Floriade 2016 saw over one million bulbs and annuals bloom in perfect symmetry to the theme of Reflection. Situated alongside Lake Burley Griffin, in Canberra’s Commonwealth Park, Floriade is arguably Australia’s largest spring celebration. Open to the public from mid-September through to mid-October, it attracts over 480,000 visitors each year and incorporates a variety of activities such as floral workshops, garden parties, morning walks and a night festival.
The inaugural Floriade bloomed in 1988 and was created to celebrate Australia’s bicentenary together with Canberra’s 75th birthday. The floral display got its name from the Latin word ‘floreat’, meaning “may it flourish”. It was so successful that it became an annual spring fixture for Canberra.
Preparation for Floriade can take several years, convincing over one million bulbs and annuals to bloom on demand takes extreme preparation. With themes, planning and bulb selection already complete, work on infrastructure for the display commences in autumn. A dedicated team mark out the garden beds, install drainage and irrigation systems that will maintain the plants during the display and create paths to guide visitors through the display.
Planting also takes place in autumn, with the selected bulbs being strategically positioned one by one. Over twenty gardeners plant the million plus bulbs and annuals across the four hectare site, taking an immense seven week period.
In winter, the team work on finalising props and ornaments to support the floral display. The bulbs and annuals are reaching maturity at this point and Floriade is almost ready to launch. Once open to the public, the teams work is far from complete and they now work around the clock to ensure the blooms are in perfect form for an entire month.
As Floriade draws to a close for another year, planning for the next display is already well underway. Once the gates are closed to the public, the remaining flowers are cut and donated to local hospitals, nursing homes and the hardworking volunteers. The garden beds are then reduced to ground level and fresh turf laid in their place; Commonwealth Park is then returned to its regular state as a beautifully landscaped park for all to enjoy.
Photo credits: Floriade and Chris Holly