How to grow The Wrap Up: Melbourne International Flower and Garden Show 2015

The Wrap Up: Melbourne International Flower and Garden Show 2015

Melbourne shows off again in 2015. Here's some of our favourites.

This is a garden event with heart and soul. Heart achingly beautiful and full of inspiration, once again.

Out went the usual suspects and in flooded a happy mix of rare flowers that had plant-lovers drooling and leaving with a severe case of flower-envy. Slate, charcoal and moody magentas were on trend, reflected in the flowers and materials. Throw in a couple of impossible-to-find perennials and you had a show that got our hearts racing. 

Hats off to the 5000 poppies project created by Philip Johnson and Lynn Berry to commemorate the 100 years since Gallipoli. The poppies were knitted by Aussie knitters aged between 2 and 106 from specific knit designs and collected during the last 2 years. The flanders poppies are associated with the battlefields of Belgium and France. The poppies were flowering in the Spring of 1915 on these battlefields. What a creative way to reflect on such a sober anniversary.

‘Cross Roads’ was a favourite, we are suckers for any garden designed along the principles of the New Perennial Movement! This was a real garden, so different to the other show gardens. It was designed by Ian Barker, who is ahead of the game here in Australia, being influenced by his visits to Chelsea Flower Show and the work of garden designers/perennial masters such as Tom Stuart-Smith and Piet Oudolf. 


‘Cross Roads’ by Ian Barker Gardens, sponsored by Australian House and Garden. Silver medal. Photo - Baker Gardens

We were captivated by the Alice-though-the-looking-glass moment of a giant doorway framing a meadow. The doorway divided the pretty, wild meadow from a much more formal design on the other side. It forms the ‘crossroads’ between these two flowery approaches to gardens. Ian Barker’s passion for plants also brought the unattainable deep magenta Angelica gigas to our attention. Imported especially for the show, their lacy globular heads were busy with bees – and with garden lovers experiencing a moment of plant envy!

The judges ‘Best in Show’ and ‘Gold Medal’ garden was designed by last year’s winner Mark Browning and Lisa Ellis, who collaborated on ‘Quitetude’. We love the tumbled blue stone walls and the reflective pools that mirrored foliage on the turn from green to gold. Especially the golden leaves of this Tulip Tree, Liriodendron tulipfera. Gardening is all about being at one with the earth and nature, and this garden was a quiet place to treasure. The partnership of designer Lisa Ellis and the experience and construction skills of Mark Browning, a previous MIFGS multi-award winner worked a treat with the judges.


Quietude by Mark Browning and Lisa Ellis. Gold Medal, Best in Show. Photo - 

Colour ebbed through this garden in some unusual planting choices, thoughtfully combined. Bluestone and charcoal set off the foliage textures. 

We liked the pale blue form of Iochroma grandiflora which is similar to species fuchsia and angel’s trumpet belonging to the Solanacea family. They flower throughout summer and autumn, with flush after flush of long tubular bells in blue or purple (some cherry red, orange and scarlet!)

They have big quite felty leaves, grow to about 3 to 4 metres and needs a sunny, warm position. They hate the cold, so find a warm semi shaded position for them to thrive. Cut back hard after flowering. They'll soon start flowering again in December. We like it at the back of a shrub border to add some height, and then plant other things (like Ixora) in front of it.

If you want glitzy, and lets face it, who doesn’t, you’ll love this one. ‘Equilibrium’ designed by Landscape Architect Nathan Burkett was a symetrical courtyard surrounded by elegant floating walkways. The cantilevered ‘Burnt Ash’ timber arbour wrapped around the garden perimeter. Elevated. Floating. Reminding us of the ‘lime walks’ of mediaeval England where women in their finery perambulated in shade. This was one cool courtyard due, in no small part, to the living pergola, a network of trellised Plane trees trained on wires. This pleaching of a commonly grown street tree was an amazing 5 year project that resulted in this garden getting a green ceiling. Strong on balance, symmetry, and bespoke concrete, the garden picked up the Mark Bence Construction Award as well as a Gold Medal.


Equilibrium by Nathan Burkett. Gold Medal.

The elegant floating roofs above the walkways in this garden reminded us of a medieval strolling gardens. The pleached (hedge-on-stilts) plane trees aided the floating feeling, while concrete and stone helped anchor and balance the garden.

We loved the Boutique gardens. Alison Douglas was brilliant it with ‘Pipedream’ – this was a tiny 5x5m garden with a big idea. Raw concrete pipes, recycled pipes and tall blue cactus grabbed our attention. It was a strong central image engaged me. Although it may be a difficult ‘sell’ for a client’s garden, it was good to see her push the boundaries. 


Text: Linda Ross 

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Author: Linda Ross

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