One of my favourite memories is moving to Lane Cove in spring and driving past the Lane Cove Floral Sign on Epping Road. It always made me smile. ITC grew up in Toowoomba (Queensland’s garden city) and home of the longest running annual festival in Australia – the Carnival of Flowers. From the moment I could pick flowers, I was entering the floral sand comp and best bloom award. I guess floral tributes are in my blood.
So what ever happened to the Lane Cove Floral sign? There are still Azaleas growing on Epping Road but the floral tribute above no longer exists.
According to the man who knows everything about plants, Don Burke:
The azaleas growing along Epping Road were planted … years ago by Chatswood nurseryman, Doug Clark. They were planted in a raised garden bed to provide good drainage, and an irrigation line was installed along the back of the row. The grower who supplied the azaleas was Ed Artlett, an old friend of Don’s who ran Taihoa Nursery at Mt Irvine in New South Wales. To see the wonderful legacy Doug and Ed have left, just drive along Sydney’s Epping Road in September.
Television personality Jason Hodges wrote the following about the display in a Domain article back in Spring 2013:
For as long as I can remember, I have loved azaleas at this time of year. If you drive along Epping Road at Lane Cove you will see why. Unloved, unpruned, metres from a main road, on top of the Lane Cove Tunnel, in the shade of high-rise units and they still look magnificent.
We have tried to track down when the Lane Cove floral sign was destroyed. ITC seems to recall that the Lane Cove sign disappeared during the construction of the Lane Cove Tunnel and the widening of Epping Road. There was a rumour that the Lane Cove Tunnel operators were supposed to rehabilitate the area. We all know what happened to the original operators of the Lane Cove Tunnel – gonski!! After a bit of research we found that the RTA (or the Road and Maritime Services as they are now known) promised to maintain the “azalea display” . The Lane Cove Tunnel Development Planning Approval dated December 2002 promised:
Under the planning approval for the Lane Cove Tunnel, the RTA is required to meet a range of conditions aimed at maximising the project’s benefits and minimising any adverse impacts on local communities. Urban design The RTA will develop a specific urban design strategy for the Epping Road corridor between Mowbray Road West and the Pacific Highway after discussions with the local community.These measures include: • Maintaining the ‘azalea display’ on Epping Road. • Creating a ‘gateway’ feature to Epping Road at Longueville Road. • Using native plants for landscaping
The Lane Cove Council does recognise the importance of the Azaleas. When the council was seeking expressions of interests from artists to paint the street signal boxes, they proposed Azaleas as one the possible themes. The brief noted:
‘Brief: The Azaleas on Epping Road signify to Sydney that spring has begun. The established azaleas are not only part of Lane Cove’s mental mapping but are important in the cultural mind maps of residents throughout greater Sydney. For this reason, the azaleas are themselves identified as a public art work and have been included in the Lane Cove Public Art Register.*
*ITC has searched the Lane Cove Council website for the public art register but it must not be online.
The Online Petition to bring the Azaleas Sign Back
ITC is starting a campaign to bring back the Lane Cove floral display sign. The sign could be located in the area that is currently covered in mulch or even somewhere else along Epping Road (but in the Lane Cove Council Area).
The Lane Cove floral sign could become a tourist attraction. It would be a lovely addition to the mooted Lane Cove Gardening Competition.
If you would like the Lane Cove Floral sign back on Epping Road sign our petition here. #bringbacktheazaleas
*The cover photo is reproduced with the permission of the Lane Cove Library – Copyright Lane Cove Council
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