I actually was quite surprised about the range of style in the gardens exhibited at the Melbourne Flower and Garden Show this year. Flowers were few and far between. Strong foliage and structures made from earthy reclaimed materials were found throughout the show, even among the florists displays.
This earthiness was also represented in organic shapes though, with curves and balls softening what could otherwise be hard and unforgiving. There were some exceptions but even the gardens with strong planting that included flowers showed extreme restraint in the number of different plant types used.
So to the styles. There are too many to cover here so I’ll cover this in a couple of blogs.
Earthy, green and structured with a hint of decadence
This was the predominant feel throughout the show and I actually couldn’t put a finger on it until I went to see ‘Dark Shadows’ last weekend. The current fascination with anything Gothic is represented here.
I have already covered Paarl Grant’s ‘Conversation’ in an earlier post but it’s great form gives the best of this look. The little video below gives quick shots of the garden focusing on the fantastic weathered metal used in the arbor, terraces, water feature and fire.
The image below gives some idea o the same range of features.
I just love the simplicity of planting which is restricted to green, green lawn reflected in the topiary. The wickedness is enhanced in the Samservieria used along the top of the walls.
I have also discussed Ross Ubergang’s ‘Eden’ in earlier posts but it also deserves mention here. It is also based on the use of weathered metal but the decadence is enhanced by the daybed, the use of mirrors and candelabra. I love the use of blousy planting, looking overgrown and unkempt but barely kept in check with metal garden edging.
Even the Debco achievable gardens showed this trend, The ‘Darkest Corner’ is unashamedly a Gothic piece of ice-cream melting in the sun.
Conservation, Recycle and Reuse
Another trend seen in many of the exhibits was based on recycling and conservation. Up-cycling as some put it.
Jason Hodges ‘Smart Change’ probably did the up-cycling thing the best. Not a single thing in the garden was purchased (apart from the plants and some of the underlying construction materials that is).
The bricks are recycled. All the timber came from kerb pickups – its amazing how much timber will come from old couches. the large pavers in the grass are sheets of corrugated iron flattened by driving over them – the list goes on.
Rainwater is harvested from the roof and used to make a rocky creek through the garden which becomes a dry creek bed in the dry. The use of Australian plants which do not need to be watered adds to the theme. This is a modern take on the 1970’s Australian Garden.
Again, even the Debco achievable gardens gave examples of this theme.
The Plantsman’s Gardens
Yes there were some designers who used plants (and flowers) fantastically. The Yates garden deservedly shared best in show. The garden, complete with house, showed the best a suburban backyard could hope for.
A large deck spilled out from the back doors and then onto the grass beyond. Around this were the herbaceous boarders, luscious and full of the best a Melbourne autumn color could offer. But as I went around, I noticed that the plant palette was in fact quite restricted and the strength of the planting rested on using the same plants repeatedly.
I’ll discuss this same planting technique in the very contemporary version ‘Surge’ by Brent Reid.