Melbourne International Flower and Garden Show 2017

IMG_8704It seems to me that one of the many challenges of creating an instant garden at something like MIFGS 2017, is that the garden designer must strike a balance between including some showstopping features (ahead-of-the-trend hardscaping and furnishings;  intricate detailing and visual diversity; idiosyncratic and expertly composed panting schemes), while at the same time creating a calm space with a sense of unity of design that does not appear over-stuffed or over the top. And, of course, all within a week or so with all the other limitations of the show ground site.

For me this year the better gardens were those that were not only able to provide sensual interest, but also to create a sense of place within the few square metres at hand, that helped the viewer to dispel disbelief and imagine that yes, this is a distinct, integrated space, that looks like it has its own identity and that looks like it has been here for years, or could grow on as a real garden after the carnival is over.

The winners in all three categories this year in particular provided this sense of balance for me. All used natural materials and used them in a sophisticated way that showed the hand of artistry, without taking away from the intrinsic beauty of the natural materials used. I only have time to write about one today. IMG_8714

One of these was Phillip Withers’ ‘I see wild’ creation, which won the only gold awarded this year and the best in show. His use of bluestone here was interesting. He manipulated one material in a variety of ways. Sawn basalt paving was executed in strict geometric patterns next to some crazy paving in the same material creating a fascinating interplay of movement. There were whole pieces of natural basalt that grew into a serpentine drystone wall, which gave definition to the garden’s boundary.

The most stunning use of this material, was in the low benches or tables, which were sizeable natural pieces of stone that were sawn at the top and formed a seat or table top. This occurred three times and accentuated the stone circle that had as its focus the rusty steel fire pit. At different points in the garden, where the stone had been given a smooth surface, it had then also been etched with fascinating designs that added another element of interest, but did not take away from the overall unity that use of this material engendered.

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Hard materials were kept to a minimum and, overall, were used to excellent effect. Granitic sand proved a fitting backdrop to the bluestone and timber was used as well. The timber totem poles in a cluster were somewhat eye-catching, but lacked the drama such a feature should have set into play. Nevertheless, I was thrilled to see a cubby hut built into this cluster, barely noticeable from the various vantage points in the garden where adults might gather. What child wouldn’t love such a hidden spot?

The planting of Phillip Wither’s garden was a vibrant mixture of natives and exotics, edible and ornamental plants with some very stylish colour work that set glaucous foliage of Agave salmiana against mildly orange flowers of achillea, helenium and agastache. The rambunctious positioning of hoop pines, banksias, eucalyptus, podocarpus and grass trees gave a strength via their visual density and the tonal consistency across a very diverse planting selection. And I have to say, I was thrilled to see a lawn at the centre of this garden, happily and subtley dealing with an odd level change, while providing a purposeful void to balance the design.

 

Stay tuned for more words and pictures about the other gardens that caught my eye.

 

 

 

Melbourne International Flower and Garden Show

'Equilibrium' by Nathan Burkett Design

‘Equilibrium’ by Nathan Burkett Design

The Melbourne International Flower and Garden Show is an exciting celebration of the horticultural industry in Victoria and is adored by professional and amateur gardeners and garden lovers who flock in large numbers every year to see the latest design gardens, products, and plants.

'Quietude' by Cycas Landscape Design and Lisa Ellis Gardens

‘Quietude’ by Cycas Landscape Design and Lisa Ellis Gardens

The show gardens are my favourite thing to see. I am always astounded by the amazing planting and design ideas. And sometimes I just stand there wondering how they did it. How in a very few days are they able to assemble gardens that realistically would take months if not years to achieve in the real world? The skill involved in creating these show gardens is extraordinary. My favourites have been included above and below.

"Crossroads" by Ian Barker Gardens

“Crossroads” by Ian Barker Gardens

And the organisers of the Show realise that the show gardens are really unachievable for the majority of gardeners, or at least their budgets. Hence the other competition gardens that are much smaller and known as the “achievable” gardens. These were also highly inspiring. They are achievable in the sense that the home gardener would be able to create something like them, with reasonable budgets and readily available materials. My favourites were the ‘Rousseau Jungle’ by Heather Forward and ‘The Crossroads’ by Ben Newell.

'The Crossroads' by Ben Newell

‘The Crossroads’ by Ben Newell

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‘Rousseau’s Jungle’ by Heather Forward

Another category was the boutique gardens, which fits somewhere in aspiration and budget somewhere between the other two categories. I liked the winning entry ‘Pipe Dreams’ by Alison Douglas.

'Pipe Dreams' by Alison Douglas

‘Pipe Dreams’ by Alison Douglas

And of course there are the amazing flower arrangements in the Exhibition Building, which are amazing and creative and are inspiring to the gardener in many ways, including in the colour and texture combinations that the florists come up with.

There are also some great displays by businesses who are there to promote their products, including nurseries. These are always the greatest temptation and I see gardeners walking away with trolly loads of plants. This year, I was able to restrain myself and I only bought a few corms species tulips. Thankfully I had travelled to the show on my bike!

Phillip Johnson's field of poppies.

Phillip Johnson’s field of poppies.

Check out the winners and other information about the show at http://melbflowershow.com.au