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  • Writer's pictureGabrielle Stannus

Flower & Garden Show blooms once again!

We came back from the 2022 Melbourne International Flower and Garden Show recently buzzing with design inspiration, and a case of COVID!

With over 103,000 people in attendance at this year's show, the first in three years due to the pandemic, it was perhaps no surprise that both Ludovic and myself came down with COVID-19 upon our return to Tasmania. We are both feeling much better now. However, we spent the best part of April catching up with work that we could not get done when we were sick.

So better late than never, I am now sharing some of our show highlights with you, starting with two very important display gardens that I hope resonate as deeply with you as they did with us. Those of you looking for 'pretty' pictures of plants and flowers haven't been forgotten either. Keep scrolling!

Meeting Dylan Alcott, 2022 Australian of the Year

My personal show highlight came on its very first morning, when I was lucky enough to be granted a brief interview with Dylan Alcott, 2022 Australian of the Year, champion wheelchair tennis player and disability advocate. We spoke about inclusivity in landscape design for an article I was writing for Hort Journal Australia. Dylan's words: "Do it from the start, don't tack it on. Inclusivity benefits everyone." With more than one in six Australians having a disability1, either present from birth or acquired through illness, injury, accident or the ageing process, I could not agree more with Dylan on this point.

Woman interviewing man in display garden
Interviewing Dylan Alcott, 2022 Australian of the Year

Tramlines’ design highlights included sensory plants to stimulate the senses with touch and smell, a fire pit propped up so that people of all abilities can enjoy sitting around the fire, and a garden brimming with native plants that feature red foliage and red and yellow flowers. Dylan told me that yellow is apparently the last colour that people with fading eyesight can register.

Perhaps most importantly, Tramlines is not signposted, and therefore differentiated and separated out from the 'mainstream' (whatever that is), as an 'inclusive' garden. The beauty of this garden is that it appeals to all-comers. All of us, regardless of our abilities, appreciate a garden that is easy to navigate.

Fully accessible show garden
The fully accessible Tramlines display by Dylan Alcott and Vivid Design shows that an inclusive garden can and should be the norm (Image: Melbourne International Flower & Garden Show)

Coming (all too) soon: Climate change

AKAS Landscape Architecture and Nth Design collaborated on a show garden exploring the effects of climate change on Melbourne's suburbs. 'Coming Soon' was a poignant reminder of the crossroads human civilisation is at. We must stop deforestation and curb carbon emissions if we are to continue living on this planet. The figure 2.6 billion m2 seen in the image below refers to the estimated area of deforestation that would occur across the globe during the five days of the show.

Show garden at night showing house subsumed by flooding
'Coming Soon' by AKAS Landscape Architecture and Nth Design

Come May 21, I will be giving my vote to those candidates who will fulfil Australia's commitments as a party to the Paris Agreement, and I urge you to do the same. The Paris Agreement is a legally binding international treaty on climate change. It was adopted by 196 Parties, including Australia, at the Conference of the Parties (COP) 21 in Paris, on 12 December 2015 and and entered into force on 4 November 2016. Its goal is to limit global warming to well below 2, preferably to 1.5 degrees Celsius, compared to pre-industrial levels. To achieve this long-term temperature goal, countries aim to reach global peaking of greenhouse gas emissions as soon as possible to achieve a climate neutral world by mid-century.

Climate change is the most pressing issue facing human civilisation. I was heartened to see these designers use the show to highlight what is going to happen to us if we do not face the climate emergency. And it is a credit to show organisers for encouraging the appearance of this thought-provoking display garden.

How's the serenity?

Whilst at the show, I also had the opportunity to interview Christian Jenkins who took out three awards including the City of Melbourne Award of Excellence for Best in Show and the Gold Show Garden Award for ‘Inner Calm’, a Balinese-inspired Show Garden. Christian told me that ‘Inner Calm’ is designed to transport the viewer from their daily routine to a place full of serenity, calmness, and rest with bench seating allowing for contemplative viewing of the garden’s water feature. “I am trying to specialize more and more in wellness gardens. I personally believe that the tropical planting palette really connects with the wellness garden. I am addicted to Bali, and I am amazed with the quality of plants and the tropical climate (there),” says Christian.

