IMG_5068_2It’s five years since I have visited the Melbourne International Flower and Garden Show (MIFGS), and I was determined to get back this year.

Compared to 10 to 15 years ago, there were fewer show gardens to view, but there were some beautiful examples. The ‘Achievable Gardens’ section was also a pleasant surprise and highlighted some sophisticated and quirky design talent. Overall, what a relief that plants are now ‘back’, especially compared to past shows where plants played second fiddle to hardscaped ‘outside rooms’.

The standouts

To be honest I am in awe of the effort that goes into every display, but I’m always searching for something that grabs me. These show gardens ‘had me at hello’:

The Greenery Garden designed by Vivid Design

There’s a reason why certain gardens win awards at MIFGS. This garden was oozing class and was bursting with a luscious array of plants, but had a quiet, restful quality that made you want to sit in it. I also loved the ‘secret’ staircase which revealed an otherwise hidden sculpture.

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This garden was classy, but unpretentious and every element was clearly very carefully selected; from the use of angles and framing to the soft colour palette and foliage texture and contrast. It didn’t necessarily break new ground but it was a perfect example of well-executed design creating a layered, balanced, harmonious space. It was easy to forget that it was a show garden – I will have more to say about this one*.

Reflection designed by Ian Barker Gardens

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What an ambitious garden. This was a ridiculous achievement – a show garden built partially over the existing ornamental lake, featuring a boathouse linked via floating boardwalks to a romantic garden overflowing with perennials. The overall effect had me transported to another time and place and the incredible range of unusual plants from Antique Perennials had me itching to buy and try a whole list of plants I have never used before. Aside from the misty, dreamy quality of the garden, there was some inventive use of building materials – I will go into more detail in another post*.

Right of Way designed by Daniel Tyrrell Landscapes

IMG_5062_2This was my sentimental favourite. The frustrating thing about show gardens is you’re usually stuck behind a security rope. It’s like peering over someone’s front fence – very unsatisfying! Daniel Tyrrell’s laneway garden allowed you to stroll through and touch it and imagine what a suburban bluestone cobbled laneway (complete with graffiti art) would feel like if it was reclaimed as a community garden. In this case filled with tough but gorgeous flowering perennials and grasses, intermingling with herbs and vegetables. The gasps and purrs of appreciation could be heard throughout this garden. It convinced me – let’s do this!

Other highlights

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A Garden Called Frank by BLAC Design & Construction – I don’t naturally gravitate towards minimalism, however the pale concrete lines in this monochrome design were exquisite and the green-on-green mounded planting using (often underestimated) conifers worked brilliantly.

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The Retreat by Paul Hervey-Brookes was positively stuffed full of plants. I really liked the idea of the coppiced gum trees and mixing native plants with exotics – it was just a little too busy for me to fall in love completely.

 

IMG_5107_2Do the NT by Candeo Design featured an incredible selection of Australian plants that we don’t often get to see in Victoria – Sturt’s Desert Pea, Flannel Flower, yellow Billy Buttons and native water lilies – lovely to see.

 

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A Young Family designed by InStyle Gardens was striking, but not really my cup of tea. What I discovered on a second viewing, was a secret path down the side that led to a kitsch toadstool table and chairs for kids – I would have loved this as a child!

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The Avenue of Achievable Gardens student design section was really refreshing. I wish I’d had more time to spend and chat to the students who had clearly put so much effort into some really creative and original designs.

 

For the kids

Let me finish this installment by saying I spent four hours at MIFGS with one very patient two-and-a-half-year-old boy, which made it tricky to pause for long and spend time talking to people.

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That said, if you’re ever planning to take little ones to MIFGS, they will love the ‘Kids Under Cover Cubby House Challenge’. This has been going for a few years now, and my boy had a ripper time tearing in and out of the most gorgeous cubbies (some of them big enough to be granny flats). He climbed, tunneled, opened doors, closed doors, peered through windows and pretended to cook. We spent at least an hour exploring about half a dozen cubbies and had a ball.

IMG_5126The result was one tuckered-out kid and a satisfied garden addict, brimming with ideas and looking forward to next year’s show.

 

*I will post some more detailed blog entries on a couple of show gardens I really enjoyed – they deserve more than a paragraph. Stay tuned.