Gardening / Spring comes in a bright, yellow splash

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Wattle… one of a multitude of native flora in flower.

SPRING is all around with those brilliant yellow splashes of wattle, just one of a multitude of native flora in flower. 

Cedric Bryant.

The honey-eating birds don’t know which flower to turn to next! Possibly one of their favourites is the banksia family. 

Many banksias are from WA and generally unsuited for Canberra. With this in mind, a really exciting major construction is well underway to create a new banksia garden in the National Botanic Gardens. 

As noted in “Fronds”, the journal of the Friends of the Australian National Botanic Gardens, this will enable a greater selection of banksias to be grown here, especially those from WA, which have stringent growing requirements. 

The micro-climate of the new garden is designed to avoid the severe frosts experienced elsewhere in Canberra. 

A series of curved rock walls have been constructed with the heavy clay removed and replaced with sandstone-based soil suitable for banksias. It is expected the new garden will open in April. 

Banksia… a new banksia garden is being constructed at the Botanical Gardens.

THE exact opposite to native plants is Floriade (September 14-October 13). The concept of Floriade started in Holland in 1908 where it takes place every 10 years with towns bidding for the right to host the huge event. 

Unlike ours, the Dutch Floriade runs continuously from April to October (northern spring to autumn). The floral displays are continuously changed over that period. It covers more than 64 hectares with more than 20 countries also having displays. 

At the end of each Floriade, the next town is announced for 10 years’ time. The planting of trees starts immediately the successful town is announced. At the end of each Floriade, about a third of the site is used for housing. The remaining two thirds is kept as parkland for use by the community. Some of the large works of art and more permanent plantings are kept intact. I have been to several Dutch Floriade and looked at previous sites from 10 and 20 years ago.

In Canberra, our Floriade covers a few hectares and seems to be gradually reducing in size and the number of bulbs planted each year. 

It was to be a once-only, bicentenary event in 1988 with the initial concept proposed by Dutchman Chris de Bruine in association with Peter Sutton, manager of Commonwealth Park and one of Canberra’s finest parks and gardens horticulturists. It proved so successful it has continued ever since. 

Originally, nurseries had displays combined with landscape contractors competing with display gardens. The Horticultural Society provided floral displays, fashion shows using live flowers. There were ikebana displays and more. The outdoor stage had a succession of speakers discussing gardening, of which I participated for many years. 

Unfortunately, most of this has now gone replaced by such non-gardening events as Nightfest, nothing to do with flowers. How much longer it will last will be anyone’s guess.


  • With modern nursery methods of potting up, even if they’re coming into leaf deciduous trees can still be planted.
  • To get the maximum growth before flowering, roses need to be planted without delay.
  • An absolute must for all gardeners: the Horticultural Society’s “Spring Bulb and Camellia Show”, at the Wesley Centre, Forrest, weekend of September 14 (noon-5pm) and 15 (11.30am-3.45pm).

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Cedric Bryant
Trained horticulturist and garden designer with over 30 years experience in the industry.

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