By Jo Finzi
The Ellerslie International Flower Show, from 15th to 19th November, is the largest floral exhibition in the southern hemisphere. Established by the Rotary Club of Auckland in 1994, it has had a permanent home at the Auckland Regional Botanic Gardens since 1998.
In 2004 it celebrated its tenth anniversary with the introduction of night-time concerts, featuring Nathan Haines, spectacular garden lighting displays and late night opening hours. It also featured the 100% Pure New Zealand Ora - Garden of Well-Being, the garden that won gold at Chelsea.
With the UK’s Chelsea Flower Show as its inspiration, the festival attracts around 70,000 visitors.
The show features 5.5 hectares of lush greenery, sheltered within native bush. There are over 300 amazing exhibits to view, as well as Garden Art by leading New Zealand sculptors. There’s a lake backdrop for the live music, with bands performing throughout the festival.
Musicians and entertainers travel around the site and further entertainment comes in the form of petanque, croquet and horseshoe pitching at the Limit Yard Games area inside the Totara entrance.
Always popular is the ASB Discovery Marquee which first illustrated 200 million years in the history of New Zealand landscapes, from Gondwanaland to the future.
This display featured a forest of more than 7000 plants, seven-metre-high trees, and water features circulating more than 20,000 litres of water each hour.
Following requests for more flowers, the Marquee adopted a theme entitled “Daydreams to Midnight” in 2001, with a riot of colour and more than 20,000 flowers in the four gardens, with themes from romantic to gothic! Another ‘must visit’ is the Garden Makeover Marquee.
There are plenty of facilities for visitors including four seated restaurants, free motorised scooters and wheelchairs to help the disabled get round, and even a mobile bank with foreign exchange, banking & ATM Machines.
At the end of the show there is a Grand Plant Sale (at 6pm on Sunday), when you can buy anything from the displays, from exotic flowers and plants to paving stones.