Winning displays at MIFGS

By Gabrielle Stannus

Couldn’t make it to the recent Melbourne International Flower and Garden Show? Take a quick look at some of the winning gardens featuring plants supplied by members of the nursery and garden industry.

These gardens included both native and exotic perennial species, with many displays drawing inspiration from the prairie or meadow naturalistic planting design.

The Loggia
Designed by Tract Consultants, The Loggia won four Show medals, including Gold Show Garden, Horticultural Media Association Award for Best Use of Plant Life, the City of Melbourne Award of Excellence for Best in Show and the Mark Bence Construction Award.

“Our inspiration was really a dry climate garden based on Italian or Mediterranean influences and so therefore that is how the planting palette came about,” says Nigel Parker, Landscape Architect with Tract Consultants.

Nigel’s colleague, landscape architect Janis Fisher elaborates, “There has always been a focus on native plants previously and we thought it was good to mix it up with some exotics because I guess there are a limited number of natives that you can really use well in a small urban garden. Mixing it up and getting some other flowering plants in that attract bees and insects was a really important thing for us. A bit of diversity and biodiversity as well.”

Nigel adds that attendees were surprised by the size of some of their plants, including the agaves and Ceiba speciosa (Floss Silk Tree or Kapok), “I love the iridescent bark and it's unusual, spiky trunk. There are probably about fourteen of those in Melbourne at the moment, so they are hard to come by.”

Janis says that show-goers were most interested in Tract’s bay trees (Laurus nobilis), “I think it is because they can see them in their own garden, and how they might fit in. It is interesting how much of a hit they have been!”

Suppliers of plants included Warners Nurseries, Smith and Gordon and Living Sculptures.

Dreaming was designed by Christian Jenkins Landscape & Design, who took home the People’s Choice Award and a Silver Gilt Show Garden medal for this display.

Inspired by the landscape surrounding Uluru, Dreaming showcased artwork by noted indigenous artist Rene Kulitja. This 100 per cent Australian native garden connected by a series of lagoons featured the multi-branching Eucalyptus macrocarpa (Desert Rose) and advanced Brachychiton sp. (Bottle Trees).

Suppliers of plants included Botanix Plant Supply, Established Tree Transplanters and Tall Trees.

Urban Retreat
Designed by Ben Hutchinson Landscapes, Urban Retreat won a Bronze Show Garden medal.

Ben Hutchinson says, “Everything in the garden is Australian native, even down to the aquatic plants. I love the variety and the texture and the colours that we get in Australia in our native plants. And we have just got so many that we could choose from”, says Ben.

Ben says that his Pimelea nivea (Round-leaf Rice Flower) attracted the most attention from show-goers, with Ptilotus exaltatus (Pink Mulla-mulla) also popular.

“As far as I know, the only people who grow it (Pimelea nivea) are Kuranga Native Nursery. People have just been loving it. It is really unique and quite structural, and they have been really drawn to the shape of the leaves and the colour because it is really dark green. You get the silver trunk on them and people have been really fascinated by it”, says Ben.

Suppliers of plants included Botanix Plant Supply, Kuranga Native Nursery, Oz Watergardens, Tall Trees and other local native nurseries.

The Third Age
Designed by Willie Wild Life Sculptures, Candeo Design and Semken Landscaping, The Third Age also took out a Bronze Show Garden medal.

“We were going for more of a ‘cottage-y’ kind of style, that was our brief. It ended up really working quite well. The fact that we were able to get to Antique Perennials and they gave us what we needed and showed us what was going to be suitable. Asters were originally on our list, but you know, when you see stuff like that ready to go, you have to take the opportunity and show what you can do,” says Charlotte Wiltshire, Junior Designer and Horticulturist with Candeo Design.

Charlotte says that the dwarf Agapanthus ‘Perpetual Peace’ and advanced Malus sp. proved to be massive hits with show-goers. Other plants popular with the punters included Agastache sp., Conostylis sp. and Sedum sp.

Suppliers of plants included Antique Perennials, Established Tree Transplanters and Warners Nurseries.

Predictions for next year?
With the Show set to celebrate its 25th anniversary in 2020, silver may likely be the designer’s colour of choice for flowers and foliage next year. Such a selection would be highly appropriate given Australia’s rapidly changing climate.

My 2020 Show tip: Look out for more xeriscape-style gardens incorporating both native and exotic species adapted to growing in low-water landscapes.