Not dead yet! – a late visit to Floriade

I don’t normally visit Floriade so late in the proceedings, but this year I haven’t been able to get there any sooner. At just over one week left to run I’m pleased to report that, despite rumours to the contrary, there is still plenty of colour and Floriade is still worth seeing.


What was clear was that while the tulips were not as numerous, the underlying strength of the planting scheme was holding up really well. In a lot of beds it was the humble viola that was providing additional colour. The sheer variety of colours available in this simple plant makes highlighting the colours of the tulips an effect that any gardener could employ.


Two other variations included this wonderfulgrouping of blowsy pink candy striped tulips and pink Bellis perennis in the ‘Farmers Market’ bed…


and a slightly more complex combination of yellow tulips, jonquils, daffodils and yellow ranunculas, picked out against pale mauve violas in the ‘Flaming Barbeque’ bed.


Of course I was also interested to see the ‘Victory Garden’ which was developed by the Australian War Memorial and grown by the students at CIT. The veggies are looking good – beetroot, silverbeet, broad beans and onions. But the design seemed to be pretty much a repeat of the kitchen garden last year.


Half barrels of rosemary and a pine tree pick up on the war theme. The most interesting aspect of the garden is the growing wall where the symbol of the War Memorial is picked out in flowers and vegetables. On the wall are Baby Beetroot, Violas, Sweet Marjoram, Triple Curled Parsley and Thyme.


For my money the ‘Tasteful Sensations’ garden which was made by the ACT Government and Yarralumla Nursery really showed what you could do with vegetables and an engaging design.


Curly parsley and ornamental kales surrounded cabbages, red lettuces, rainbow chard and a centre of kale Cavolo Nero. A similar planting was in the boat which was edged by pea plants.

Going back to my earlier comments about ideas for home gardeners I was also impressed by some of the half barrel plantings …


and the display of new plant offerings shown in a collection of wheelbarrows.


I’m thinking that my own wheel barrow planting of Ixias may just be getting an overhaul next season.

Speaking of new offerings I was very interested in this Tulipa ‘Bakeri’ Lilac Wonder with the mauve petals and golden centre.


I also liked the fringed tulips (Crispa tulips) in the ‘Flaming Barbeque’ bed …


and I have to finish on a parrot tulip.


So get going and go to Floriade!




A Fork at Floriade

I will say from the start that Floriade is really not my thing. I’m sorry but each year we see a variation on lots of brightly clashing coloured tulips and other bulbs laid out in fairly uninteresting displays. Its just not garden design as far as my definition goes. Of course tens of thousands of visitors disagree with me! which at least benefits the local economy.

Last week Bishlet and I took a quick turn around this years’ effort during our lunch break. Away from the mass displays a few random efforts at a native garden, an Alice in Wonderland and even a kitchen garden made a fitful attempt to enliven proceedings.

By way of apology my somewhat bizarre photographic effects have been achieved by the use of a phone camera.

So sit back and enjoy one of Felix M’s most well-known tunes – although I swear I didn’t realise it was called Spring Song before I selected it to enhance this blog experience.

 Here we go with the general view ….


One plus to the stroll was the scent of hyacinths wafting over the garden beds.

What should have been a small gem by the National Botanic Gardens is left marooned in the middle of a grassy expanse. Forget this and go and visit the NB Garden’s Black Mountain site instead.


The kitchen garden benefits by a structure of regular beds and formal plantings of kales and other herbs.


The Lake George zebras are making a visit to Canberra.


One bright spot is the ‘Amazing’ garden with its topiary animals.


Even I love the outlandish Parrot Tulips – the pick of the bunch as far as I’m concerned – I presume they are too expensive to use more widely.


By far and away the best feature of this year’s display isn’t even floral, it’s the umbrella walkway through the rhododendrons.


These are lit up for the night time activities. Sorry you’ll just have to imagine this.


They also have another function, providing some overhead protection from the fruit bat camp which is still being occupied by its furry flying occupants (check out the upper right hand side of the trees).


Some random flower stacks …


And some walking entertainment.


A great sand castle, but what is it doing here?


So push those crowds aside and enter at your own risk. You’ve been warned.

Back to the Garden

You’d be right in thinking we haven’t been in the garden much lately but on Saturday we did get stuck into some Autumn chores.

Firstly I’ve harvested all of our Blue Popcorn and most of our Strawberry Popcorn. We had hoped to leave all the cobs on the plants until they’d completely dried out but the rain last weekend has encouraged what appears to be a mildew or fungus to get into the leaves of the Strawberry Popcorn in particular. I didn’t want to risk it infecting the cobs. I’m also pleased I picked the cobs as there were a few too many earwigs and slaters falling out of the cobs as I picked them for my liking. Not a big haul by any standard but an indicator of what I’ll focus on next year. The Blue Popcorn cobs were noticeably bigger, both the ears and the individual kernels, than the Strawberry Popcorns, (in the photo Blue is on the right and Strawberry is on the left). I can also confirm that we did get some cross-fertilisation from our one stray Golden Bantam plant that got mixed up with the popcorns. There are some decidedly non-yellow kernels in this cob.We are currently planning on grinding some of our corn, particularly the cobs that remain from the Golden Bantam Sweetcorn. We may only get one meal out of it but that’s a start.

TB also picked a great many Japanese Eggplants. He’s used 1.5kgs of eggplants to make Rose’s Pressed Eggplants, a recipe from Maggie’s Harvest (Maggie Beer, Lantern, Penguin Books, 2007) of salted, pressed and dried fennel flavoured eggplants. The feral fennel was harvested from down near the Mugga Lane tip. Unfortunately for TB he discovered too late that the fennel was growing on a Bull Ants nest and he has the ugly bites to prove it. It will take several weeks to process the eggplants so he’ll have to save it for the April Grow your Own collection.

Before we went away last weekend I direct seeded some bush peas and broadbeans into one of the garden beds. Some have come up already and some have also (from what remains of their stems) been just as quickly demolished by slugs and snails. I’ve now planted my second line of defence into pots. The two varieties I’ve planted are Bush Pea Massey and Snow Peas which were saved from last year’s crop. To encourage pollination, should they get that far, I’ve also planted seeds of 6 heritage Sweet Peas. I’ve read this tip in several books so I plan to give it a go. If nothing else I’ll hopefully get some nice flowers out of it! I also spent some time this planting onion seeds, Creamgold, a brown onion, and my favourite Rosso lunga di Firenze, a long red Italian variety.

Finally we had to do some pond cleaning today. When we got back from our weekend away we discovered our largest goldfish floating upside down on the top of the pond. Vale Klim! we had had him for 10 years. He (the goldfish that is) is survived by Thorpy who we also got at the same time. We are very impressed with the longevity of these two as most domestic goldfish are lucky to survive a year or more. Indeed their other two companions Van den Hoogenband and Suzie didn’t make it for more than a few years. Oh well we’ll just have to go and buy some new swimlets to keep Thorpy company.

It turns out I’m not the only one preparing for spring. During a walk in Commonwealth Park last week I spotted these strange markings on the grass. The work of a deranged grafitti artist? or the start of Floriade preparations? – you choose. From what I could see there seemed to be stars (or perhaps pentangles) and lots of clouds. I can’t see any mention of the 2010 theme on the website. Just remember you saw it here first!