Begonia Byway installation by Hattie Molloy and Esther Olsson | Presenter program featuring Jamie Durie, Tim Bone and Simon Toohey
The full program for the 70th Ballarat Begonia Festival (11-20 March 2022) has been released with the free, outdoor event bringing Ballarat’s Botanical Gardens and city precincts to life with spectacular flower displays, installations, gardening workshops, live music, and more.
The 70th Ballarat Begonia Festival has something for everyone: garden lovers, young families with curious outdoor explorers, and those seeking a cultural getaway this autumn. Visit Ballarat and explore the historical and creative city in full bloom.
The festival program is available online now at ballaratbegoniafestival.com with event highlights including:
Ballarat Botanical Gardens
The opening weekend festivities will take place at the historic Ballarat Botanical Gardens from Saturday 12 to Monday 14 March. Visit the 150-year-old gardens to take in spectacular displays of 700 rare begonias in the Robert Clark Conservatory, marvel at intricate floral displays and installations including the event’s famous flower clock and illuminated swan, purchase begonias to take home (with sales continuing over the 10 days), explore the gardens with an audio tour, and much more.
Pick up expert gardening advice from presentations on the main stage including international awardwinning designer and TV presenter Jamie Durie, plus enjoy cooking demonstrations from Simon Toohey and Ballarat local Tim Bone.
Festival goers are invited to make a day of it with plenty of green space to spread out with a picnic blanket. In addition to food, drinks, music and roving entertainment, there will be a variety of activities for kids on offer from crafting flower chandeliers to contributing to a fabric forest installation.
City laneway installations: Begonia Byway
New to the festival in 2022, three laneways in Ballarat’s historic city centre will come alive with begonia and nature-inspired installations co-created by artists Hattie Molloy and Esther Olsson. For Begonia Byway, McKenzie Street, Hop Lane and Police Lane will be transformed over the 10-day festival with immersive floral, light and art installations that embrace Ballarat’s historical connection to begonias and draw upon Olsson’s nostalgic memories of visiting the festival as a child. The playful and textural displays include pixelated begonias on glittering shimmer boards, a flower netting-inspired chequerboard floor, tussock grasses, neon begonias, and hay bales wrapped in floral designs.
Visitors can weave their way through the laneway installations towards Alfred Deakin Place which will be home to Ballarat’s Boom Box on Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings throughout the festival. Hosting live music performances by local musicians, this pop-up stage will bring music to the streets of Ballarat. Food Truck Friday (11 and 18 March) will gather a collection of food trucks to complete an evening out in Ballarat’s CBD.
Kilderkin Begonia Gin and Begonia Drops
The enduring appeal of the begonia extends beyond city activations and floral displays with a variety of one-off begonia-inspired creations crafted by Ballarat locals to celebrate the 70th year.
Kilderkin Distillery has created a limited-edition Begonia Floral Gin by infusing begonia leaves, stems and carefully curated herb and fruit botanicals including chamomile and long-leaf waxed flower from the Ballarat Botanical Gardens. The natural, scarlet colour of Begonia Floral Gin was created by steeping the gin in begonia petals. Kilderkin Begonia Floral Gin will be available to purchase at kilderkindistillery.com.au from 11 March until sold out.
For something sweet, don’t miss trying Begonia Drops; Sovereign Hill’s classic hard-boiled lollies inspired by the colours of Ballarat begonias. Begonia Drops are available for purchase now until the end of March (or until sold out) at Sovereign Hill ($5/jar).
Other event highlights from the 40+ event program include Getting Started in Beekeeping Workshop hosted by Amanda Collins and Scott Denno (14 March), Paint your Begonia Watercolour Workshop at The Green House Ballarat (19 March), and Pinot and Picasso painting workshop (17 March).
Gardening workshops, tours and plant sales
Those with a green thumb can join gardening workshops and presentations throughout the festival. Caroline Parker from The Cottage Herbalist will lead a weed foraging walk around the Sovereign Hill grounds to introduce the historical and folkloric use of herbs (12 March), plus there will be tours of Sovereign Hill’s Speedwell Street gardens on each day of the festival.
For those keen to bring home a piece of the festival, plant sales will be available daily at Ballarat Botanical Gardens. More than 4000 begonias which are grown locally for 10 months of the year especially for the event will be available for purchase. Also in the gardens, the Gardeners Market (12-14 March) will feature local nurseries and horticultural societies offering a range of flowers, plants and garden gifts.
70th Ballarat Begonia Festival
– Dates: Friday 11 to Sunday 20 March 2022
– Website: ballaratbegoniafestival.com
– Cost: Free general admission with select ticketed events on sale now
– Socials: Instagram: @ballaratbegoniafestival | Facebook: ballaratbegoniafestival | #BallaratBegoniaFestival
Key program dates: – Begonia Byway, McKenzie Street, Police Lane and Hop Lane: 11-20 March
– Ballarat Boom Box live music performances, Alfred Deakin Place: 11, 12, 17, 18 and 19 March, 5-8pm
– Food Truck Friday, Alfred Deakin Place: 11 and 18 March, 5-8pm
– Ballarat Botanical Gardens opening weekend: 12-14 March, 10am-5pm
– Power FM Ballarat Begonia Festival Parade, Sturt Street: 14 March, 11am
About Ballarat Begonia Festival
Established in 1953, the Ballarat Begonia Festival is an innovative garden-based horticultural event that showcases Ballarat’s natural assets including its unique and rare collections of begonias. For 10 months of the year, the City of Ballarat’s horticultural team grow and nurture thousands of begonias in over 500 varieties. The impressive collection is the rarest in the southern hemisphere. The annual event is held in March and represents an authentic part of Ballarat’s story. It is one of Ballarat’s largest events drawing thousands of visitors to the city. In 2022, the festival returns to its original 10-day format following two years of restrictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
History of Ballarat Begonia Festival
1953: The opening of the first Begonia Festival in Ballarat.
1954: Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II visits the Festival.
1953-1993: Ballarat Begonia Festival hosts ‘Queen of Begonias’. A judging panel would select one woman to become the annual Queen of Begonias. Her role was to promote the Festival and appear in the parade.
1960: The ‘new’ begonia glasshouse in the Botanical Gardens was opened and floral clock was installed. It was the largest electrically motorised floral clock in the world at the time.
1964: The floral carpet was the first large-scale, live-flower floral carpet, measuring 30 feet by 21 feet and featured over 700,000 specially grown blooms.
1972: Festival introduces Princesses of Begonias (runners-up).
1973: Annual parade moves to Lake Wendouree.
1993: The Festival crowns its last Queen of Begonias.
1995: The newly opened Robert Clark Conservatory became a focal point of the Festival.
1999: The Festival celebrated 100 years of begonias being present in Ballarat.
2012: 60th year celebrations
2015: The world’s largest outdoor LEGO flower, made by The Brickman Ryan McNaught, was launched at the Festival.
2022: 70th year celebrations