Raise your green thumb if a sprouting seed excites you. Chances are there will be enough colourful digits to fill the Maroochy botanic gardens. You see, since COVID, this hobby has gone gangbusters.
Last year the nursery industry enjoyed one of its best years on record. During 2020, the Nursery Industry Statistics 2019-20 survey of Australian production nurseries revealed a record 2.2 billion plants were produced and sold in Australia.
Queensland Garden Expo event manager Marion Beazley says the surge corresponds with COVID restrictions. She says with people housebound, there was a huge curiosity in growing food.
“Before long people were ready to get their hands dirty for a complete home garden makeover,” she says. “And people are now wanting to invest time in creating their own backyard oasis.”
Queensland Garden Expo chairman and Blue Sky Nursery marketing manager Simon Smith also attributed the garden boom to anxiety over fresh food availability. He says fruit trees and vegetable seedlings in particular became very hard to source.
The annual 36th Queensland Garden Expo is set to descend on the Nambour Showgrounds from July 9 to 11. The speaker program is the biggest in Australia and will feature ABC’s Gardening Australia gurus Sophie Thomson, Costa Georgiadis and Jerry Coleby-Williams as well as event favourites Adam Woodhams, Dr Kevin Redd and Phil Dudman. Other speakers and topics include Claire Bickle on keeping chickens; bee specialist Dr Tim Heard; fruit fly expert Professor Richard Drew and Peter Young on growing fruit trees.
Kids can also enjoy a range of interactive sessions such as kids craft, seed planting and, of course, the popular free kids playground.
Ms Beazley says while it is disappointing the 2020 Expo had to be cancelled due to the pandemic, the resulting increase in people gardening provides an exciting opportunity for this year’s event to attract new visitors.
“We’re confident the three-day Queensland Garden Expo will provide ample opportunity to nurture this newfound love for gardening.”
Queensland Garden Expo 2021
- Three-day event
- 60,000 plants on sale each day
- More than seven hectares of gardening inspiration
- 350-plus exhibitors and displays, including 55 nurseries
- 120+ free lectures and demonstrations
- 11 speaker stages
Sharing the gift of gardening
First there were bushfires, then there was COVID and out of that grew a collective desire to re-discover the therapeutic benefits of gardening.
In January 2020, when the flames of the Kangaroo Island bushfires had dwindled and died, renowned horticulturalist and host of ABC’s Gardening Australia, Sophie Thomson was there with the community to provide solace through sharing the gift of gardening.
“Gardening provides some of the solutions to life’s challenges because it reduces stress, teaches us resilience, care of our environment and gives us great pleasure and rewards when we see what we can achieve through our endeavours,”she says.
Together with other members of the gardening industry, Ms Thomson established the ReGrowth Gardening Recovery project for fire-affected gardening areas in Kangaroo Island and the Adelaide Hills.
She says the project was born out of her belief that “we need gardens and gardening to feed our minds, bodies
Ms Thomson gathered donations of money from individuals and groups together with soil, fertilisers, compost and plants from commercial nurseries to start the rebuild.
“But it wasn’t just about growing plants,” she says. “It was about growing the community.” In one area, they created a community garden, and it was here the avid gardener, author, radio host and environmentalist saw the fruits of her labour sprout not only with the growth of a lush green seedlings, but through the necessary teamwork and formation of friendships. Ms Thomson says it was an extremely emotional time, because as the new plants gave hope, it was also a reminder of the terrible loss endured by residents.
However, by March, the arrival COVID foreshadowed further upheaval.
Speaking from her three-acre property in South Australia, where she lives with her five children and a menagerie of animals, Ms Thomson says that now more than ever, we need to experience the therapeutic value of gardening.
The changes COVID has wrought upon us roll off her tongue: the transfer from office to home, self-isolating, quarantining, lockdowns.
Additionally, she notes, “We had food insecurity and plant seeds became as scarce as toilet paper.”
Long before all of this she was a strong advocate for sustainable gardening practices, growing organic food, cooking from the home garden, and creating backyards where kids can play freely and develop a lifelong connection with nature.
At the same time as Ms Thomson joyfully writes her books and hosts shows, she also labels herself as an obsessive-compulsive gardener.
“If it weren’t for the demands of my family and career, I would spend every day in the garden,” she says.