wastage, and regular fertilising plays a vital role as well in maintaining plant vitality – a healthy plant is less likely to succumb to infections or infestations.

Hybrid Tea Rose - Helmut Schmidt

Hybrid Tea Rose – Helmut Schmidt

Our visit was not perfectly timed, being at the end of one of the most scorching summers in recent memory, followed just days earlier by heavy rain and blustery winds – so the plants were not necessarily at their peak.  But if these blooms are considered a touch below par then I cannot imagine how good it would be to arrive on a perfect day.

David Austin English Rose Heritage

David Austin English Rose Heritage

Patsy donates a portion of the small entrance fee to the Cancer Council and in doing so has created excellent value for visitors.  There is a delightful shop at the entrance selling many of her unique products and she also serves wonderful Devonshire teas on the splendidly shady Old Colonial verandah.  But there’s also something extra useful you’ll not find in many open gardens – she has labelled most of the plants so if you like a rose you know what to look for in your local garden centre.

Patsy Duraks House

Devonshire teas served on the verandah.

The gardens are open every Sunday between 10am and 4:30pm from October through to May.  But she will, if possible, open up for you if you call in advance to request access on other days of the week.

Hybrid Tea Rose Lovers Meeting

Hybrid Tea Rose Lovers Meeting

The Perth Hills enjoy a mediterranean type climate which is ideal for growing roses due to the hot and dry summers.   But perhaps its the combination of ideal climate and dedicated gardener that makes Patsy’s garden such a delightful place to visit.

Grandiflora Rose Tournament Of Roses

Grandiflora Rose Tournament Of Roses

Here’s her website to help you plan your visit:-  http://www.patsydurackrosegardens.com

Author: Bob Saunders (www.gardensonline.com.au)