Bigger than ever and quite spectacular, the biannual Garden Design Fest in Melbourne this year was wonderful.
Always managed by combined Rotary Clubs in Melbourne, this year it went over 2 weekends. The first focused on city gardens around Melbourne and the second focused on country gardens in the region around the city. I managed only to get to see the urban gardens and well worth the 2 days it was.
The big difference between these private lived in gardens and those seen in garden shows around the world is that these private gardens really reflect trends in how people want their gardens to look and function. People are changing and there is no doubt the changes I have seen over the past 6 years reflect trends in lifestyle around the globe. Some of the gardens in Melbourne are very sophisticated.
First and foremost are the increasing number of sustainable gardens. When I first went through the Design Fest gardens, use of Australian plants and sustainable elements was rare. Today not so much.
In Melbourne, this move is led of course by Phillip Johnson with his water-wise, wildlife attracting gardens. His gardens are based almost entirely on the use of local indigenous planting and informal structures using local materials and they always include a sophisticated water management system. This combination is relaxed and very Australian and deals very effectively with our increasing extremes of climate – drought and flood becoming more and more common.
More and more though, in these sustainable gardens, we see a mix Australian planting and natural styles with more traditional European influences. I like this mix, it gives home owners control over their living environment.
Sandra McMahon designed such a garden. There is a beautiful, natural, informal wildlife attracting garden in the front. This section includes water sensitive management and natural structural elements. But note the topiary along the path giving a hint of what is to come.
And what a difference as you walk around to the rear. The water management dry stream bed flows into a pool at the bottom of the garden. So you walk past the dry stream bed into a garden with a strong Japanese influence and over the stepping stones towards lawns which make up the living areas of the garden.
And then, on the other side, traditional flower and vegetable gardens we know so well take over. Sustainability in this section is through the use of recycled materials, metal bed spring gates, pebbles for paving, natural gravel paths, timber – the list goes on.
The next trend of note is the move towards relaxed living.
At one end of the spectrum, of course there was a garden by Paul Bangay, the old man of gardens in Melbourne. Here is traditional formal garden around a pool complete with green Cyprus hedging and French Provincial pots all in a row. Not so relaxed in design but this is where we have come from.
At the other end of the spectrum, look at this wonderful garden on the Mornington Peninsula by Clive Abben.
Quirky and irreverent this garden is a nod to everything a modern garden should give us.
Casual seating for relaxation…
A pool to offset the hot summers in Melbourne…
Easily maintained planting…
Recycled and natural touches and mixed with herbs and salads for that summer barbeque…
There was too much to cover in all the wonderful gardens we visited and I have to say I am looking forward to 2018…