Botanic Gardens Trust, Sydney, Australia


Camden Show a Winner

by Karen Silvester, Nursery Supervisor, the Blue Mountains Botanic Garden, Mount Tomah

The Camden Show of 2011 was the initial spark for our venture this year. My horse Wilbur and I had entered the 4-wheeled vehicle section of the heavy harness classes at the show. As we were nearing the marshalling area I noticed a large wagon being pulled by a team of four Clydesdales from Belgenny Farm, with a big Department of Agriculture sign displayed at the front of the wagon. Immediately I figured: why not the Royal Botanic Gardens and Domain Trust too? Thus a couple of months into the watch of our new director, Prof. David Mabberley, I suggested this possibility and immediately received a positive response. An equally positive response came from Director Public Engagement, Kate Faithorn, who felt that our exposure to agricultural shows would be worthwhile.

Late last year I contacted the Camden Show administration to enquire as to the Trustís participation and various costs associated therein. The show administration was very keen for the Trust to be involved, especially as the idea of a ĎLifestyle Pavilioní was to be put on trial at this yearís show should we wish to staff a stall. Whereupon I wondered whether The Growing Friends might like to trial selling their potted material at the show and put the idea to a couple of Blue Mountains Botanic Garden Growing Friends and also Carol Griesser of the Australian Botanic Garden, Mount Annan and again I received a favourable response. The wheels were in motion for this project!  Potted material was prepared both for selling at the stall and as display material for the flower-cart. Lou Clifton, Manager, Marketing and Visitor Services at the Blue Mountains Botanic Garden, engaged Karen Rinkel of Design and Editorial Services to design signs for each of the three Botanic Gardens to be hung around the flower-cart; thereafter Glen Bootes, Senior Painter/Signwriter at the of the Royal Botanic Garden undertook to make the signs for the flower-cart.

As the show time date was nearing, Foundation and Friendsí Cassie King detailed the event information and the 3-hourly roster of Growing Friends from each Botanic Garden. The Australian Botanic Garden team involved Carol Griesser, Robin McIntyre, Peter Reeves, Sue Hutchinson, Anne Underwood, Kim Hines, Athol Luker, Pat Muller and Gai Arthur. Down from the Blue Mountains Botanic Garden was Richard Landon, Ailsa Thompson and Libby Salkeld and from the Royal Botanic Garden, Sydney Anne and Jorgen Rasmussen, with Raul de Ferranti and Debbie Mills of the Foundation and Friends also dropping in.

Meanwhile, preparation for the decoration of the flower-cart was busily being undertaken by horticulturist Steve Vella. In the background, apprentice Chris Crottey and my groom for the show practised with Wilbur pulling the flower-cart. Wilbur weighed in around 500 kg; the flower-cart 360 kg (unloaded) and the expected payload - plants and passenger, would add another 200 kg. Although grossing above Wilburís weight, we would be pulling on reasonably level ground, so it was quite within Wilburís capacity.

Thursday before the show saw the plant material loaded and transported by Mark Viler to the showground, with the Australian Botanic Gardenís Growing Friends putting together the display. Lindy Cornwall, Camden Show Secretary said it was most impressive. Steve, Chris and I loaded the flower-cart, plants, horse, harness etc and arrived at the showground about 5 pm - in time to pitch our tents in the horse area for camping over.

Friday morning arrived and all, detailed for duty at 9 am at Camden showground, duly presented ready for action, the flower-cart and pot display finalised at the last minute. The weather was in our favour, although overcast it was not raining and not overly hot. As part of the Lifestyle Pavilion we had also been invited to give short 15-minute propagation demonstrations. Friday, being a school day, we were not overrun by crowds. Saturday was busier and plant sales improved on the previous dayís take - although interest in our potted display did not always result in a sale, it certainly attracted enquiries and even a couple of Friendsí memberships.
Our ribbon tally at the end of the two days was two Firsts, a Second and a Third. In the Presidentís Awards the Trustís stall won 1st prize for the best exhibit in the Camden Lifestyle Pavilion and the most outstanding display overall. The flower-cart itself achieved 3rd in the Lifestyle Pavilion exhibits. On Saturday in the main arena Wilbur, Chris Crottey and I managed a 1st in the four-wheel delivery class and 3rd in the open heavy horse class.

As to the experience - we enjoyed ourselves immensely. Chris, Steve and I also participated with the flower-cart in the street parade on Friday afternoon, along with other horse-drawn vehicles, mounted police, camels and vintage cars with the parade being lead by a team of 12 bullocks. The show secretary hailed the event as the best show ever - a record 42,000 people attended and the Lifestyle Pavilion was considered to be one of the highlights. 

I extend my wholehearted thanks to all the staff and volunteers who participated in bringing together this venture and successfully putting Ďour show on the roadí.