CHECKING into the Melbourne International Flower and Garden Show (MIFGS) carpark at 9.30am on the opening day, we were lucky to find a park, the place was heaving.
This year’s show drew more than 101,000 visitors, stunning for a garden show on the world’s driest continent, population 24 million, and an inspirational result for organisers and participants.
Considering London’s internationally famous Chelsea Flower Show draws about 160,000 visitors from a population of more than 64 million, with a far older and better established gardening culture, not to mention climate, MIFGS is clearly doing something right.
This year’s show drew over 101,000 visitors, a stunning number for a garden show on the world’s driest continent, population 24 million, and an inspirational result for organisers and participants.
The show brings together designer display gardens, nurseries offering the latest plants and products, and hands-on workshops.
There’s also a splendid floral art display inside the Exhibition Building. This makes a beautiful introductory stroll to the garden show itself, and if you have time it’s fun to walk up to the first storey and look down on the installations from above.
It pays to buy tickets in advance (available here) and have a plan of action for when you arrive, or the sheer magnitude of the experience can overwhelm you.
Bill and I are usually pulled in two directions at once at events like this, so while I wandered round the nursery displays eyeing plants, he checked out tools.
Best buy was a hand-held, multi-sharpener from CutAbove Tools (www.cutabovetools.com.au) a neat device that allows you to sharpen pruning knives and hinged shears and secateurs. It included an oil pad to lubricate the blade and was a bargain show special for $20.
Among many dazzling nursery displays I loved Wallgarden’s do-it-yourself vertical garden system that lets you turn a wall into a garden.
It sounds mad for a country gardener with unlimited space to want to grow plants on a wall, but if you’re stuck with a shed or garage wall you’re desperate to hide, a Wallgarden kit could be just the thing. (www.wallgarden.com.au) The designer display gardens, though, are where I really want to be at MIFGS, arranged on either side of diagonal paths in the outdoor show area.
This year I was interested to see less colour than in previous years and more structure, also a wider and more sophisticated use of waterwise plants, and more attention to contrasting textures in the hard landscaping.
One garden I kept returning to was designer Phillip Withers’ “I See Wild”. Phillip set out to capture the beauty, diversity and richness of our wild environment in a rural backyard setting. A fireplace and children’s fort form the centre of the garden, surrounded by diverse shapes and colours of native and exotic leaves and flowers.
Like all the best gardens, this one invited exploration and created a feel of excitement and adventure.
“I See Wild” won the Gold Medal Show Garden Award and the City of Melbourne Award for best in show, an outstanding achievement.
MIFGS returns in 2018, March 21 to 25. Phillip Withers Landscape Design, 290 Bridge Road, Richmond. 3121. Phone: (03) 9077 5989, www.phillipwithers.com