Five Garden Designs You Didn't Get To See At The Melbourne International Flower + Garden Show

Like almost every major event scheduled for the year, the 2020 Melbourne International Flower and Garden Show has been cancelled. It’s a devastating blow to the stallholders and designers involved – so much time, effort and resources are put into the show every year, with some concepts in development for more than 12 months prior.

Inevitably, our Instagram feeds were flooded with heartbroken retailers (including a particular post from Red Earth Bulb Farm and their entire flower crop) that wouldn’t be on display. In lieu of its cancellation, we reached out to some of the key exhibitors due to install their show gardens this week, to ask them what they had planned, what the show means to them, and who they were looking forward to seeing!

Sasha Gattermayr

Photo – Nicole Pitcon.

Sasha Gattermayr
26th of March 2020

‘Show gardens live only to be seen for a short amount of time, and if it isn’t seen… did it exist?’ asks Sarah Tulloch, an emerging designer who was due to showcase her student landscape at the Melbourne International Flower and Garden Show this week. Her design was titled ‘Alpine Calm’, where moulded snow gums gave way to a carpet of small plants and native grasses in an urban courtyard. It would look like springtime in the Victorian alps after snow had thawed.

As Sarah says, ‘different creativity has different end points,’ so for a lot of the installation gardens, this year’s MIFGS was the flashpoint of their existence, the entirety of their lifespan.

If all had gone according to plan, today would have been the second day of the Melbourne International Flower and Garden show. So instead, we bring a little bit of it to you.

The Digger’s Club pumpkin pile! Photo – Nicole Pitcon.

Jac Semmler, Ornamental Category Manager at The Diggers Club. Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files.

Vegetables nestled among the foliage. Photo – Nicole Pitcon.

Jac adn The rest of The Digger’s Club team installed a mini version of their proposed garden at HQ, and photographed it! Photo – Nicole Pitcon.

A bed. of native perennials sits alongside a productive garden. Photo – Nicole Pitcon.

The Digger’s Club

The Digger’s Club is Australia’s largest garden club, encouraging people around the country to get active in their private landscapes. They specialise in preserving heirloom vegetables, flower seeds and fruit trees, with a mission to help gardeners grow beautiful and productive gardens that suit the Australian climate.

When the news came through that MIFGS would not be  going ahead this year, the Digger’s Club staged a mini installation of their design at their HQ, and sent the photos onto us! Other than the infamous ‘Pumpkin Pile’ they hold every year, we asked Ornamental Category Manager, Jac Semmler (see our feature on her home garden here!), what else they had in store.

Talk us through the installation you had planned…

The installation is a small glimpse into what we do in our gardens at Heronswood and St Erth every day. This year’s display greeted gardeners with a burgeoning display of hardy summer perennials, showcasing the combination of form, texture and cooling colour that brings calm and solace to the garden during our harsh Australian summers. This year’s bountiful mini plot of seasonal vegetables demonstrates how easy it is for anyone to grow delicious fresh food, even in a small space! At the centre was an education hub, which hosts informative talks to inspire both emerging and established green thumbs to get growing.  

Walking through the native grasslands and wildlife that would make up ‘It’s Our Time’. Photo – Amelia Stanwix.

Photo – Amelia Stanwix.

The Yarraview garden, where Phillip and team planned their installation. Photo – Amelia Stanwix.

Phillip Withers and team. Photo – Amelia Stanwix.

At Point Addis. Photo – Amelia Stanwix.

Phillip Withers

TDF friend Phillip Withers started his company in 2012 and has been making serious waves in the local landscape design scene ever since! His team of designers, architects and horticulturalists are passionate about creating a sensory connection with the natural landscape through rich, productive native plant-life. Having created award-winning gardens at previous Melbourne International Flower and Garden shows, this year, the team had designed a garden inspired by the rugged coastline of Point Addis, which Phillip himself talked us through.

Talk us through the installation you had planned…

‘It’s Our Time’ was to be presented in association with Yarra Valley Water, and the planning, research and design took over a year! As more than half of Victoria’s vegetation has been cleared since European settlement, and we face the reality of climate change, we feel it’s our time to celebrate the importance of locality, encourage biodiversity, promote water conservation and the ecological role it plays in maintaining the quality of our soil, water and air.

