COTTAGE COLOUR: Anne O'Brien in her lovely cottage-style garden in Harlaxton, one of four involved in this year's Toowoomba Exhibition Gardens.
COTTAGE COLOUR: Anne O'Brien in her lovely cottage-style garden in Harlaxton, one of four involved in this year's Toowoomba Exhibition Gardens.

Green thumbs share joy, help community in Exhibition Gardens

SHARING the joy of their gardens and helping the community are the twin goals of participants in the Toowoomba Exhibition Gardens.

And they've done that in spades (no pun intended), raising $645,000 for charity since the program began back in 1973 as part of the Carnival of Flowers, at the behest of then 10-times garden competition winner Ces Swenson.

Committee president of some 35 years, Michael Frainey was just a teen, visiting Toowoomba from "up north", when he drove down for that first exhibition.

Little did he know that he and his parents would move to the area the following year and he would soon exhibit his own garden, never mind joining and then leading the exhibition gardens committee.

"I'm a plant-aholic," Michael admitted with a laugh. "But there are worse things you could be!"

Each year 4-6 gardens are exhibited, and gate-takings are shared among specific charities, volunteers from which sell and collect tickets.

This year's gardens include old favourites as well as the exhibition's first totally native garden, but Michael said even those who have shown previously incorporate something new each year.

Adrian and Gail Wockner - 5 Horizon Crt, Highfields - are opening their large native garden for the first time, with funds going to LifeFlight (formerly CareFlight).

Phillip and Marjorie Martin - 17 Dallang Rd, Middle Ridge - have been exhibiting their beautiful, sprawling garden of over .4ha (1 acre) for 23 years, with donations to Anglicare.

Val Peachey - 5 Fern Dr, Kearneys Spring - is always adding to her beautiful cottage garden, started with her late husband, Ron, a teacher, with donations going to Life Education.

Finally, Anne and Mark O'Brien - 79 North St, Harlaxton - are donating funds from entry to their cottage garden to AEIOU (for children with autism).

Michael said while the gardens definitely had the "wow factor", unlike the competition gardens, exhibitors didn't have to please judges or anyone but themselves in what they presented.

They are "year-round gardens", meaning visitors can see what they can achieve in their own backyards, and often chat to the gardeners themselves.

Also a weekly volunteer at the Toowoomba Visitor Information Centre, Michael said the regret he heard most was that guests had not allowed enough time to see everything the area had to offer -a pretty good complaint.

He said the exhibition gardens were a wonderful part of the Carnival of Flowers experience, which continued to progress, adding "the parks have improved 100-fold over the past 20 years or so".

All four exhibition gardens are open 9am-5pm from September 21-30. Entry is $5 to any individual garden, $10 for any three gardens or all four for $12. Morning tea is available at both the Martin and Wockner gardens.

For more details go to, or for more on this year's Carnival of Flowers - incorporating flowers, food and wine, music, art and more go to,

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