Woman interviewing man in show garden
Interviewing Christian Jenkins in his Bali-inspired show garden 'Inner Calm'

Christian acknowledges that it is hard to recreate Bali’s humidity in Melbourne, so he has used plants that provide an alternative tropical effect. Four metre high Chinese Fan Palms (Livistona chinensis) announce the entry to ‘Inner Calm’, whilst Dragon Trees (Dracaena draco), Mexican Fan Palms (Washingtonia robusta) and Kentia Palms (Howea forsteriana) provide the architectural wow factor. Two Small-leaved Figs (Ficus obliqua) in 500 litre bags ‘bring up the rear’, whilst Port Wine Magnolias (Michelia figo) fill out the garden’s perimeter, along with murraya, gardenia, loriopetalum, nandina, ligularia and liriope.

Show garden featuring two large Dragon Trees and a walkway over a water feature
The Balinese-inspired show garden 'Inner Calm' by Christian Jenkins Landscape Design

Christian also has a keen eye for detail, which I believe gave him the winning edge at this year's show. Check out the beautiful tropical wallpaper lining the ceiling of his pergola, and the elephant statue announcing the formal entrance to the garden, or the outdoor kitchen tucked away discretely from view (image below).

'Lettuce' tell you that a garden must not only look good but feed you!

Designed by Warners Nurseries in collaboration with Robert Boyle, 'More Than Meets The Eye' tied for first position for Gold Show Garden Award with 'Inner Calm', and received the Horticultural Media Association (HMA) Award for the Best Use of Plant Life. A fusion of six outdoor aesthetics, including a parkland, shaded urban woodland and edible garden, many patrons were attracted to this garden by its central corridor of white birches underplanted with white hydrangeas.

This garden also won the People’s Choice Award, and I like to think that this is because it included a potager packed with edible plants. A purely ornamental garden is to me a lost opportunity to feed yourself. I believe that no home is complete without a lemon tree, although I understand that may be difficult for some gardeners to achieve in certain climates in this country! Warners Nurseries and Boyle even elevated the status of the humble lettuce in this corner of their display.

Lettuces in raised bed
Lettuce shined in 'More Than Meets The Eye'

Warners Nurseries and Boyle also show how to repeat elements through a design, although not necessarily symmetrically. You can see here how these two large terracotta pots have been positioned carefully to provide balance in the landscape.

Bench and large terracotta pots in show garden
'More Than Meets The Eye' by Warners Nurseries and Robert Boyle

Are you a member of the Black and White army?

One thing we have learnt is that a garden must look just as good in black and white as it does in colour, and not because I am a Collingwood Football Club fan! 'Through the Lens', designed by Matt York at Budling Design, was one of the most colourful and thought-provoking display gardens at this year's show. But look how great it looks below in good old black and white!

Show garden with metal structure, concrete pavers and grasses shown in black and white
'Through the Lens' by Matt York from Budling Design

Balance by nature

'Balance by Nature' by Gina Robertson from Melbourne Polytechnic was one of our favourite displays in the Achievable Gardens competition at the show. We love how Gina manages to create depth and perspective in such a small space (4 x 5m) using this winding path. And the gorgeous red ochre tones of the garden wall are simply stunning

Winding path curves around small pond in show garden
'Balance by Nature' by Gina Robertson

East meets West

The next garden I am showing you reminded both Ludovic and myself of an artist's retreat we once stayed in. This retreat featured a Japanese hot tub in which we soaked our bodies after hiking in the Grampians (Gariwerd) National Park in Victoria.