The landscape starts with a bluestone lookout, which looks out over a native environment full of remnant plant life. A mix of grassland swales drift through the lower plains to the shrub that rolls up the sand dunes. The topography changes to reflect the sand dunes and rammed earth cliff structures protrude from the ground plain to emulate our amazing coastal environment. A bluestone boardwalk floats takes you down from the lookout, across the natural plains and towards the beach.

The window of Vasette’s iconic Fitzroy store. Photo – Armelle Habib.

An autumnal arrangement. Photo – Courtesy of Vasette Flowers.

Inside the Fitzroy store, where all the magic happens! Photo – Armelle Habib.

Vasette x Chyka

Flowers Vassette is no stranger to the Melbourne International Flower and Garden Show. We asked Sonya Wilson, the creative genius behind this year’s arrangement, what she and lifestyle multi-hyphenate Chyka Keebaugh cooked up!

Talk us through the installation you had planned…

We had a slightly different idea in mind (around a Mad Hatter’s celebration!) when we started. But with the bushfires at the beginning of the year, we wanted to do something that represented the country’s resilience instead. Oversized red, orange and yellow dahlias would be displayed in brown and green metallic vessels down the centre of a long communal table, with florals cascading to the floor at each end. Four 3-metre tall eucalyptus branches with a blackened finish hang over the place-settings.

At its core, the design was to celebrate the resilience of Australians and the regeneration of life in the natural world, and just to be grateful for what we have. As it turns out, we need to continue keep doing that!

‘Amongst The Trees’ project, in New South Wales. Photo – Peter Crumpton.

The ‘Curved Oasis’ project in New South Wales. Photo – Peter Crumpton.

Rolling Stone Landscapes

Over the years, Dean Herald of Rolling Stone Landscapes and his construction team have built a reputation for their work in the prestige residential market, by designing resort-style gardens and taking the concept of outdoor living and entertaining to an new level. His influence in pool designs and architectural pavilions offers a refreshing balance between the hard and soft elements of the modern outdoor space.

Dean plans to show his garden next year, so has kept the centrepiece as a surprise!

Tell us what you had planned…

The inspiration for the show garden was to challenge the expectation of garden art or a sculpture piece set within an outdoor space. Art is subjective and comes in so many elements, so for this design I selected a timeless piece (which to many would be considered art!) to challenge what a feature piece can be. A gallery-style structure would house the feature, supported by stone blades and large glass walls for a seamless connection with the garden beyond. The design would also provide individual dining spaces and separate lounges, all positioned to gain a direct connection with the visual piece. A water element surrounds the gallery to provide movement and sound while planting layout will provide foliage contrast in colour, texture and shape.

‘North Adelaide SA Project’ in collaboration with Nexus Design. Photo – Jonathan Van Der Knaap.

‘North Adelaide SA Project’ in collaboration with Nexus Design. Photo – Jonathan Van Der Knaap.

The Acre Landscape Architecture team from left to right: Tari Northwood, Pip Byrne, Mitch Żurel, Brett Robinson. Photo – Amelia Stanwix.

A contemporary beach house in Victoria. Photo – Derek Swalwell.

Hard and soft elements of landscaping combine. Photo – Derek Swalwell.


Acre is Fitzroy-based landscape design studio whose environments are designed to evolve across time and seasons, with a focus on stylised wildness. The TDF team love their projects so much we visited their office two years ago and, naturally, we wanted to hear exactly what they had in store for this year’s Melbourne Flower and Garden show. In collaboration with Form Landscaping, the pair had planned Hardscape, Landscape, Softscape, a unique design of conceptual and rugged exploration of how outdoor spaces can be experienced. We quizzed creative director, Brett Robinson, on his plans.

Tell us what you had planned…

Through a process of inversion and strong emphasis on contrasting materials, Hardscape, Landscape, Softscape upends the fundamental notions of landscaping. Monolithic and immutable, the gridded Technifirma paving gives a sculptural rhythm to the overall form; one that is enhanced by a top layer of trees and plants, which typically serve as the foundation. The stark contrast between the firm, fixed materials and soft, pliable greenery draws attention to the interplay of natural and constructed elements. Playful, exaggerated and out-of-scale, the composition is anchored by the exposed grid to effect a garden that feels raw yet refined.

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