Three winners

Got in a few Te Puna-Plummer’s Point gardens today then back to the Garden and Art Festival Hub at The Lakes for lunch (a 20-minute queue), a couple of speakers and a look around the installations there. Free shuttle buses are running from central Tauranga to the Hub and back. And on the way I met some winners. The undoubted star of the Hub is Francine Thomas – not only did she fill the Speaker tent today for her demonstration but she’s also put together a huge display in the floral art tent called The Pavilion Garden and won the Bay of Plenty Floral Art Designer of the Year title in the adjoining show.

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Detail from the winning entry by Francine Thomas – Bay of Plenty Floral Art Designer of the Year. Photo: Sandra Simpson

Floral art is always horrendous to photograph and do justice – the theme for the Designer of the Year section was Showing Off and many entries were “split level” with Francine’s in three sections. The dark green “flower” is a dianthus, actually a sterile sweet William, but in case you think I’m making that up, read more here. Green Wicky is another type.

Francine had us laughing as she described her low-key approach to being New Zealand’s official demonstrator at the World Floral Art conference in Dublin in June – she and a bicycle box (containing three folded-up metal koru) were all that took to the stage, while her fellow demonstrators all had “teams”. However, when she described being overwhelmed at receiving a standing ovation before she had even finished her piece, there was no doubt at how moved she was.

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Demonstrations by Francine Thomas always include a good laugh. Photo: Sandra Simpson

Right at the entry to the Pavilion Garden is a grand piano – of a sort. It’s made from metal, has flowers for keys and water tumbling off the keyboard, which gives you some idea about Francine’s inventiveness. She says she spends a lot of time on her own in the evenings while her husband’s at work and this is when she comes up with many of her bright ideas.

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Detail from Francine’s grand piano. Photo: Sandra Simpson

Another winner was sitting quietly in the Te Puna garden of Jo Dawkins – potter Murray Garner last night won the Supreme Award at the annual Bethlehem Potters Society exhibition. Murray’s a quiet sort of bloke and pretty modest but he was delighted with the win. The exhibition is on at Baycourt until tomorrow. His pottery is outstanding both for its form and his use of glazes.

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Two Murray Garner pots on show in the garden of Jo Dawkins. Photo: Sandra Simpson

And the third winner was quieter still, sitting in the nearby garden of Colleen Thwaites. Little Miss Perfect, a new rose from Rob Somerfield of Te Puna, won the Best Floribunda title at the recent Pacific Rose Bowl Festival in Hamilton.

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Little Miss Perfect. Photo: Sandra Simpson

Rob describes the colour as “coral” and that’s about right to my eyes. The rose is available only at selected independent nurseries, with Décor in Tauranga being the only outlet in the Bay of Plenty.

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