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.
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?
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?
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 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 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.