While 2020 will mark the 25th Anniversary of the Melbourne International Flower and Garden Show, it will also mark Phillip Withers and the team our 5th professional appearance.
Creating a landscape, entitled ‘It’s Our Time’, presented by Yarra Valley Water, is the first produced by the garden team that will take on a completely local landscape.
Everything that has been contributed to the garden is from our state, including the 3000 plants that are native to the West Coast of Victoria.
The vision for the landscape was to celebrate the remnant vegetation and natural local materials inspired by one of Victoria’s most prominent areas, the Otway and Warrnambool plains and Otway Ranges – a world class landscape otherwise known as The Great Ocean Road.
Some of the early inspiration for this landscape came from my parents who live in Torquay, a beautiful place on the west coast of Victoria not too far from an amazing beach called Point Addis. It was this first inspiration for the garden that led to extensive research into the region which helped to solidify this idea of celebrating the local landscape.
The landscape starts with a bluestone lookout, which introduces the viewer to a native environment. The natural landscape is full of remnant plant life, a mix of grassland swales that drift through the lower plains to the shrub and grassland that rolls up the sand dunes.
The topography changes to reflect the sand dunes with rammed earth cliff structures that protrude from the ground plain with sculpture like natural detail to emulate our amazing coastal environment. A bluestone boardwalk then floats above the landscape to take the visitor down from the lookout across the natural plains and down towards the beach.
Plants: The landscape will feature some of Australia’s most beautiful and iconic plant life; remnant to the region. These include Victoria’s floral emblem, common heath, Epacris impressa, the sculptural Moonah tree, Melaleuca lanceolata and grass tree, Xanthorrhoea johnsonii.
Other favourites include bird attracting and habitat plants for our amazing bird life and marsupials such as Banksia marginata, Luecophyta brownii or rice flower Pimelia humilis. A beautiful crawling ground cover Carpobrotus rossii is also a native herb that can be used in cooking. While grasses such Themeda triandra flow and move through the landscape, these also create create cultural connections throughout our indigenous history.
Key materials: A bluestone lookout and boardwalk aim to create a vista for the public to view out and into nature. The use of large natural rock formations give the landscape its authenticity. The bluestone comes from a local quarry near Port Fairy called Bamstone.
The rammed earth structures, inspired by the cliffs of our beautiful coastline, use local natural aggregate and earth materials to emulate abstract visions of the cliffs.
Limestone rocks, will be scattered naturally throughout the landscape as they do throughout the region.
One of the most challenging aspects of the project was considering authenticity, by growing the plants and honouring the landscape, through to really understanding the rock formations. We did not want to necessarily mimic the patterns of nature, but it felt appropriate to honour the local material and plant life.
The planning, research and design has taken more than a year, with extensive engagement and research into the area and subject.
It’s Our Time aims to not only be a creative and informative landscape that will inspire, educate but also be used as a template for future development.
Plants have been grown for a full season prior to install so they feel established and materials have been sourced throughout the year prior to the show to ensure authenticity.
The build started with pre-build elements commencing in January 2020. The onsite works are scheduled to start 11 days prior to the show. The landscape will have taken more than 800 man-hours to deliver onsite.
For me, ‘It’s Our time’ represents a lot for us. As more than half of the State’s vegetation has been cleared since European settlement and we face the reality of climate change. We feel it’s our time to celebrate the importance of locality, encourage biodiversity, promote water conservation and the ecological role it plays in maintaining the quality of our soil, water and air.
Together with presenting partner Yarra Valley Water, the team will make a conscious effort throughout the show to teach visitors the importance of key issues such as water conversation and the role it plays in using native plants. People forget that our local plant life once established can adapt to survive on rain fall alone, a worthwhile consideration as we slow down the overuse of our valuable resources.
When: 25 March – 29 March 2020
Where: Garden A85, Royal Exhibition Building & Carlton Gardens