FOR the past 33 years, Canberra's Commonwealth Park has erupted in a spectacular floral frenzy as part of the annual Floriade Festival, but this year the spring celebrations are looking quite a bit different.
Plans for the much-loved event had to be quickly rethought as Covid-19 reared its ugly head early in the year. Stand up, Floriade Reimagined.
"Spring just wouldn't be spring without Floriade," said Ross Triffitt, Events ACT's acting executive branch manager, "but we knew we had to do things differently this year to ensure the safety of visitors and our team."
There'll still be hundreds of thousands of flowering bulbs pushing their heads up in explosions of colour and tulip trails, but this year they'll be popping up throughout the city and suburbs of Canberra, instead of a big central park. That means no huge crowds this year, and social distancing in place.
As the planning and planting for Floriade starts a long time before the actual event, the flower stock and bulbs were well and truly ordered before the pandemic hit. Instead of going to waste, the community was asked to get involved and help spread the flower love far and wide.
After a call for expressions of interest, the flower stock was distributed to schools, childcare centres and other community organisations, as well as to locals wanting to beautify their local parks or national attractions.
With the help of Floriade's horticultural team, about 90 local community organisations have been part of the gardening crew. They've planted 182,000 bulbs and 225,000 annuals across the capital, with some handy tips provided by Floriade's head gardener, Andrew Forster.
So if you're visiting Canberra this spring, you're likely to see bursts of flowers at shops, clubs and churches wherever you go. You may even spot a gnome or six hiding in planted garden beds across the city. Clues to help you uncover them will be provided online and an interactive map is available on the Floriade website indicating the location of floral features to help you find the nearest display.
Flowers aside, Floriade Reimagined offers lots of garden-inspired activities. Many of the regular activities - workshops, talks and arts and crafts - will be retained, as well as a mix of in-person "virtual" experiences online. This year podcasts and video workshops will be included in the mix.
Two of Canberra's professional photographers will provide workshops to help visitors improve their camera skills, either at Lanyon Homestead at Tharwa or at the miniature village at Cockington Green, which will feature large flower displays.
Floriade's marketplace will be virtual this year, showcasing lots of favourite Floriade traders and food suppliers online, as well as some new faces. Think Australian-designed products, handmade items, gardening goodies and foodie delights.
And for those who love the nightlife, Floriade's after-dark experience, NightFest, will return with illuminated garden beds, light installations, music and entertainment for one night only on October 2.
IF YOU GO...
Floriade Reimagined takes place from September 12 -October 11. It's a free festival though some ticketed events have a cost, including NightFest.
Find details, plan your visit or make bookings at www.floriadeaustralia.com or call the Canberra and Region Visitors Centre on 1300-554-114.
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