5 Best Garden Shows in the World
Eckersley Garden Architecture won gold at the Singapore Garden Festival in 2010 with this 'Fantasy Garden' featuring thousands of suspended white orchids. Photo - Rolling Stone Landscapes.
For jaw-dropping garden style and sheer floral beauty you can’t beat a walk around one of the world’s best garden shows.
This is our pick of the top five, in no particular order.
Philadelphia Flower Show
Where: Pennsylvania Convention Centre, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
When: annually in the first week of spring
This is the world’s largest indoor flower show and it’s spectacular. Exhibitors control temperature and day-length to force their trees, shrubs and perennials into early bloom: just in time to meet the show’s spring start deadline. This year’s theme was Springtime in Paris. A bucolic park on the Seine bloomed in the convention centre. Blossom trees, lilacs, roses and lavender featured in a garden inspired by the Tuileries, and the Parisian vibe was reinforced with cabaret performances, flower sculptures and carousel topiaries.
Philadelphia hosts the world's largest indoor flower show each spring, and in 2010 the theme was Springtime in Paris. Photo - Linda Ross
The show is operated under the auspices of the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society and dates back to 1829. Proceeds support revegetation projects and the current project is to plant one million trees in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware.
Chelsea Flower Show
Where: the grounds of The Royal Hospital Chelsea, on the Thames Embankment, London.
When: annually for five days in the last week of May
This is the world’s most prestigious flower show. It’s run by the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS), a charity that inspires people to get into gardening and gives them the skills to do it. It’s both a showcase for garden design and a virtuoso display of horticultural skill and is so well loved that in 1987 the RHS was forced to restrict ticket sales; numbers are capped at 157,000!
At the heart of the show is the Great Pavilion, a huge undercover space for spectacular flowers and displays. Also pulling the crowd are the shows gardens. Leading garden designers from around the world compete for medals, especially the much-coveted Best in Show.
Melbourne-based landscape designer Jim Fogarty designed a garden for the Melbourne Botanic Garden at Cranbourne that described the journey of water through the Australian landscape. The garden picked up a gold medal at Chelsea in 2011. Photo - photolibrary.com
Two Australian garden designers presented at Chelsea in 2011. Wes Fleming and his team have been exhibiting at Chelsea since 2004. In that time, they have won four gold medals, and three silver-gilt including one for 2011’s entry. The garden was designed by Ian Baker and explored the link between Australia and England through the voyage of the Endeavour and the work of Sir Joseph Banks.
The Melbourne Botanic Garden Cranbourne won a gold medalin 2011, in its first trip to Chelsea. The Australian Garden, designed by Melbourne-based landscape designer Jim Fogarty, was a metaphorical journey of water through Australia.
What to see: the world’s best delphiniums, sweet peas, roses, foxtail liles, alliums, clematis and begonia.
Hampton Court Palace Flower Show
Where: the grounds Hampton Court Palace, Surrey.
When: annually in the first week of July
This the largest flower show of them all! Like Chelsea, this one is run by the RHS, but is nearly three times as big. There are show gardens, water gardens, small gardens, conceptual gardens, giant floral marquees, pavilions, talks, demonstrations and a festival of roses, all spread over 14 hectares.
One of the iconic images of the 2010 Hampton Court Flower SHow was this giant pink tap. As part of a national campaign called 'A Matter of Urgency', the show-stopping garden was deisnged to raise awareness of overactive bladder (OAB), a condition which affects nearly one in five people in the UK aged over 40 It reappeared in 2011, stopping traffic once more. Photo - photolibrary.com
Hampton Court Palace is a grand setting for a flower show and, unlike at Chelsea, there is no restriction on ticket sales here and gardeners also have the opportunity to shop. Graham Ross was there this year and says “the locals particularly love the opportunity to be able to buy plants and this makes for a very relaxed, friendly market-style event. There’s no pressure, you’re not being pushed along by the crowds, and there’s plenty of room to stop and admire the plants at your pace.”
What to see: late-summer perennials and roses and an innovative edible garden display.
Singapore Garden Festival
Where: Suntec International Convention and Exhibition Centre, Singapore
When: annually for eight days in July
This garden show is only a few years old, but is already developing a hefty reputation. In 2011 17 countries took part, garden designers from all over the world presented their gardens, and 300 000 visitors turned up to have a look.
Photo - Jim Fogarty
Jim Fogarty won a gold medal at the inaugural Singapore Garden Festival in 2006, and followed that up with more gold in 2008 and again in 2011 with his Daintree Garden. “The Singapore Garden Festival is the biggest gardening event in the tropics,” he says. “It’s a rare opportunity to see recent international medal winners. Designers from around the world are invited to compete, on a level playing field. Each designer has to work with the same-sized garden plot and the same budget. It’s the ultimate way to see a cross-section of current world garden trends and talents all together in a country that prides itself as being a true garden city.”
What to see: the world’s best tropical orchids, palms, anthurium, heliconia, torch ginger and beehive ginger.
Melbourne International Flower and Garden Show
Where: Royal Exhibition Building and surrounding Carlton Gardens, Melbourne
When: annually at the end of March
Australia’s best-loved garden show is affectionately known as MIFGS (pronounced Mifgus). It’s the largest garden show in the southern hemisphere and showcases the talent of Australian garden designers. The success of the show is partly due to its great location in the heart of Melbourne. Lovers of garden accessories also have fun in the extensive retail section.
Dean Herald's 'Reflections' garden took the main prize at MIFGS in 2011. It balanced calm and strength and featured a lounge area with fireplace and curved roof, a relection pond and an outdoor bathroom. Photo - Rolling Stone Landscapes.
Garden designers often debut at MIFGS, then move on to Chelsea. This was the case for Jim Fogarty, Scott Wynd and Ian Barker who have all designed award-winning gardens for Wes Fleming at Chelsea following success at MIFGS. 2011’s MIFGS winner was Dean Herald from Rolling Stones Landscapes. His 'Reflections' garden was inspired by the battle many people face with depression and anxiety. It was a calming space featuring an expansive pavilion positioned over a modern pool with an astounding curved roof. Lush plantings provided seclusion and privacy; and an elevated outdoor bathroom and large fireplace were set within the pavilion.
What to see: autumn colour, sedum, foliage plants and gorgeous cut flowers inside the glorious, heritage-listed Exhibition Building.
Text: Linda Ross