A show for the bucket list

Kids found plenty to amuse themselves at the 2018 Queensland Garden Expo. Photos: Gillian Vine
Kids found plenty to amuse themselves at the 2018 Queensland Garden Expo. Photos: Gillian Vine
Gillian Vine visits a winter garden show in Queensland. 

Adding items to the "bug resort" was popular with children.
Adding items to the "bug resort" was popular with children.
Visiting a garden show is always interesting but for those who feel overseas events are frustrating because plants can't be brought home, think again.

I once spotted a fabulous lily at a Dutch flower show, took its details and two years later found it had made its way to New Zealand.

The same thing happened with the sweet-scented white dianthus Memories. A Chelsea Flower Show award winner, it was slow to reach our shores but is now a familiar sight in our nurseries and gardens.

Regardless of where in the world a garden show is held, there are always ideas to bring home. Queensland Garden Expo is one for a gardener's bucket list, not just because of some inspiring exhibits, but because the three-day event is held in winter.

Staged in mid-winter - this year from July 12-14 - at Nambour in the Sunshine Coast's hinterland, the weather for the show is almost invariably perfect, with sunny days in the mid-20s and cool nights.

Coconut fibre made into a ponga-like log. It cost $A15 ($NZ16).
Coconut fibre made into a ponga-like log. It cost $A15 ($NZ16).
On the retail stands, plants are presented in perfect condition as wholesalers and retailers present the cream of their crops.

A metal sculpture gave height but minimal bulk in a tiny show garden.
A metal sculpture gave height but minimal bulk in a tiny show garden.
While tropical fruits, aloes and bromeliads are top sellers, for the Kiwi it is fascinating to compare prices of familiar plants with the same specimens at home. Last year, I found roses were somewhat cheaper than in New Zealand but large camellias much more expensive, at $A150 ($NZ159) for a 1.3m specimen in a pot.

A group of tiny show gardens proved how creative approaches can transform little backyards, with my pick featuring a metal sculpture that added height without bulk.

An increasing emphasis is on environmentally-friendly products and practices. One was the use of coconut fibre, stretching the product well beyond the familiar doormats and plant liners. Ponga-like logs that could be used as edging or hollowed to use as planters were another use of the fibre.

Children are not forgotten with competitions and special plots to dig. Adding items to build a "bug resort" and introducing them to Australian native stingless bees helped teach insect appreciation in a low-key, entertaining way.

Then there is floral art, "boys' toys" such as lawnmowers, sculpture and - as the day heats up - great fruit ice-creams.

For any gardener taking a winter break in Australia, July's Queensland Garden Expo is an event to earmark.

 

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