ACT News


Bird's eye view shows Floriade set to bloom

Like a sleeping giant, one wearing very brightly coloured pyjamas, Floriade lay slumbering yesterday, building up its strength for this Saturday's opening.

Not everything is fully open yet in the enormous beds (the 78 varieties of tulips were are still mostly snoozing) but head gardener Andrew Forster was rejoicing yesterday that ''it's nice and warm and that will bring things along, there'll be a lot of colour for our first weekend''.

Yesterday the colourfully pyjamaed giant of Floriade (this year's theme is Style & Design) even slept through the whirring of the four green propellers of Canberra Times photographer Jay Cronan's Quadcopter. It is a remote-controlled photography platform used to take aerial images and videos and yesterday Cronan sent it up for a cockatoo's-eye view of the display.

The especially Siberian winter that's just passed has only meant, Forster says, ''that some things [flowers] are a bit slower this year'' while of course all the bulbs are attuned to the cold and actually need a good chilling to galvanise them.

The frost's not a worry, Forster counselled yesterday, but as usual the cockatoos are. They have to be kept at bay with eternal vigilance.

''We put up all the fencing and anti-bird netting straight after we finish planting in May. If we don't the cockatoos will come in and chew the bulbs,'' he said, cheerfully and with no ant-cockatoo malice whatsoever.

''Then they chew the annuals. They just break them off and leave them there. Then in the two weeks leading up to Floriade [with the netting off] we have our buggy going round and chasing them. It's the funniest sight, watching them chase the cockatoos away!''

Yesterday afternoon at Floriade, with the cockatoos nowhere to be seen for the moment, there was a great deal of last-minute planting, raking, shovelling, watering and other work going on. One hive of industry yesterday, one niche of Floriade that won't get the cockatoos salivating, is a special low-care, water-frugal garden with some Aboriginal themes.

It is the Murrumbung Yurung Murra garden, made by the ACT Parks and Conservation Service. The Aboriginal words mean ''good strong pathways''. One of the garden's designers and builders, Ngunnawal ranger Adrian Brown, explained yesterday, with his assistant Gabrielle Evans chiming in, that it's a garden that blends traditional local knowledge with conventional gardening ideas. It is a subtle little oasis, underneath some appropriate gum trees, making artistic uses of native grasses (to resemble distant mountain ranges). It also makes clever uses of boulders and of two enormous tree-trunk sections, the latter installed as places to sit. There are totem poles, too. Brown and Evans said one of the unusual garden's aims is to offer people some gardening ideas using some different, unorthodox materials and plantings. In the centre of it there's a stone ''fireplace'' from which arise, as ''flames'', the red and orange flowers of some kangaroo paws.