The best of the gardening world is set to converge on the Sunshine Coast for a weekend full of colour, beauty and fun.
The Queensland Garden Expo is one of Australia’s most-loved gardening events and attracts more than 40,000 people though its gates each year.
The three-day event is not just one for enthusiastic green thumbs, and with interest in gardening blooming since the start of the pandemic, the expo offers displays, stalls and demonstrations for people of all ages and gardening stages.
This year gates will open on July 8 when more than 360 exhibitors will have everything gardening related on offer, including one of the largest ranges of plants in Queensland and all the latest in permaculture growing.
As one of the biggest injectors into the local economy, at more than $10 million each year, it is estimated 65 per cent of attendees are from outside the Sunshine Coast region.
This is even more significant in 2022 after a turbulent few years with a cancellation in 2020, and the 2021 expo affected by state boarder closures.
The program of speakers includes favourites such as Gardening Australia’s Costa Georgiadis, Sophie Thomson and Jerry Coleby-Williams, and regulars Phil Dudman, Claire Bickle, Kate Wall and Leonie Shanahan.
Event chairman Simon Smith says the team is looking forward to welcoming back many regular interstate gardening presenters, exhibitors and visitors.
“There is a real excitement building and we are sure that garden lovers will come out in force to take advantage of all the information and huge range of gardening products on display,” Mr Smith says.
Event manager Marion Beazley says the expo provides a wonderful opportunity to learn about all aspects of gardening and for those without a backyard, keeping indoor plants is catered for too.
“What makes our event so unique in gardening circles is that expo visitors have access to the best gardening minds in the country,” Ms Beazley says.
“This is both through the extensive three-day speaker program and by chatting directly to our growers representing the many nurseries exhibiting at the event.
“We have seen interest in gardening explode during the pandemic – people have taken to their gardens to grow their own food and to create a wonderful space to relax.
“We don’t see that slowing down as many have found a passion for gardening they never knew they had.
“Our young gardeners haven’t been forgotten about with lots of activities and workshops on offer to start them on their gardening journey,” Ms Beazley adds.
The expo will even feature a plant clinic where visitors can ask questions, bring in leaves or photos for identification, and receive a plethora in garden and indoor plant advice.
The event will once again celebrate organic gardening and permaculture in the Giant Kitchen Garden, which is a collaboration of many groups from across the region to help create a piece of gardening paradise.
The 2022 Queensland Garden Expo is happening from July 8 to 10 at the Nambour Showgrounds. Buy tickets at qldgardenexpo.com.au.
- More than 40,000 people attend the Queensland Garden Expo each year.
- 65 per cent of visitors are from outside the Sunshine Coast.
- There will be more than seven hectares of gardening inspiration.
- This year there will be 360 exhibitors and displays, including 55 nurseries.
- There will be more than 100 free lectures and demonstrations and eight live speaker stages.
- Each day there will be 60,000 plants for sale.
- More than $10 million will be injected into the local economy.
Planting the seeds for permaculture education
No stranger to the world of permaculture and organic gardening, Leonie Shanahan has a passion for establishing a connection between what grows in the ground and what you put in your body.
Anyone who grew up on the Sunshine Coast in the past two decades may remember Ms Shanahan attending their primary school to help students plant and grow permaculture gardens as part of her Edible School Gardens program.
The author, educator and presenter endeavours to use her experience to empower and educate everyone to appreciate the value of homegrown food from their backyards, balconies, schools or community gardens.
Ms Shanahan openly speaks about her battle with Lyme disease after a diagnosis in 2014. She made a career shift to horticulture at the age of 30, looking for a more meaningful role after a background in business.
“I first studied horticulture in 1994 as a ticket to get overseas,” she says. “I wanted to work in Third World countries, particularly Cambodia, to help grow food again.
“After horticulture I studied permaculture and loved it – it all made sense. I continued studying and dabbling in organic and biodynamic gardening and in 2005 I founded the Edible School Gardens program on the Sunshine Coast, discovering my love of teaching and changing the lives of children – one plant at a time.
“I love the gardening world as people share their knowledge, their joy and plants with you and I get to visit lots of sensational gardens.”
After years of keeping a low profile while healing from Lyme disease, Ms Shanahan is excited to be back doing what she loves.
“My motto is ‘Your health is your wealth’,” she says. “Food is the basis of our health – it is either going to take you towards health, or away.
“Each piece of real food we eat is programmed to rejuvenate, repair, restore or rebuild our body’s cells, our brain, our organs – all parts of your anatomy.
“Health-giving food will have you functioning at your highest capacity, feeling energised, well, and free of disease. Healthy food is the basis of all healing.”
As part of the Queensland Garden Expo, Ms Shanahan will speak in the kitchen garden and cook’s garden programs, where she will share how to set up a vegetable garden and how to create affordable, homegrown salads.
Ms Shanahan says she is looking forward to the “reunion” of gardening presenters, sharing her knowledge as well as learning new things herself.
Crowd favourite returns
Landscape architect and media personality Costa Georgiadis will make his first appearance at the Queensland Garden Expo since 2018.
The crowd favourite says he is delighted to return to the expo after narrowly missing last year’s event due to a Covid-related lockdown in Sydney.
“I can’t wait to get back to the beautiful Sunshine Coast to attend one of my hands-down favourite events on the annual calendar,” Mr Georgiadis says.
“I’ll be chatting about a range of things this year, including what’s been happening in the gardening world since we last expo’d together – and I can tell you, there have been a lot more people getting into their gardens in recent years!
“I’ll also have the kids entertained with Costa the Garden Gnome doing some nature walks and nature gallery art as well as my Rocking the Compost activity that is always a firm favourite with the little green thumbs who turn out in their droves.”
Costa’s tips for beginner green thumbs
- Journal time – Invest in an exercise book so you can start a garden journal. In this you can record simple things so that you have a benchmark to look back on and say, ‘wow look how far I have come’. Note basic things like the day you start the journal, when you begin your first project, what you first planted and where you got it from.
- Photo records – Take pictures of what you do and do it at regular intervals from fixed locations so you have reference points for growth, but also time. It is the best way to see how things are going and growing and it gives you a marker to refer to in following seasons to see when and how things are comparing with previous years.
- Make garden connections – Find your local botanic gardens and watch what is growing and what is in flower or fruit for the season. Your local community garden is a great place to visit and meet locals to. Visit communitygarden.org.au.
- Nurseries – Find and build a relationship with your local garden nurseries as well as any native plant nurseries that are in the region so you can access local/endemic plant species, those plants native to your local area.
- Do your research – There is so much information online and through social media but like anything, don’t get too far down rabbit holes and lose sight with the practical aspect of just getting out there and having a grow.
A step back in time
The Sunshine Coast branch of the Nursery & Garden Industry Queensland held the inaugural expo 37 years ago, with the aim of providing the public with expert advice and information on a range of gardening subjects in an enjoyable and accessible format. The first event, in 1985, was a one-day event with 30 exhibitors, 300 visitors, five workshops and a plant clinic. Guided by a dedicated group of volunteers, the expo quickly grew over the years to become the three-day event it is today. Gardening is one of Australia’s favourite recreational activities and the show is still as relevant now as it was all those years ago.