Joshua Greenwood-Malin is the student designer from Holmesglen responsible for this display 'By Fire' seen here in the Achievable Gardens competition at the show. Joshua describes 'By Fire' as challenging the concept of the Australian 'bush-look' native garden, through the contemporary lens of the Japanese aesthetic. He has incorporated Yakisugi or Shou Sugi Ban into his design, i.e. the traditional Japanese technique of charring the surface of timber to carbonise and waterproof the surface of this cedar tub. And you can see the iconic Banksia spinulosa 'Birthday Candles' framing this water feature effortlessly.

A very beautiful outcome in my opinion. I want that tub!

Charred cedar outdoor tub in show garden
'By Fire' by Joshua Greenwood-Malin

Framing a view to provide a focal point

This restful scene below is from 'Granum Florere' designed by Inge Jabara Landscapes. Inge shows us here how to provide a focal point, frame a view and create a space by using these simple steel structures

Looking through simple steel pergola to outdoor furniture
'Granum Florere' by Inge Jabara Landscapes

Borrowed landscapes

'Resilience': Designed by Steve Day with plants provided by members of Tree and Shrub Growers Victoria. We love how this particular show garden is integrated so beautifully into the landscape here at Carlton Gardens. Beautiful plant selection complementing a magnificent Moreton Bay Fig in the background (out of sight here).

Small studio in show garden
'Resilience' by Steve Day

Okay, I have not forgotten my promise that I would share 'pretty' pictures of plants and flowers with you. So here we go!

Plenty of Tractor Seats but no tractors to be found

Ligularia reniformis or 'Tractor Seat Plant', is a shade-loving perennial that I found in many of the display gardens at the show this year. No doubt because its lush foliage provides gardens with a tropical feel even in cooler climates. Plant nerd alert: 'reniformis' means 'kidney-shaped' - Take another look at its leaves! And would you have guessed that this plant belongs to the Daisy family (Asteraceae)?

Tractor Seat Plant, a large-leaved foliage plant in show garden
The Tractor Seat Plant (Ligularia reniformis) was found in many show gardens this year


The level of detail in Melbourne Polytechnic student William O'Neil's Achievable Garden 'What Just Happened?' was astounding! Just check out this moss growing in the cup of this Neoregelia sp. Enchanting!

'What Just Happened Here?" by William O'Neil

Osteospermum ‘Sunshine Beauty’

Osteospermum ‘Sunshine Beauty’ on display at Ball Australia’s stand. These beautiful blooms are bright orange at the tips and fade into yellow as they reach the dark centre of the flower.

Yellow daisy flowers
Osteospermum ‘Sunshine Beauty’

Glory be!

Simply stunning flowers on this Gloriosa sp. otherwise known as a Fire Lily.

Pink flower
Gloriosa sp. (Fire Lily)

Gourds galore

With so many species of pumpkins and other gourds in existence, why do we only find one or two in our supermarkets? Start growing your own heirloom varieties and you won't go back. Just look at the variety available from The Diggers Club in this image below!

Although, I will give a little plug to local suppliers, Seed Freaks, who grow open-pollinated heirloom vegetable seed organically in the Huon Valley, Tasmania. They can help you find the right gourd variety for your particular micro-climate here on the Apple Isle.

Colourful gourds on display
A beautiful display of colourful gourds at The Diggers Club stand

Looking forward to 2023

Well that is it from me and the Melbourne International Flower & Garden Show for now. After four days walking around the Carlton Gardens and in the Royal Exhibition Building, you can see that I was more than a little tired in the shot below. I hope you found something of interest in this report.

And if you love plants and design in any way, shape or form, I encourage you to consider attending the show next year. There really is something for everyone. Don't believe me? Then drop me a line at and I will be only too happy to answer your questions.

A bientôt!

PS. Credit for most of these photos unless otherwise mentioned goes to the wonderful Ludovic Vilbert🧔

Woman standing in front of fountain in park
The Melbourne International Flower & Garden Show is done and dusted for 2022. Can't wait for 2023!


1. Commonwealth of Australia 2021, Australia's Disability Strategy 2021- 2031



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