Friday morning bright and early, bare-legged ladies in lipstick and boots sipped pink champagne from overflowing trays, while suited-up gents swung umbrellas and made polite conversation amongst the flowerbeds in the sunshine.
The launch of Floriade wanted so badly to be a civilised occasion, emulating a bygone era of English afternoon tea society, but instead it got pummelled by a surprise rainstorm and the guests were served sausage rolls.
The star attraction, model Kristy Hinze, looked like flower-power Barbie in her iridescent dress of rose petals.
I’m sure it took a really long time to stick all the petals on to the fabric, but my imagination clearly takes too many references from Welsh mythology and the story of Blodeuwedd, a woman made of flowers.
I thought her skirt would be full and Victorian, made from many different varieties of native and European blooms, perhaps incorporating bottlebrush for tulle.
Instead, Hinze was outdone mid-ceremony by circus performers on stilts, who, dressed like giant poppies with glittering face make-up and frilly hats, strutted through the daffodils during the grey shower like extras from a Tim Burton film.
I’ve never seen so many people wielding digital SLR cameras in one space.
As a Floriade virgin, I have to say the biggest flower show in the southern hemisphere was far more impressive from the sky.
The signs may tell you the tulips and violets and jonquils and the like are arranged in the shape of a giant guitar or lamp, but I don’t think you fully appreciate the design or the sheer size of the flower beds unless you’re high above.
From the Lindeman’s balloon at the crack of dawn Sunday I realised what all the fuss was about.
The quiet, the colour, the shapes, the volume – Floriade is really quite impressive.
As head gardener Andrew Forster says a million bulbs have been planted with planning starting 18 months in advance:
“There are more than 70 different varieties of tulips that will be coming out over the next month. We started down here in February. We planted to the first bulb on the 8th of April and we were finished on the second of June,” he says.
“Floriade goes for 30 days, so the idea of the design is that it changes over the month, so people come on the first day, they see something, as you go along in the middle couple of weeks it peaks, so most of the tulips come out and this whole main vista looks fantastic.”
Yes it does. Go check it out, Floriade is Canberra’s greatest tourist attraction for a reason.