Saturday, March 27, 2010

Showtime in Melbourne

It's on this weekend, and if you're a gardener in Melbourne you probably don't need to be told about it. Australia's biggest flower and garden show, the Melbourne International Flower and Garden Show (MIFGS) is on again. It's our modest Aussie version of Chelsea, if you like, but the only thing international I could notice here was the crowd – wonderful, diverse, multicultural, gardening-loving Australians from every known ethnic group you could think of, in their thousands. I was there on Thursday on very light Burke's Backyard magazine duties, but there was plenty of time for me to wander around, so let's get on with the show report.

For starters, some unobtainium for Sydney gardeners like me. Beautiful clematis loves cool root runs and so never really thrives in Sydney. But in Victoria there are plenty of clematis-friendly spots, and aren't they just stunning in bloom? That was one of the little thrills for me. Just as I loved seeing what I couldn't grow when I visited Darwin recently, this visit down south had lots of the same delightful sights, only cooler.

Sunglasses on, please readers, we're walking past the bougainvillea stand. These I can grow in Sydney, and in fact all the way up to Darwin in the far north and beyond. What a plant!

All known bougainvillea colours were represented, and it was fun to be there when a visiting couple from Scotland were wandering around. He says "These are called bougainvilleas, Margaret." She says: "My, my Robbie... my eyes are aching!"

MIFGS is always held in the Carlton Gardens, which are next to the beautiful old Royal Exhibition Building. Inside the building you'll find the floral displays, art shows and various other more indoorsey stuff, but for me it was the building itself which was the highlight.

It really is a fabulous exhibition space, and it's also very important in our history, as it's where the ceremony of the Federation of our country was held in 1901.

One more shot of the interior, as the decoration is so impressive. The upstairs galleries are very wide, generous spaces and the perfect spots from which to take it all in.

As I mentioned earlier, the Exhibition Building is where you find the floral displays, which are not really my cup of tea, but this one caught my eye.

Being an incurable boy I could relate to this chunky one a bit more easily. A Ford eco-friendliness promotion I believe, but that's enough indoor fun, let's go outside and see the real show.

It took me five minutes to get a shot of this lovely old fountain without people dagging by in the foreground, so I just had to include this one, a monument to patience!

I just don't get modern garden designers and their competition garden designs. I wouldn't want to live in any of them, really. I couldn't be bothered finding out who designed what, but this one is what I call 'Millionaire Mews'. Instead of giving excess money to the poor, squillionaires pay yuppie garden designers countless thousands to come up with something like this. Will it date quickly and, in a few years' time, look very 2010. Betcha! Simple answer – time to spend some more. I guess it creates a few jobs...

Don't I sound grumpy! Well, a few little bits and pieces of the competition garden design area caught my eye, such as this cute pencil fence for a kids' play area.

And I liked this custom-made dragonfly gate in another competition garden.

But this is what the competition gardens lacked. Realism. If you wanted to shock the judges, you could include a water tank...

... and why not a chook shed? And some vegies, and a place for the kids to play in? I won't rattle on any more about those silly garden designers, as just like the flower arrangers, they're not my cup of tea, either.

So, what's left are the fun bits, the hundreds and hundreds of stands out in Carlton Gardens, flogging an incredible variety of products and plants. Gardeners' heaven it was, and I did three laps just to make sure I didn't miss anything. Just a few personal highlights follow, as there's just no room to properly document how superb was the range of stuff on display.

I've included this little stand of colourful gumboots to represent all the amazing, different accessories for gardeners that you can find here at MIFGS. Can't see myself in these, though. My garden is where my very oldest, most favourite, well-worn shoes go to spend their last few years of life in genteel, occasionally muddy, semi-retirement.

This was by far my favourite plant stand in the whole show, so I've included several shots from Collectors Corner to represent the superb array of plants for sale. A cornucopia!

At the lower levels, bromeliads galore, with weirdo carnivorous pitcher plants hanging overhead.

Did I mention there were bromeliads galore?

In all colours, too.

And succulent lovers weren't forgotten at Collectors Corner. I think the deal was six cuttings for $10. I hope Evelyn from Sensational Succulents in Melbourne got along to the show. This was such a good succulent bargain bin. But if you loved hoyas, orchids, tillandsias, cacti and all sorts of other collectable and slightly oddball plants, this stand was heaven.

Strolling around Carlton Gardens, which is very close to the central business district of Melbourne, was a pleasure in itself. This delicate looking island of papyrus in one of the lakes caught my eye.

And the other lovely thing about being here was the sense of comfort you enjoyed by being in a large, old established garden. There were plenty of shady spots to have a spot of lunch. This wide avenue shaded by London Plane trees was generously provided with benches and tables for lunch, with plenty of grassy spots in the shade for those not lucky enough to snare a prized bench spot. And the food was better than expected. I enjoyed a perfectly respectable Spanish Paella for lunch, followed later on by some ice-creams, as it was a warm, sunny day that reached 29°C, which is warm for Melbourne in late March.

I'll have to count myself as a lucky boy. Perfect weather, and getting to see it all on a Thursday. I'm told by the regulars that the weekends are always more crowded, and that when the wind blows from the south it can get chilly very quickly. Pammy was with me for the trip, of course, and loved the whole thing too. If you're a garden lover and have heard about MIFGS and wondered whether it'd be worth it to go along one year, take it from me that it's a gardener's delight well worth visiting.

Next time I visit, I'm driving down, not flying. Then I could do some serious shopping!


Melinda said...

Did you buy anything? I guess flying there meant you couldn't bring anything back for Amateur Land...

Evelyn Howard said...

Hi Jamie
I am kicking myself coz I'm away this weekend. As I read yr post, I was "hoping" there won't be any succulents there... Oh I'm so envious - thank for sharing your photos, I enjoyed them very much. You have also captured the building / architectural features beautifully.

Happy weekend, Ev

prue said...

Even though this event is only a few blocks down the road, your review is as close as I am going to get to attending. Looks like a good one this year. Glad to see Melbourne put on some good weather for you too!

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