His friends like to refer to him as ‘Mr Floriade’, and since as head gardener, Andrew Forster has worked on every single Floriade event, the title is justified.
Yes, that means that for 28 years, Andrew has been tending the garden beds of Commonwealth Park – the last 18 years as head gardener. By the twinkle in Andrew’s eye as he describes the garden beds and the cycle of flowers blooming over the month long floral festival; you sense he is as enthusiastic today as the day he started.
Floriade marks the start of spring; when Canberra removes its winter coat and spoils us with blue skies and colourful flower beds.
This year’s theme ‘Reflections’, marks the 100th anniversary of the Anzac landing at Gallipoli, and provides the inspiration for the designs of the flower beds. Among them, you will find the Southern Cross, a wattle sprig and the Last Post.
Andrew knows Commonwealth Park like the back of his hand. We took an early morning walk with him around Floriade to learn about his favourite spots, and some behind the scenes secrets.
The ‘Colour Patches’ garden beds, near Nerang Pool; were the first beds planted, as the trees protect the flower beds from the frost.
The smell of hyacinths rises from the gardens, and Andrew tells us the hyacinths don’t last long. The planting of the bulbs has to be arranged to ensure there is a full month of floral colour. “Everything changes” Andrew said, and that is why you should plan to visit more than once in the month, to see the gardens evolve.
Andrew’s favourite designs this year, includes ‘Love Letters’. Sitting just underneath the Ferris wheel, the yellow and white garden beds, reflect the memories of the letters soldiers sent home from war to their loved ones. Andrew suggests taking in the view from the top of the wheel to get the full visual impact.
He also likes the raised garden bed of ‘The Rising Sun’. Sitting in front of Inspiration Hub, Andrew tells us the red and orange flowers planted will come into full bloom over the month. Walking up the centre path will let you see the full view of ‘The Rising Sun’.
Andrew’s other tips include picking up the children’s activity sheet at the entrance; each garden bed has a clue to be solved. He also tells us there are a lot of secret spots in the park to have a picnic and escape the crowds – “just have a look around and you will find them” he tells us.
What you need to know:
- open daily until 11 October: 9 am – 5 pm Monday to Friday and 9 am to 5.30 pm on weekends
- free entry to the park
- see the Floriade website for the full activities calendar, transport options and a park map
- tag your Instagram photos with #Floriade & #SoFrankSocial and share them with everyone.