Catherine StewartMelbourne FS – who dared to be different?

Last week’s Melbourne Flower Show was great fun but there were many similarities between most of the big display gardens. They were all very beautiful, very accomplished and very…..tasteful. As much as that’s lovely to look at, I did hanker after the days of Jenny Smith’s extraordinary 2008 homage to Martha Schwartz with its bizarre parade of painted tyres and gnomes, Rick Eckersley’s black and white garden or the very memorable “musk-sticks and burial mounds” (not my words) of Eco Concepts garden way back in 2004.

Rick Eckersley MIFGS 2008

Rick Eckersley MIFGS 2008

Jenny Smith Gardens at MIFGS 2008

Jenny Smith Gardens at MIFGS 2008

The days of creating a ‘concept garden’ that challenges show-goers to step outside their comfort zones and experience another way of thinking about a garden appear to be long gone. I can’t say I really blame the big landscaping companies for playing it safe. A Gold-winning MIFGS garden can generate many substantial commissions, so why would you want to scare them off with something off-the-wall?

Eco Concepts at MIFGS 2004

Eco Concepts at MIFGS 2004

Perhaps we need some young, new blood prepared to take risks in establishing a new reputation. Or a revamp of the judging rules which rates originality more highly.

So who snuck out of the club and dared to be a little bit different?

 

Eckersley Garden Architecture at MIFGS 2013

Eckersley Garden Architecture at MIFGS 2013

Myles Broad of Eckersley Garden Architecture responded to the brief from sponsor Australian House and Garden magazine to create a garden called ‘Connections‘ for Neighbour Day, a day when we step out of our self-sufficient bubbles and interact with others in our local community. Instead of a garden we ogled from beyond the ropes, Myles invited us all inside along three converging paths, to meet and interact and be downright neighbourly. Brightly coloured letterboxes symbolise the community ownership of the space. The rope pergola was fabulous, especially the way it was woven through chains as its main stays and I really like the rustic stone paving too. (Connections won a coveted Gold medal)

Phillip Withers at MIFGS 2013

Phillip Withers at MIFGS 2013

Phillip Withers put together what can only be described as one of the most unique planting schemes ever seen at MIFGS in his garden called ‘Cube-ism‘. Barrel cactus nestled amid orange and pink kangaroo paw, yellow daisies, mini carnations, grasses, assorted succulents, purple statice, red-hot pokers, silver dichondra and even a ground-covering banksia. WOO HOO!! Fresh, exciting, original and it looked spectacular, especially with the cactus spines were lit up by the afternoon sun. I LOVE IT. (Cube-ism won a Bronze medal)

Hunter Black Design at MIFGS 2013

Hunter Black Design at MIFGS 2013

Hunter Black Garden Design didn’t win a medal at MIFGS 2013. An ambitious design and probably too little time created a couple of build quality issues which I’m sure you’d never see in this interesting young company’s real landscape work. And the appreciative crowd around this garden every time I walked past it was ample evidence that this design impressed a lot of people. A small pavilion sat alongside two substantial water gardens, with a separate dining area. This garden was a great example of how dividing up a small space makes it seem much bigger than one open area. Great to see a very different plant palette here too. I would have liked a couple of more structured plants, like neat mounds of Xanadu philodendron perhaps to balance the more sprawling plants but it was refreshing departure from the many flowering perennial gardens.

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Catherine Stewart

About Catherine Stewart

Award-winning garden journalist, blogger and photographer; writer for garden magazines and co-author of 'Waterwise Gardening'; landscape designer turned landscape design judge and critic; compulsive networker and lover of generally putting fingers in lots of pies. Particularly mud pies. Creator, curator and editor of GardenDrum. Sydney, NSW.

5 thoughts on “Melbourne FS – who dared to be different?

  1. SpicyRedHead on said:

    Watched the MIFGS on B H & G Show on Friday and just love the different designs that the landscapers come up with. The upcoming young landscapers are certainly giving the established mob a run for their money. There is always an idea on there that I want to recreate! I hope to eventually get down to Melbourne one of these years and see the show in person.

  2. Myles Broad on said:

    Thanks for you kind words Catherine. It may interest you to know that the other more staid designers were just as happy to see something a little left of field from our display too. It seems that they can’t afford the luxury or haven’t the courage to think outside the square. I’m just lucky to be trading under such an established name as Eckersley Garden Architecture where people already know our style.
    The shows, for us, are an opportunity to explore ideas and challenge preconceptions of garden making. We had great fun this year with a design that turned things on theirs heads a little and got some great feedback. Letting people on to our stand made the experience far more accessible too. I look forward to more exciting shows in the future!

  3. My favourite display was the Phillip Withers because I love the blocks of colour he used. It was vibrant, different, artistic and creative which is why I liked it.

  4. Eugene on said:

    Based only on the strength of the pic supplied – Phil Withers for mine too.

    New is old and smelly. The deformed quest for originality at all costs has left us wallowing in a culture bereft of meaning. Modernisms grand vapid gestures and graphic flourishes are beyond trite and have been so for twenty years at least.

    • Ben on said:

      An interesting perception of MIFGS & a great article to browse.
      But reading Eugene’s perfectly scripted comment is today’s highlight for me. 10 points!

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