As Tasmania bids farewell to winter and hello to spring, the final touches for this year’s Flower and Garden Festival are reaching full bloom.
Showcasing the best in Tasmanian-grown horticulture, floristry and landscape design, this year will mark the third annual festival organised by Blooming Tasmania.
Taking place at Launceston’s Albert Hall and City Park from September 22 to 23, event manager Michael Preece said the festival was shaping up to be the biggest and best yet.
“The festival has already grown significantly since it got started, and we hope it will only continue to grow,” he said.
“Our real aim for this year’s event was to be more engaged with the community and to make sure that everyone knows it is on, and what it is on offer.
“We have more than 60 exhibitors lined up, so visitors will certainly have the opportunity to buy plants, learn something new and take in the displays.”
Mr Preece has been involved with the festival since its inception, but this year will mark his first turn as event manager.
With most exhibitors based in Tasmania, Mr Preece said the festival was a showcase of everything that made the state such a unique place to live and to garden.
“Comparatively this is a special, unique event,” he said.
“We really want this to become not just a premier gardening event for Tasmania, but for the Southern Hemisphere.
“There are so many advantages to gardening in Tasmania. Our unique climate, the things people can grow down here and the diversity, I think is unrivaled.
“This event is about showcasing the best of that, and opening up people’s eyes to the possibilities for their own gardening projects.”
While the Flower and Garden Festival will bring together some of the state’s most experienced floral enthusiasts, September also marks the start of a long list of events across the state.
From September 9 to October 14, Van Diemen Quality Bulbs at Wynyard will once again showcase the best of the Table Cape Tulip Farm.
Offering a fully immersive tulip experience, the event will incorporate an indoor display area, bulb sales, floral arrangements, art exhibitions and the opportunity for visitors to wander through the flower fields.
Wynyards Bloomin Tulips Festival will also return on October 13, celebrating the beautiful colours of spring with displays, live music, and local produce from across the Inglis River.
Then on October 20, Emu Valley Garden will once again host the Cherry Blossom Celebration at Burnie.
The event capitalises on the warmer temperatures of September, October and November, when the Japanese inspired gardens reach peak flowering.
Mr Preece said it was a wonderful time of year to be in Tasmania.
“There is just no shortage of things to do and to see,” he said.
“You don’t have to be a gardener to appreciate the beauty of a full tulip field in bloom.”
This year’s Flower and Garden Festival will feature exhibitions by both Tasmanian and interstate experts.
Among them is Damian Kerin of The Succulent Store, who has been growing plants commercially his entire working life.
Now nearing retirement age, Mr Kerin said he and his wife Jane had rediscovered the world of succulents and become totally hooked.
“I have been a nursery man for 40 years, but recently took it in a whole new direction,” he said.
“I discovered the wonderful world of succulents and have been lucky enough to be able to turn a hobby into a business.
“They are an incredible plant and are very easy to grow.
“You can go away and not water them and they will still be alive when you come back.
“I think that’s one of the reasons why people love them so much.”
Mr Kerin, who has exhibited at the festival since its inception, said it was a real celebration of all things related to Tasmanian horticulture.
“We can’t wait to come back, it is a fantastic few days,” he said.
“Tasmanians are just so lucky and the good thing about this event is that is appeals to people who are eight, through to 80.”
As far as gardeners were concerned, Mr Kerin said Tasmania enjoyed some of the best conditions for a range of plants – especially succulents.
“Tasmania has a huge climate advantage, even though it is cold our seasons are longer and our days are longer,” he said.
“Being cold it certainly an advantage for succulents, as it helps bring out the colour.”
Along with exhibitors, the festival’s popular guest speaker program will also return to the Tamar Valley Room, upstairs at the Albert Hall.
The theme for this year’s program is “go behind the scenery”, with 12 guest speakers lined up to present across the two-day event.
Included on the line-up is Diggers Club founder Clive Blazey, who will talk about the importance of heirloom seed preservation and how seed ownership has changed over the past 50 years.
Mr Blazey’s talk will also include a partial screening of the US documentary film Seed: The Untold Story, which explores the importance of global seed savers and keepers and their efforts to preserve heirloom seeds.
Mr Preece said the guest speaker program was the perfect opportunity for experienced and new gardeners alike to have all of their questions answered, by the industry’s best.
“I think if you are a gardening expert or someone just starting out, there will be something for everyone,” he said.
Mr Preece said he hoped the festival would continue to grow over the next few years, with future plans to extend the program throughout Launceston.
“For Tassie, there really isn’t anything else like it,” he said.
“We want to keep expanding the line-up to encompass areas beyond just City Park.
“In the future we would like to see the festival extend into the CBD, as well as the [UTAS] Northern Precinct as that begins to take shape.
“There are just so many opportunities for us to grow over time and to offer people – whether local or visitors – the whole experience.”
To help launch the festival, a cocktail party will be held on September 21 at the University of Tasmania Academy Gallery at Inveresk, with Tasmanian Governor Kate Warner the guest of honour.
Bookings for the festival and the cocktail party can be made here.