Last weekend was one of the year’s biggest for Queensland gardeners.The annual garden expo in Nambour (approximately an hour and a half north of Brisbane) is the largest garden event on the Queensland calendar, and many thousands of keen gardeners from all over Northern NSW and South East Qld make the annual pilgrimage.
As a professional gardener, the Queensland Garden Expo is a not-to-be-missed event and I usually take a small group of clients along for the ride. This year was another great expo, and I was delighted to leave not just with lots of new plants, but also new ideas and inspiration.
There are always a couple of landscapers with display gardens as well as some themed gardens for the environmental section which features native plants, habitat gardening and native bee keeping and the kitchen garden which of course abounds with edible plants, insect attracting flowers and chooks. These gardens were very popular as gardeners were eager to learn from as well as be inspired by them.
This year the Night Garden by Waterscapes Australia was certainly a highlight. The tropical style garden was set up inside a dark tent with wonderful drama and movement added by a pond and waterfall and very effective lighting. Gardening on the whole is a rather daytime focussed activity so it was wonderful to see a garden styled for night time enjoyment.
The use of tropical plants combined with rocks, water and lighting instantly transported you to exotic holiday destinations and yet it was also a garden which could be easily achieved in our subtropical climates – the plants all grow well here and it was great inspiration for how to group these plants in our own gardens. A scaled down version of the water features combined with lighting is achievable in most home gardens.
The garden clubs also put on some fantastic displays this year. The Tropical Foliage Society had one of the most beautiful displays; it made me fall in love with tropical plants all over again.
The Nambour Garden Club also had a gorgeous cottage display with potted plants and rustic items combined so well I could not help but take the time to stop and chat just so that I could spend more time admiring the display.
Another great display was put on by the Hibiscus Society. I am not a huge fan of hibiscus but I do find their display irresistible. The masses of huge and glorious flowers draw me in every time and I learn a little more about hibiscus while I am there.
I noticed the beautiful flowering aloes featured in a number of displays this year. Aloe-Aloe had a wonderful display as expected and had a vase of flowers that rivalled any of the more traditional flowering plants for magnificence. It was great to then see them used by other exhibitors.
S J Landscapes featured a flowering aloe in their landscape display garden, Broadcroft Creative Metal Work used aloes in their beautiful metal garden artworks and flowering aloes even featured in the Giant Kitchen Garden – a nod to their huge popularity with pollinating insects.
This year’s event seemed to have more speakers than ever. 8 stages with a huge program of talks by many of the Gardening Australia team as well as a wealth of local gardening personalities meant that a trip for the talks alone would be worthwhile. I usually try to get to at least one talk each year but there was so much else to see this year that I managed to miss every talk I tried to get to.
I was also very inspired by some very exciting new products this year.
My personal favourite was a new app that has been developed for identifying and managing insects in the garden. Created by Bio Logical in Northern NSW, the Insect and Organic Gardening App is an incredible wealth of valuable information and I am itching to get playing with it. It allows for quick identification of insects with easy friend or foe status and life cycle information. It also includes how to manage pests, how to encourage good bugs and even soil improvement to support healthy insect balance in the garden. This app is reasonably new and yet is already getting noticed Australia wide and even overseas as much of the information is relevant to all areas.
I was also impressed with another local product, Weedless, a weed management product developed by Toowoomba company Earthlife. I have been using their product “Garden Mate” for a while now and have had some outstanding results with it. It is a mineral fertiliser which contains 60 different minerals required for healthy plant growth, in addition to the three main plant nutrients (nitrogen, potassium and phosphorus) and is biologically active (microbes) so is a great all in one product which has been designed to be all natural and highly beneficial for all soils.
Weedless is a natural product which uses microbial enzymes to break down surface weed seeds thence preventing weed seeds from germinating. It will not harm plants as it only acts on seeds, therefore can be safely sprayed on lawns and garden beds. This won’t deal with weeds that are growing but it will break the cycle of weed seeds in the soil and there is a huge bonus in that – how many times do we find ourselves continually pulling the same weeds simply because the soil is so full of their seeds? Of course it should not be used where you want seeds to grow, as it acts on all seeds and does not make the distinction between the ones you may want to grow and the ones you don’t.
My third pick for great new product is the Garden Tower. This raised garden is made in the USA with 100% food grade plastic, so safe for growing edibles. It is a tower with 50 planting spaces and a central composting tube which allows it to double as a compost bin and worm farm while keeping your plants well fed. This great design will allow balcony gardeners, renters or anyone with limited space to not only grow plants in a well-designed and efficient space but also to compost their scraps and keep worms for healthier plants. Water runoff is captured in the tray at the bottom, where it is combined with worm juice and can be recycled through the planter as liquid fertiliser.
Yet another product that excited me was coir blankets from Aussie Erosion. While these are designed for use in erosion control, I was very excited about their possible use for limiting the potential damage that scrub turkeys do in our gardens.
The coir netting can be laid over the garden to stop their scratching, is still very easy to plant into, is natural and can act as mulch in its own right and is far more visually appealing and also downright safer than many of the other things we gardeners are covering our gardens with in absolute desperation. If you have scrub turkeys in your garden you will understand my excitement!
As with every year, we left with empty wallets, full hearts and a car very full of plants. Plants are after all what maketh the garden, and they do also maketh the Garden Expo. At events like this many nurseries which only sell online are there, so it is a great way for gardeners to see the quality and size of their stock to know better what to expect when buying from them online.
There are also always those sellers which only come out at events and do not have public nurseries. They are usually the ones with unusual plants or extensive ranges of collectable plants, so events such as these appeal to those looking for something different. Even if you don’t really know what you are looking for, the wonderful variety of plants on offer ensures that amongst it all there is a plant or two for you!
What did our little group come home with this year? Salvias galore, native grasses, grevilleas, aloes, aglaonemas, ferns, yarrow with unusual flower colours, rare sub-tropical flowering shrubs and even a camellia…..