Every year, the Melbourne International Flower and Garden Show takes over the whole of Carlton Gardens, and it’s not just a display of exotic plants and gardening utensils.
The Diggers Club, for example, is a plant conservation group that has set up an edible garden area with a tasting station, where you can sample vegetables and herbs you won’t find in a supermarket aisle.
There’s a range of designer cubby houses created by some of Australia’s top design and architecture firms, and fashion shows where the clothes are made entirely from flowers and foliage (inspired by the NGV’s Viktor & Rolf exhibition).
There are fully fledged gardens, classes on posy arranging, and live competitions featuring some of the city’s up-and-coming floral designers.
We spoke to a landscape designer and two florists about some of the show’s highlights.
You know the heavenly smell of a fresh bunch of flowers? Multiply that by a few thousand, and then you have some idea of what the Royal Exhibition Building will smell like this weekend as the Great Hall of Flowers.
This is where you can buy a posy or plant from any number of Australian flower growers, and where some of the country’s most talented floral designers will set up shop for the weekend.
Among them is Melbourne’s own Liz Ricci of Flower Temple, whose display sits under the building’s central dome. Her exhibit features five new breeds of chrysanthemum – the first-ever chrysanthemums to be bred entirely in Australia.
“They’ve been bred from scratch over about five years of trials, and the ones on display [at the show] are the first-ever Australian-bred chrysanthemums. It’s a really big, outstanding effort,” Ricci says.
To showcase the flowers, Ricci has collaborated with Melbourne-based artist Georgia Steele, a 22-year-old student at RMIT University. Steele was commissioned by Ricci to paint “giant portraits” of the five new breeds, which have been arranged into an exhibition-in-miniature at the centre of the Exhibition Building. To complete the portraits, Ricci and her team have arranged the actual chrysanthemums in a “collage” around each frame.
The Flower and Garden Show is essentially a bunch of gardens within a garden – its not just rows of flowers, but fully realised, landscaped spaces.
Charlie Albone has been working in the landscaping industry since he was 17 years old. In that time, he has gone from doing “a bit of garden maintenance” to winning awards at one of the world’s most prestigious garden shows, the Chelsea Flower Show in London.
Now living in Australia and with his own company, Inspired Exteriors, Albone is exhibiting at the show for the first time. His fully realised garden, The Husqvarna Garden: An Urban Sanctuary, was built in just nine days, and includes a copper-and-stone pavilion, a stream-like water feature, a flower garden and a colonnade of trees.
“There’s a fine line between a garden being practical and being beautiful, and I try to work in the balance between the two,” says Charlie. “We live in a bit of a crazy world, where everything happens so fast, and I do always get a bit of relief from my garden. I kind of wanted to recreate that feeling of relaxation.”
Once you’ve got some inspiration, you can make an appointment to have a free advisory session with builders, gardeners and landscape designers from Landscaping Victoria to talk about your own garden plans.
Each day of the show Natasha Shotton – who runs Melbourne’s My Flowerhouse – is running three different floral workshops.
The Stringy Succulent Garden class draws on the traditional Japanese technique of kokedama: hanging gardens that use balls of string wrapped around a plant’s roots in place of a pot.
“Basically, it’s taking a plant – indoor or outdoor, it doesn’t matter – and you create a layered effect with clay and designer bush moss. You apply string and fishing line around the roots to create a perfect root ball, then you can hang them,” Shotton explains. “We’ve also created some beautiful custom-made leather hanging straps for the class.”
In the Flower Rings masterclass, you’ll learn to make floral headwear and jewellery by weaving together leather with fresh flowers, which you can take with you at the end of the class.
The aim of Perfect Posies workshop is to master the art of posy-making using the European technique of spiralling the stem.
“The purpose is to ultimately create a perfectly rounded posy,” says Shotton. “It’s a hand-tied posy – everything is made in your hand so you get to feel everything you’re doing.
“It’s very intimate and hands-on.”
The Melbourne International Flower and Garden Show will take place at Carlton Gardens and the Royal Exhibition Centre from March 29 to April 2, 2017 from 9am to 5pm daily. Tickets from $24 and children under 14 are free. More information and tickets here.