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.

 

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)

Tasmanian Garden Paradise

This largely photographic blog entry is all about Jubilee Gardens in Cascade, Hobart, Tasmania.  It is literally someone’s suburban back-yard, albeit a half hectare backyard, that is so incredibly jam packed with plants the visitor is liable to ‘nature-overload’ (a.k.a. very happy).

Jubiee gardens lawns

Jubiee gardens – a rare open space

Ted Cutlan and Joy Stones have collected thousands of plants and put them together into an extraordinary display that takes a wonderful few hours to enjoy to the full.  It’s very orientally inspired and has been only opened at peak flowering season around early November.  However since 2012 Ted and Joy have found that the demands have exceeded their capacity and it will not be open to the public from 2013 onwards and therefore this photo record will have to suffice from now on.

Purple rhododendron

One of the many fabulous rhododendron

Its a massive undertaking that is the result of years of plant collection and nurturing with the main plants being Rhododendrons and Azaleas, all of which are in superb condition and make a wonderfully colourful display.

Orange Red Rhododendron

Rhododendrons in all colours

As you wend your way down the property through narrow, twisting pathways the higher trees provide the necessary dappled shade for many of these delicately featured oriental plants to thrive in peak conditions.

Wonderfully delicate Acers

Wonderfully delicate Acers

Ted and Joy are experts with ornamental Maples as can be seen by the collection of over a hundred different varieties especially Acer japonicum and Acer palmatum  (originating from Japan) that feature extraordinarily dissected and multi-coloured coloured foliage.  They propogate Acers in their well equipped greenhouses and continue to sell them to locals.

Red and orange acers

You don’t need to wait for autumn with these delicate acers

Then there’s the Camelias, many different varieties and species but because this garden is well sheltered from cold winds and sun-scorching, just about every plant you see is in perfect condition (a rarity even in the big botanical garden).

Full bloom camellias

Camellias in full spring colour

Another potent symbol of springtime are the cascading Wisterias, to be found at many turns of the twisting pathways or drooping elegantly over pergolas or garden archways.

Wisteria

Wisteria

Jubilee Gardens also has a splendid collection of Clematis too, again climbing over trellis or fences.

Striped Clematis

Many varieties of Clematis on show

Jubilee Gardens boasts a fascinating collection of trees of all kinds including many conifers and some very elegant cooler climate deciduous trees.  They provide the needed shade whilst also adding to the overall rich textures of the gardens.

Confier cone

All plants are in superb condition

Water features seem to be such natural bed-fellows with any ‘Japonicas’ and ‘Sinensies’ and of course they also attract birds and frogs and a plethora of other bugs and insects – all part of the self-sustaining natural environment that is celebrated here.

Pond

Striking water features are used for contrast

But we shouldn’t forget that very special foliage plant that is scattered in amongst the footings of the more spectacular blooming shrubs – I refer of course to Hosta and no end of colourful, ankle high spring flowers.

Hostas in shade

Hosta love this dappled shade

With so much to feast the eyes on at ground level you may not find time to look upwards – but if you do you’ll see Mount Wellington towering above – Jubilee Gardens being set in its foothills in Hobart’s south – as discovered by some of the GardensOnline team recently.

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

GardensOnline team hard at work

Some of the GardensOnline team hard at work

Keukenhof – a floral extravaganza

Without doubt one of the world’s greatest annual flower events, Keukenhof never disappoints, even if there’s an unseasonably cold spring season.   At Keukenhof this just means that the outdoor growth is retarded, but there’s still a floral extravaganza awaiting visitors inside the many pavilions.

KeukPano

The Vast Tulip Pavillion Keukenhof

This is a place dedicated to tulips, in fact it is almost a shrine, but then the humble tulip has probably contributed as much to the Dutch economy as any other commodity over the centuries, so it does, perhaps deserve more than a little reverence.

TulipsRedYellow

Tulipa Triple A

The refined and intense skills of the horticulturalists are all on display here with a mind boggling array of varieties, many of them stunningly beautiful, especially in the soft light of these huge display greenhouse pavillions.

TulipsYellow - otherwise known as Strong Gold

Tulipa Strong Gold

It is quite amazing how many variations of colour can be coaxed out of the classic vase shaped blooms and every year new varieties appear to delight the eye and boost the export coffers of the growers.

Tulipa Queensland

Tulipa Queensland

But sometimes, cleverness just goes too far.  I’m sure some will say this Tulipa Queensland is beautiful, but for me . . . well its just plain silly, having created something that belies the character of the tulip.

Narcissus Hea Moor

Narcissus Hea Moor

With over 7 million bulbs planted at Keukenhof every year there are plenty of other spring flowers included.  Daffodils are always the beacon of spring and again, the flower breeders manage to discover new facets of these vibrant blooms.

Narcissus Trepolo

Narcissus Trepolo

Narcissus being their botanic name, this variety seems to typify why they were given that name.  This one is called Narcissus Trepolo and its as if it knows its got’ it’ so its going to flaunt it.

Later blogs will show you more of the huge array of flowers at Keukenhof this year, but for now I’ll sign off with one of the most simple, but for me the most stunning.

The humble crocus

The humble crocus

The source of all saffron – the humble crocus.

See a selection of latest hybrids tulips from this year’s exhibition here.

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