Popular Flower Types
Whether you’re working with a small space or a big garden, a wet boggy pond perimeter or a drought prone Zone, perennial flowers are hardworking problem solvers. They are especially good for difficult soils and rocky or sandy gardens.
Shirley Cronk was having a wonderful day.
The 84-year-old had just waved goodbye to the judges who were visiting the garden she’d been preparing for the best part of a year for the annual Toowoomba Carnival of Flowers competition.
Settling down for a well-deserved rest, her day took an unexpected turn.
“I was on cloud nine and then the skies turned dark grey,” she said.
The next thing she knew a hail storm was putting short work to her lovingly cared-for garden.
“I was watching through the window and it sounded like a train swooshing by. The noise was terrible,” she said.
“I felt helpless.”
Fifteen minutes later she ventured out to assess the damage.
Her once-colourful garden was now a sea of white.
“At first I thought, ‘Why me?’. My heart sank to my shoes … but then I thought, ‘No, that’s just nature,'” she said.
“And it may sound silly, but it did look spectacular.
“Like an English garden covered in snow on a Christmas card.”
The problem was her garden was supposed to look like an Australian farm garden in spring, one where bandicoots and wallabies are the usual suspects when flowers go missing.
Petals and leaves were scattered all over the property, everywhere except where they were meant to be.
“My poor poppies were shredded and a lot of my snapdragons were taken off,” she said.
“But some of the big trees sheltered the plants underneath, so it’s not all bad.”
A tub of purple petunias was saved because it was under the roof of a wishing well her late-husband had built.
Her 40-year-old mulberry tree only lost leaves and not the precious, tiny berries that had begun to form a week ago.
“The great-grandkids will be happy, they love those,” she said.
“One of the ladies in town said I was probably the luckiest gardener in Australia because the judges had been here right before the storm.
“So maybe I am the luckiest unlucky gardener!” she laughed.
As one of Toowoomba’s competition gardeners — hers is the reigning Regional Reserve Grand Champion garden from 2022 — Shirley is still expecting visitors to the city’s annual Carnival of Flowers to come and see her garden in mid-September.
The Carnival of Flowers is one of Australia’s largest flower festivals, bringing thousands of bloom-loving visitors to town.
“I’ve got 10 days before the crowds arrive,” she said.
“So I’ve got three things to do before then — a lot of raking, some fertilising, and a big pep-talk for my plants.”
But Shirley still chooses to look on the bright side.
“There’s always a silver lining,” she said, as she pointed to the dirt road that leads to her house.
“They recently did up the road and all the trees were covered in dust, and now everything looks so clean and fresh and washed.”
There’s no shaking her glass-half-full attitude.
“Things look better than they did yesterday, and they’ll look even better tomorrow,” she said.
And that’s a lesson from Shirley’s garden we can all learn from.