Many thanks to Peggy Munro and Marion Cooke, who treated us to a nostalgic wander through the history and development of the Castlemaine and District “Festival of Gardens”.
Peter Robertson, Developmental Officer for the City of Castlemaine, and Ian Huxley, President of Promote Castlemaine, proposed the idea of a garden festival to be held in Cup Week as on off-year balance to the biennial Castlemaine State Festival, which at that time was also held in November.
The first Festival of Gardens was run in 1991 with guidance and hard work by Peggy Munro, Ian Huxley and “Promote Castlemaine Inc.” Financial pressure from the Kennett State Government moved the Castlemaine State Festival to April, meaning that one year both events were held in the same year.
Initially, gardens were not ‘selected’ and anyone could enter: private gardens, nurseries, parks, the Botanical Gardens and galleries. Early years saw up to 52 entries. These days, prospective gardens are selected by people from outside the area to avoid bias.
Production of the program booklet has been an expensive and time-consuming feat. Jeff Hocking’s cheerful and quirky cover illustrations have become a well-loved tradition. The first painting, done on wood, was auctioned to raise money towards printing costs. The program are now full of enticing colour photos of all gardens and usually accurate maps. Marion remarked that, “Doing the maps is one of the worst jobs.”
Many members at the meeting added their own reminiscences to this very enjoyable evening. We certainly all admire the tremendous passion and enthusiasm of gardeners and organisers who have kept this festival going and growing for so long.