A tropical gathering of gardeners

George Hoad AM, joined a garden-soaked convention in Townsville when members of Garden Clubs Australia got together in FNQ for the Club’s biennial event.

The north-eastern Queensland city of Townsville was buzzing with gardeners in mid-September as the local garden club hosted the Garden Clubs of Australia (GCA) Biennial Convention. Originally scheduled for September 2021, the event had to be postponed for a year due to COVID restrictions. Close to 250 gardeners attended the five-day event, travelling from across the country to be there.

The attendees were welcomed at a reception by the local Mayor, host club and the GCA, with entertainment provided by a local singer and a display of fire twirling. Yours truly was called upon to assist by twirling a lighted baton with instructions to “keep it moving or you might get burnt” – I’ve never twirled a stick so fast in all my life!

Over the week, the attendees visited private gardens ranging from a suburban tropical oasis, filled with flowering gingers and orchids, to gardens given over completely to the display of amazing cacti collections. Visits were also made to several of the city’s beautiful public parks. Standouts were the historic Queens Park with its dramatic views of Castle Hill, and the Palmetum, a 17-hectare botanic garden displaying more than 360 species of palm.

Also on offer were guest speakers on topics ranging from bonsais and bees to syntropic agriculture and aroids. The GCA AGM was held, elections conducted along with several other meetings and official functions.

During my years as a GCA committee member and past President, I assisted in organising and attending many such conventions and one of the joys of being at such a gathering is the chance to catch up with friends and likeminded folk from around the country. Townsville was the perfect place to do just this – over coffee, lunch, dinner or drinks on the balcony watching the tropical sunset – many old friendships were rekindled and new ones made.

The closing event included a delicious lunch and entertainment provided by the Townsville Uker-lyptus Strummers. I was asked to lead the singing of the final songs ‘Now is the Hour’ and ‘Auld Lang Syne’, a most fitting and appropriate ending to a wonderful week. The GCA’s motto is ‘Friendship through Gardens’ and the Townsville Convention certainly delivered.

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