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Student garden wonderlands at Floriade

Published: 18 Sep 2023

Pauline Sullivan attended the very first Floriade in 1988, now the 58-year-old student from Canberra Institute of Technology (CIT) has turned her passion for gardening into her profession.

Pauline is one of five CIT horticulture students who has designed gardens for this year's Floriade festival, with some 50 CIT students and apprentices also part of the garden builds and maintenance.

CIT's horticulture department linked with Canberra's industry partners in landscaping to give students the opportunity to get real job experience at Canberra's prestigious tourism event.

Pauline was 54 when she left a 30-year career in the public service to venture into study at CIT.

"I went to the first Floriade in 1988, now here I am designing a garden display at Floriade," Pauline said. "It was a little daunting returning to study, my son was an apprentice at the time, but I've enjoyed it so much. I've now got my own small business, I help older people with their garden maintenance. I'm their arms and legs as I call it."

Imogen McMillan, 29, also switched to horticulture after starting in real estate. She's now studying parks and gardens at CIT and is a second-year apprentice, working with Transport Canberra and City Services.

"CIT is great at teaching the skills, then we're so lucky to have this opportunity to work with industry and high-end professional builders," Imogen said.

This year's Floriade theme is Floral Wonderland and students were encouraged to design gardens that would "stimulate childlike curiosity".

"I had so many ideas, I had to rein myself in," Imogen said. "It's great that we can let our creativity flow, but the landscapers are also guiding us through it all so we know what's realistic.

"Floriade is vibrant, it's busting with colour and activity. This project is just like that, Floriade is happiness."

To add interest to the garden builds, it is also a competition. Visitors can cast their vote for the public choice award via a QR code at the event.

All five gardens are designed by CIT students, but different landscaping companies led four of the builds. The other garden was fully designed and built by CIT students.

CIT Horticulture teacher Michael Blasch praised the industry collaboration.

"Giving our CIT students the opportunity to work so closely with industry is fantastic because a big part of our role at CIT is to give these students hands-on experience so they're job-ready," Michael said.

CIT thanks the following businesses for their support:

Build: Cool Climate Landscaping, Landculture, ONE Landscape, Revive Landscapes,
Supply: Aquaflow Irrigation, Canturf, Cinajus, Cool Country Natives, Stonehenge, Thor's Hammer, Yarralumla Nursery, Alpine Nurseries, Andreasens Green.

Explore CIT's course and career options in horticulture at