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Water-colour vista

The Age

Wednesday March 30, 2011

Denise Gadd

Melbourne's flower and garden show is back from the dry years. By Denise Gadd. THE Carlton Gardens are a vision in green with a touch of autumn gold to welcome today's opening of the 16th Melbourne International Flower and Garden Show. It's a sharp contrast to past years when Victoria was engulfed in the worst drought on record, trees and plants in the gardens were suffering and all everyone talked about was saving water.This year the emphasis is also on water but more as an entertainment factor in landscape designs. Softer ornamental plantings are also on show, often intermingled with vegetables and herbs.There was panic in the air yesterday afternoon as landscape designers and their crews scrambled to finish their horticultural works of art before the judging at 3pm to choose the best gardens.Everything has to be perfect, from planting placements to the hard landscaping, which must be devoid of empty pots, gardening tools, soil, mulch, bark or leaves no mean feat given there are hundreds of trees in the gardens. And it is autumn. The season of falling leaves.It was just as frenetic inside the Great Hall, with florists, floral designers, ikebana arrangers, flower growers and RMIT fashion students rushing to put final touches to displays they have worked on for weeks.Today, though, enjoy everything on offer, including the Oasis display. Created by Caroline and Joby Blackman from Vivid Design, it's a study in opulent colour from myriad pansies massed in garden beds and spilling from a vertical wall to companion plantings of vibrantly coloured salvias.For an inspirational vegetable garden look no further than the Blackmans' potager, a massed display of textural Chinese cabbages, lettuces, spinach and allium vegetables in varying shades of green, blue/green, purple and red. Glorious.Vegetables figure in award-winning landscape designer Phillip Johnson's "Bathe" exhibit, which stars his customary water feature, this time a chemical-free plunge pool. Instead of being planted in a traditional bed he has created a vegetable roof garden on the cabana.Sydney landscape designer and Chelsea Flower Show gold medal-winner Dean Herald has created "Reflections" to capture the struggle of people with depression and anxiety. Large pots of succulents around the pavilion take centre stage. Plantings of ferns and other exotic species create a tropical, relaxing feel.A collaborative design between Bay Road Nursery and Semken Landscaping is a vision in deep pink crepe myrtles, the delightful Sedum 'Autumn joy', dwarf agapanthus, rosemary and salvias. Nearby are other inspirational gardens to admire or emulate at home.For a bit of fun, create your own hanging basket in the Lindeman's open garden marquee. Or wander down the avenue of sculptures and be impressed by some of the creations especially the lifesaver in green speedos and cap by Bronwyn Lewis titled "Once was David", which bears a slight similarity to the Leader of the Opposition, Tony Abbott.On the technical front, horticulture strides into the digital age with the launch tomorrow at the show of Trust Trees, the National Trust's Significant Trees app, which identifies significant trees around the state.The garden show means different things to different people. Some like to be inspired by the designer gardens, others the growers and their prized beauties, including vireya rhododendrons, lilliums, nerines, frittillaria, hellebores, clematis and the fruit salad tree, to name a few. Some like to just wander around the exhibits under the towering trees and enjoy the ambience of a flower show in the prized heritage-listed Carlton Gardens against the backdrop of the magnificent Royal Exhibition Building and the floral treasures therein.The show runs 9am-5pm daily until Sunday.

© 2011 The Age

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