Ex­pect the un­ex­pected at an­nual car­ni­val

Life & Style Weekend - - ESCAPE -

STEP­PING into a pri­vate gar­den in Toowoomba is like fall­ing down the rab­bit hole in Alice in Won­der­land – vis­i­tors have no idea what they are go­ing to find.

They may feel over­whelmed, but in a good way, by the colour­ful blooms, the mag­nif­i­cent trees, the im­pec­ca­ble lawns and the abun­dant wildlife.

The gardeners of Toowoomba all take pride in what they cre­ate, es­pe­cially in Septem­ber dur­ing the Toowoomba Car­ni­val of Flow­ers.

The car­ni­val at­tracts na­tional and in­ter­na­tional vis­i­tors to the Gar­den City for 10 days and through the Chron­i­cle Gar­den Com­pe­ti­tion, thou­sands of proud gardeners trans­form their gar­dens into spec­tac­u­lar sights.

The Chron­i­cle’s mar­ket­ing man­ager Stacey Hixon said the pres­ti­gious event was the largest in Queens­land to open pri­vate gar­dens to the pub­lic for free.

Ms Hixon said some of the gardeners had been en­ter­ing the com­pe­ti­tion for 38 years.

“All the gardeners pour their heart and soul into their cre­ations and they love show­ing off their hard work and shar­ing their sto­ries with the hun­dreds of vis­i­tors who stop by their homes,” she said.

Ms Hixon said the com­pe­ti­tion al­lowed mem­bers of the city’s gar­den com­mu­nity to con­nect with each other and share their ideas.

While many of the en­trants in the com­pe­ti­tion are aged 60-plus (some 70-plus), she said there were many first-time en­trants pick­ing up their spades and wheel­bar­rows and giv­ing it a go.

“We are start­ing to see a di­verse range of peo­ple en­ter, from re­tirees to keen young gardeners,” she said.

“There has been a fo­cus on in­volv­ing schools in the com­pe­ti­tion dur­ing the last two years and it’s been great to see so many of our lo­cal schools em­brace the com­pe­ti­tion and have their stu­dents in­volved in gar­den­ing.”

That was some­thing par­tic­u­larly spe­cial for Ms Hixon, who said it was won­der­ful to see the ex­pe­ri­enced gardeners in­flu­enc­ing those stu­dents.

Vis­i­tors are asked only for gold coin do­na­tions and the money raised goes to var­i­ous char­i­ties in the com­mu­nity like Angli­care, St Vin­cent de Paul So­ci­ety, Life Ed­u­ca­tion, Legacy and Toowoomba Com­mu­nity Care Trans­port.

Ms Hixon said The Chron­i­cle Ex­hi­bi­tion Gar­dens had raised more than $610,000 for those char­i­ties.

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