Gardens on show

Deryn Thorpe

Sustainability, recycling and compact vegie gardens were continuing trends at this year’s Melbourne International Flower and Garden Show (MIFGS).

Plant fashions seem to change each year and while a few display gardens showcased a riot of colourful flowers, most concentrated on foliage colour and texture, or plants with a subdued colour palette.

Last year many gardens had vegetables mixed in with the flowers but this year they mostly used one or the other. However, in all but the minimalist display gardens the trend to recycling was still strong with the use of wine barrels, pallets, old tyres and timber crates in their designs, especially the popular Yates site.

Celebrating its 20th exhibition, MIFGS is the biggest garden show in the southern hemisphere, attracting more than 100,000 people over five days.

The show gardens are created by some of Australia’s best designers who pull out all the stops to flaunt their design credentials.



The Beekeeper’s Garden by Jenny Smith Gardens.

The coveted Best in Show title was awarded to Quietude designed by Cycas Landscape Design and Lisa Ellis Gardens. Beautiful bluestone walls and paving divided the space which had a simple pavilion, in the same blue-grey colour palette as the paving, a swathe of lawn and a minimalist colour palette concentrating on foliage except for the white flowers of luculia and plectranthus.

The other three Gold-awarded gardens were'''''' Crossroads, Resonate and Equilibrium.

Designed and constructed by Nathan Burkett Design, Equilibrium was framed by a cantilevered timber pergola on the perimeter and an oversized fireplace. Two additional “living pergolas”, created from pleached plane trees (Platanus orientalis) which have foliage coaxed to grow along the contours of a horizontal wire trellis, mimicked the structure of the roofed pergola. The garden, which had a central sitting area and a sunken fire pit, explored the balance of symmetry and structure and used perennial plants in blocks of colour and texture.

Crossroads, by Ian Barker Gardens, also won the award for the best use of plant life. The site had a meadow of cornflowers, with a few red poppies, an option the designers say is an alternative for verges and lawns. Elsewhere it had a subdued palette with grey horizontal pavers teaming with plants in a myriad of green hues with highlights of burgundy, purple and white. Uncommon purple-flowered perennials included Sanguisorba Tanna and Cangshan Cranberry, Rodgersia sambucifolia and Bloody Mary, Persicaria affinis and Angelica gigas. Dark foliage plants included Penstemon Huskers Red, Ligularia Othello, Foeniculum vulgare purpureum, black elderberry (Sambucus Black Lace) and Physocarpus Diablo.

Resonate by Local Nurseries, designed by Vivid Design and constructed by Semken Landscaping, was an undulating retro-styled garden showing off the balance between mass and void.

Circles and arcs were the dominating theme and contrasted with a relaxed terrace space. The eight local garden centres contributing to the event ensured a diverse plant palette with mostly hot coloured flowers. The view was framed by spectacular colour of Autumn Blaze maple trees. Drought-tolerant plants included favourites such as dahlias and Big Red pelargonium. Old-fashioned perennials such as the fast-growing, purple-flowered iochroma warscewiczii — which makes a great screening plant — and the yellow-flowered Jerusalem sage (Phlomis fruticosa), which both bloom in summer and autumn, added to the retro feel.



The pumpkin tower at The Diggers Club display.

The Diggers Garden, created by The Diggers Club, was an interactive and artful creation showcasing heirloom vegetables, fruit trees and flowers with a centrepiece of a cone made from heritage pumpkins.

Food Forest by Phillip Withers Landscape Design was a Silver show garden winner and the recipient of this year’s Honda Sustainability Award. Its outdoor kitchen was surrounded by a food garden with fruit trees, herbs, a vegetable garden, chicken coop and water tank.

Jenny Smith Gardens created The Beekeeper’s Garden, which drew inspiration from the forms found in bee honeycomb and included bee-attracting plants including Lime Glow poker (Kniphofia Lime Glow), Rudbeckia Goldsturm, cat mint (Nepeta Dropmore), Russian sage (Perovskia atriplicifolia), and yarrow (Achillea millefolium Terracotta).

Poppies in Phillip Johnson’s garden. Picture: Deryn Thorpe

Handmade knitted poppies decorated a lawn in the 5000 Poppies display, which paid tribute to the 100-year anniversary of the ANZAC Gallipoli landing. Created by designer Phillip Johnson, it told the story of his grandfather who sent back a letter from the Somme in France saying he “dreamed he was back home, walking by the creek”. The garden featured the red-flowered Spirit of Gallipoli grevillea, which was bred at Kings Park.

Other WA displays included three new roses bred by Peter Nosow from Landsdale Rose Gardens. They are Sweet Senses, a honey-coloured hybrid tea rose that raises money for Senses Australia; Red Rosy Hedge, a red-flowered hedging rose; and landscaping shrub rose Pink Champagne.