Always sounded like a snoring Nanna-fest to you? Well… think again! The Melbourne International Flower & Garden show actually is a hell of a lot more than old ladies clipping iceberg roses… There’s a lot of muscle and grunt, as well as rabid competitiveness here. So I suggest you get in on this year’s action…
If the WWF and the film ‘Best In Show’ had a surreal DIY Gardening Festival Lovechild, this is where you’d be. It’s what your girlfriend takes you to, and becomes your favourite festival, but you always pretend otherwise.
The Melbourne International Flower and Garden Show, affectionately known as MIFGS in the trade (pronounced: miff-gus) is the largest horticultural event in the Southern Hemisphere and rated as one of the top five Flower & Garden shows in the World.
Still not peaked your interest yet? Well let me break it down for you, as if you’re interested in just one of these five things, there’s more here than you could possibly ever get out to see in a year, (plus they have great german sausages and those dutch pancake things…)
Hardware & Outdoor Design
So you thought it wasn’t Butch!? Well Ryobi, Makita, Stihl, Husqvarna, and AEG would all like to disagree with you through constant demonstrations on how to use your Power-tools best. There’s the best innovations in cut bluestone and granite, fabrications in Cor-ten steel and high density, light-weight concrete, vintage iron and timbers, solar heating and pool design, gabion fencing and garden toppings, as well as great new original permanent cover designs for greenhouses, outdoor entertainment and carports. So sorry Boys… You’ll have to look elsewhere for your Doily Crochet Classes. BUT, they don’t get more expensive for being at the show… because they’re launching new products and driving engagement… They have SHOW prices, meaning if you buy at the show you can get up to 50% off on NEW products.
Landscape Designers & Construction
So this is where the real money is spent by the Exhibitors. While the plots are actually free, Exhibitors will easily spend in excess of AU$200,000 creating their illusory, palatial masterpieces in a mere 3 days. They scale up over three levels…
The Avenue of Achievable Designs
Sponsored by the Nursery Association, these 12 places are for the leading Student designers from the various horticulture and landscaping schools to compete. They have to have 60% green life and are meant to showcase innovation in design that is achievable by the layman.
The Boulevard of Boutique Gardens
Here, local designers build up their kudos and client bases without having to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars, however because the plots are small, there is a lot of margin for things not to translate from paper well, many use the space badly and look cramped… But some still show real flair that is worth viewing.
The International Show Gardens
Many of these are designers you might have heard of, and are truly breathtaking. Much of it being team efforts of over ten different companies across pools, stone, plants, lighting, water features, fire, construction etc. Oddly they usually never recoup the money spent on exhibiting directly from the show… Its all about prestige, and being able to up the dollar figure you can charge for your name.
The winner of ‘best in show’ this year, Phillip Withers, has a garden that every aspect of which is pleasing to the eye. But as I look closer and try and break it down its not just its visual design genius in the the textures, structures and colour, but the planting is mindblowing… Strawberries with Cacti, Figs, Limes and Fejoia’s amongst Australian natives. It really is pretty wild but looks ultimately satisfying.
Nurseries & Plant Farms
Bankrolling every entrant into the other four Garden shows globally has always been… The Nurseries. Unless you have a spare multi-hectare plant farm lying around, if you want a garden you have to buy of these guys. But like the Hardware, they have show prices so you can get some rare and amazing plants for peanuts! (No pun intended). In fact, there are some of the best plant buying opportunities I have ever seen here! With more succulent, bulb, shade and carnivorous plant varieties than you could ever find on a single trip… And you can just wander round and pick up cuttings and root stock for LOOSE CHANGE.
Florists & Scultpure
Before you dismiss this section as being yawn-worthy. Remember that almost all visual merchandising takes its cues from Flower Arranging… Yes, that’s right… Those Boardshorts you bought from the Ripcurl window on sale, were arranged like flowers and that stimulated your eye to buy. So go into this section (the world heritage, Royal Exhibition Building) with a respect for the use of living colour, shape and texture, and how hard it is to do something new and innovative.
If you go into the Great Hall of Flowers in the Royal Exhibition Building itself, where Australia was federated in 1901… You can see the very best example of our own very first Architectural style (Federation) and I hope you’ll be as fascinated as me by the artistic example of Australia’s first act of parliament, The White Australia Policy. Beautiful and Grotesque at the same time, the moulded reliefs contain an image of each of what the newly federated colonials considered the ‘lesser races’ …a little bit macabre and definitely ethnocentric (a nice word for racist) these sculptures are still oddly beautiful and historically significant nonetheless.
Speaking of sculpture… There’s also the sculpture and outdoor art sections outside the great hall. Here artists that work in Iron, Bronze, Clay, Timber, Limestone and Marble carve out a living… and it’s not cheap… $10,000 upwards for a good piece, but then again, you might also come up with a bargain from next year’s star Designer for a song.
My personal favourite is the Bronze. I don’t think you can get much more elegant in Sculpture than working in Bronze. Primarily because part of the art is in the creation of the material. With higher Iron throwing towards the chocolatey red-gold and higher copper throwing to a midnight aquamarine patina. The precision it takes to think about working in moulds (3 dimensionally in negative)
Gardening Groups & Horticultural Associations
The Diggers Club – Australia’s largest amateur gardening group is running seminars here, The Australian Institute of Landscape Designers and Managers (professional association) run a Landscape & Garden Clinic where you can go and have them be your agony aunt for your garden troubles and they’ll give you FREE ADVICE on how to fix your design, structural, horticultural or maintenance problems!
The Royal Horticultural Society of Victoria displays the VICTORIAN HANGING BASKET COMPETITION, which anyone can enter… and there are some amazing amateur entrants.
The state government is there giving away free pool and gym passes and garden play toys. Plus there is an enormous Kids Play Garden thanks to Kids Under Cover, caring for youth at risk of homelessness.
Take my advice… Don’t miss it.
Kids Under Cover
About the Author:
Alexander Kenton Schoeffel is a writer, director and professional marketer. He has worked in Newspapers and Radio, been the Director of two Festivals and the famous fringe arts venue – Red Bennies. He was Creative Director of the marketing agency ‘Forge & Temper’ for four years, he is completing a Masters in Business, has accreditations as a Event Manager, Sommelier, Fitness Coach, Film Maker and soon… Landscape Designer.