Floriade 2011.
Floriade 2011. Australian Capital Tourism

Floriade feast for senses

IT was a blooming good omen: basking in the warmth of a glorious day for an annual spring celebration - the opening of Floriade 2011 in Commonwealth Park in Australia's capital, Canberra.

More than a million bulbs had come into flower on cue with the temperature at 24 degrees and transformed the park into a spectacular sea of floral colourthis month.

It makes for a magnificent backdrop for the festival that will be filled with music, cultural celebrations, horticultural workshops, artistic displays, entertainment and recreational activities until October 16.

Before the gates were opened to the public on the Saturday, former Miss Universe Australia Rachael Finch wore a dress like no other at the launch of Floriade on September 16.

Smelling sweet in a frock made of more than 2000 orange and pink rose petals, the 23-year-old Floriade ambassador, model and TV personality wore the one-day-only dress - and looked absolutely amazing.

The dress was created by Susie Dunn, of Australian Capital Tourism, and was said to reflect a sense of energy that rejuvenated life, after the long winter.

Floriade attracted record crowds last year with more than 470,000 visitors (from overseas and interstate) and is a massive tourism boost for the local economy. Funded by the ACT Government, last year's Floriade generated an additional direct expenditure of $26.9 million - an increase of $4.2m on 2009.

Floriade began in 1988 as a spectacular commemoration of Australia's bicentennary and Canberra's 75th birthday.

The 23rd annual event has an exciting new theme that has guided both the garden bed plantings and the festival's entertainment and activities. This year, the theme is A Feast For The Senses and the garden beds are bursting with colourful tulips, irises, daffodils and other annuals.

Many months of meticulous forward planning go into the event and head gardener Andrew Forster said the designs within the garden beds were inspired by "flavours that stimulate our senses". The patterns have been arranged to represent chocolate paradise, red hot chillies, a cheese platter, spice market, coffee break, a bowl of citrus fruits - to name but a few. He said 76 varieties of tulips had been planted this year.

Floriade event manager Matthew Elkins stressed the importance of cultivating strong partnerships, looking at new ways to engage with people, the community in Australia and around the world. Such collaboration was evident this year, he said, with one of the new attractions - "where you discover the history of wartime kitchens and gardens at the Australian War Memorial's Victory Garden, highlighting the plants grown by Australian families during World War II".

Others include From the Pantry, featuring demonstrations and presentations by prominent chefs, food experts, local producers and even some of the entertainers performing at Floriade. And Carnival in the Park is a musical feast.

There is so much more to see and do during Floriade: be intrigued by the intricately designed garden beds; become fascinated by the engaging exhibitions, demonstrations and workshops; get captivated by the artistic entertainment; enjoy family time with fun kids' activities; and be charmed by the ambience of Floriade NightFest.

Popular attractions have been seasoned with a flavoursome new twist. The award-winning Lindeman's Open Garden returns and NightFest welcomes back Garnier World: a living, breathing beauty paradise where Garnier pampers you with complimentary treatments, including mini massages, facials or hair styling.

Of the 35 hectare Commonwealth Park, on the north side of Lake Burley Griffin, only 8763sq m is the area of the garden beds for 2011. The park has many small ponds and water features, walking trails, bike paths and sculptures. It is popular with tourists and Canberrans, it offers a view of the National Gallery, High Court and National Library on the other side of the lake.

Kings Park is adjacent, along the lake to the east.

Other attractions

Take time out to visit the National Gallery of Australia where you can view the first major retrospective of the artworks by Fred Williams in more than 25 years. Fred Williams: Infinite horizons features more than 100 works and provides an insight into his unique take on the Australian environment. It highlights his strength as a landscape artist and includes important oil paintings and luminous gouaches that reveal his distinctive approach.

The exhibition continues until November 6 and features a wide range of Australian subjects, including expansive views of deserts, mountains, beaches, rainforests and bushfires. Also more intimate studies of wildflowers, mushrooms, birds and insects. Among the works that have never been publicly shown is Williams's amazingly illustrated China sketchbook, created during a visit to China in 1976.

During the month-long festival, Crowne Plaza Canberra will provide complimentary afternoon tea with decorated patty cakes and hot chocolate for guests, in its sunny atrium. The hotel has joined with local gourmet produce suppliers, including Fancy That Confectionery, Gourmet Taste Bud and Mount Majura Winery, to offer complimentary food and wine tasting events for guests.

Rejoice in spring, unwind and visit Floriade in Canberra.

You will be inspired by the showcase gardens, pick up advice and leave with infinite possibilities that could transform your own backyard.


Location: Commonwealth Park, Canberra

Duration: Until October 16

Open: Seven days

Attractions: Display gardens, Victory Garden, From the Pantry, Passion for Fashion, kids' corner, ferris wheel, Canberra Glassworks, carnival in the park, Storm of the Senses during Floriade NightFest (five evenings of movies, food and wine, comedy, bustling night markets and beautiful blooms illuminated by spectacular lighting), Garnier World, The Bally, TaikOz, Lindeman's Open Garden.

How to get there: Drive to Canberra, take a coach or fly Qantas or Virgin Blue.

Bookings: Call 1300 554 114 or see

www.visitcanberra.com.au or www.floriadeaustralia.com

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