Floriade is back for another year and this time they are celebrating their 30th birthday - much to the excitement of green thumbs all across the country! One of the main features of this annual floral festival however, is that people who aren't green thumbs can also enjoy visiting the festival, with a variety of other activities to enjoy. Visitors are often surprised to find a program jam-packed with cooking demonstrations, live performances, kids activities, floristry demonstrations, markets and a wide variety of international food to sample. This year for 2017, they have also extended their opening hours until 7pm each evening, so visitors can come back later in the day and stay for evening drinks overlooking the displays. Nightfest, which is a separate event in the evening over two weekends, will then start at 8pm. If that's not enough, in 2017 they have also introduced a Twilight Concert for one night only, with the Canberra Symphony Orchestra and the David Bowie tribute act, The Ziggy Band, up on stage together!
Every year there is a theme to Floriade, which is often used in the floral displays. This year the theme is Rejuvenate - which is a fitting name as we shed our winter cocoons and celebrate the new colour and spectacle of spring...
Floriade is held at Commonwealth Park by Lake Burley Griffin, so it is easily accessible from the city and Parliamentary Triangle (see here for how to get there). Each year, the horticulturalists spend the entire year preparing the park for the estimated 480,000 people who will come and view their imaginative floral displays. It is not just flowers that are used however, with herbs and vegetables often used in the displays with their textural foliage and variety of leaf shapes. The horticulturists also plant bulbs in wheel burrows, planters on wheels and in household items, which gives you inspiring ideas for your own garden.
Tulips planted in wheel burrows, oil drums and even cars!
Around the festival, one million bulbs are planted in designs and words which you can see more visible from above - so the Ferris wheel is the ideal place to view many of the displays. Although fun for kids, it is a favourite part of the spring festival for all ages - you're never too old for the Ferris wheel!
Whilst in the carnival area, the kids will also enjoy the jumping castle, super slide, teacups and other amusement rides (costs apply). Nearby on the Community Stage, all ages will have their feet tapping whilst watching local school bands, dance groups and performers entertaining the crowds. As it is Floriade's birthday, there will be plenty of birthday celebrations for the kids with crafts, pop up kids shows, drumming and circus workshops, lantern making classes and hands-on activities. Another popular attraction for kids is also The Gnome Knoll, where kids can paint their own garden gnomes. See here for a list of Kids Activities for 2017.
Paint a gnome, or walk around and look at the gnomes painted by local school children
Another feature of the Floriade festival are the eye-catching sculptures dotted around the festival, in places that you wouldn't expect. Previous years have seen inflatable flowers in the trees, oversized colourful snails, life-like human sculptures and an inflatable unicorn skull positioned around the festival, for visitors to stumble upon and admire. As well as the permanent art, also expect the unexpected with roving performers and stilt walkers making their way through the crowds, entertaining the kids and stopping for photos along the way. See here for a full list of 2017 sculptures.
If you enjoy photography, allow plenty of time to experience the colour and variety of the floral designs, as everywhere you look is a breathtaking photo. There is also the opportunity to visit Floriade before it opens and take your own photos or have a photography workshop with Canon Collective. If you want to go one step further, there will also be helicopter flights over Floriade, to take the ultimate aerial snap of the displays.
If you are feeling energetic, another way to experience Floriade without the crowds is to join a 45 minute morning walk through the tulips with the Heart Foundation, before the gates open.
As Floriade isn't open to dogs during the festival, they have one special day that pooches can come and enjoy the festival with the owners, while they stay on their leash. Dogs Day Out will be held on 14th October, with special events held on Stage 88 and activities just for dogs. Don't have a pooch? It doesn't matter, as everything will be open as usual and you get to see hundreds of cute dogs enjoying being the stars of the show. See here for more details.
Cute pups from Dogs Day Out, 2016. Source: Floriade Facebook
This annual event wouldn't be made possible without the dedicated volunteers who stand at the gates and hand out the maps, put wristbands on children's wrists, help with crowd control and generally be the happy smiling face of Floriade. A great bonus of volunteering is that If you volunteer for more than 6 shifts you can take part in the annual Bulb Dig after the festival, so you can take home as many cut flowers and bulbs as you can carry. All the flowers that are left are then cut and delivered to local hospitals, hospices and aged care units around Canberra. If you are interested in becoming a volunteer, see details here.
Each year, the city of Canberra gets caught up in the festival atmosphere of Floriade. As this year is also a 30th birthday celebration, it will be full of even bigger events, new additions and birthday surprises. Take a look at the Floriade Program and Facebook for the latest updates - and enjoy the celebration!