Thousands arrive for the Ballarat Begonia Festival

THE biggest celebration of Ballarat’s gardens is here.

Workers put the finishing touches on the begonia display yesterday in preparation for the thousands of revellers who are set to join the festivities of this weekend’s Ballarat Begonia Festival.

Mayor Joshua Morris said the inclusion of an exotic tea garden and a wine garden were exciting new features of the long-standing event at the Ballarat Botanical Gardens.

“The tea house has got a real Moroccan feel to it and it looks absolutely amazing,” he said.

“The wine garden is a wonderful opportunity to enjoy some wines in great surrounds in the gardens.”

The festival will be contained within the botanical gardens in a departure from previous years, when it has spilled onto the Lake Wendouree foreshore.

Cr Morris said the whole feel of the festival would be more connected.

“Farmer Darryl’s Animal Farm, the Super Sandpits, it’s all going to still be there in the gardens,” he said.

“The Begonia Festival is our time to really sit back and take notice of the great asset we have in the botanical gardens.”

For the first time, entry to the begonia display in the conservatory

will be free and open to the public from 10am to 5pm each day of the festival.

The display will showcase 600 begonias, representing nearly 200 varieties.

“The begonia display within the conservatory looks absolutely amazing,” Cr Morris said.

“The gardens are looking the best I’ve ever seen them.”

Other highlights of the event include children’s attractions, an expanded gardener’s market and talks by a gardening panel of experts, including Carolyn Blackburn of 774 ABC, Chelsea Best in Show 2013 winner Wes Fleming and TV personality Melissa King.

Monday’s Ballarat Begonia Parade has attracted a record number of entries with 52 community groups, sporting groups, businesses, schools and music groups all expected to take part.

The Courier is a major sponsor of the parade, which will be held at 10am.

rachel.afflick@fairfaxmedia.com.au

WHAT'S ON AT THE FESTIVAL...

Begonia display: Experience the colour and beauty of the famous Ballarat Begonia Display

Garden expertise: Visit Carolyn Blackman, David Turley and Wes Fleming over the weekend for landscaping advice and inspiration.

How to grow your own food: See Melissa King every day of the festival. Times: Saturday 12 noon and 4pm; Sunday 12 noon and 2pm; Monday 1pm and 3pm.

Mitchell Harris Wine Garden: Enjoy the best of the region’s wines in the Mitchell Harris Wine Garden. 

The Tea House: Experience the age-old ritual of tea within the festival’s exotic garden setting. 

Entertainment in the gardens: Enjoy musical entertainment all weekend. Full program: ballaratbegoniafestival.com

Creative produce: Talk to the creative produce team about techniques you can use in your garden simply and easily.

Gardener’s market: Visit the gardener’s market to purchase begonias, bonsais, cactus and succulents, and all manner of plants and horticultural products.

Arts and craft: Enjoy a range of arts and craft offerings with the Craft Council of Ballarat, Woodworkers Guild, Society of Artists, Floral Art Group, Spinners and Weavers and the APEX Art show.

Ballarat Lakeside Farmers Market: 9am - 1pm today.

Twilight cinema: Sunday evening, gates open 7pm, film commences at dusk.

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