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2010 Taranaki Fringe Garden Festival
29 October - 7 November
The diverse gardens of Taranaki - New Zealand’s premier garden destination - and the people who create them, will be on show in October for a fringe event that has grown into the country’s largest garden festival.
The Taranaki Fringe Garden Festival runs alongside the annual Rhododendron and Garden Festival and confirms the region’s international reputation for exceptional gardening conditions and results.
Now in its sixth year, the fringe festival has trebled to include 90 gardens and places of interest open to the public, with around 50,000 visitors expected.
The fringe event was conceived to enhance the traditional rhododendron festival and show the true diversity of Taranaki gardening, from small sections to large-scale gardens including lifestyle blocks, organic growers, commercial operations and garden artists.
In the first year 16 gardens and 15 places of interest generated 18,000 garden visits and five years on the 2009 fringe festival had grown to include 73 participants with 50,000 garden visits.
The festival now also involves the Taranaki Vintage Machinery Club whose members open their sheds to the public.
Taranaki Garden Trust chairman Michael Self says it’s the people behind the gardens and sheds that make the festival special.
"It’s said that gardening builds character and gardens build characters. The gardeners, artists and sheddies that bring you this festival are all beautiful characters with stories to share."
Self says Taranaki is considered a special place on earth - where it’s possible to experience alpine conditions and a sub tropical coastal climate, all within an hour.
Diverse conditions in Taranaki also include coping with wind which is a constant gardening companion and usually comes from the west, shaping many gardens with an ice and salt-laden southerly straight off Antarctica.
"But nature has provided a wonderful rich soil which also has the ability to retain the just right amount of water. It is easy to work with and can support a wide range of plants".
Self says Taranaki’s relative isolation in the early days meant locals developed a special character with a high lever of innovation.
Many of New Zealand’s top agricultural firms and renowned horticulturalists have their roots in Taranaki, including world daffodil breeding champion Spud Brogden as well as a number of world-acclaimed plant breeders.
More than half of the visitors who attend the Taranaki Fringe Garden Festival come from outside the region.
"We still have plenty from Taranaki but we get visitors from all over the world," says Self.
Of special interest this year will be a vintage farm machinery trail showcasing local Maori and European history.
Local art will also feature in the 2010 festival and many gardens will have artwork for sale.
Two gardens will also provide train rides and others will feature musical performances.
Around the mountain
Festival's organisers say the emphasis this year has been on including gardens from throughout the region.
"It's an around-the-mountain festival, In the past a lot of the coast has been left out of the loop," says Self.
"Gardens are not just pretty with flowers. We have a lot of vege and organic gardens. We also have miniature highland cattle and alpacas this year."
Entry to many gardens is free and others charge as little as NZ$2.
On October 29 New Zealand Post will launch a fringe festival stamp, which Self says is a first for any gardening event in the country.