The greatest flower show on earth may well be on the other side of the world at Chelsea, but the Melbourne International Flower and Garden Show certainly deserves its spot as one of the top five.
Attracting over 100,000 visitors over five days, the show has so much to offer from the magnificent floral displays in the historic Royal Exhibition Building, to snazzy show gardens, to hanging basket displays, to quality garden products and a host of guest speakers.
My show kicks off each year with an early morning start on the Wednesday at the 7.15am invite only chairman's breakfast, held in the Royal Exhibition Building. Speeches of welcome are made, acknowledgements to supporters and the major award winners in the floral art and show gardens are presented. This year I was sitting at what was dubbed the 'golden table' as the three gold medal show gardens winners were all seated around, which included the Best in Show!
Following breakfast, we all head out to check out the show gardens and get our photographs before the gates are open. Best in Show went to The Loggia garden, a dry climate garden which drew parallels between hot weather planting in the Mediterranean and here in Australia. The other two gold show gardens were MUSA Landscape Architecture's Journey and The Other Side, created by Jason Hodges, Candeo Design and Semken Landscaping. Given the prolonged hot dry summer we all endured, it was not surprising to see this reflected in the design style and planting selections of many of the show gardens, with little use of vibrant cottage garden colours.
But if colour was what you were after you would not be disappointed in the Royal Exhibition Building, awash with the flamboyant floral art exhibits and flower displays! A favourite is always the floral/plant clad mannequins, bedecked to dazzle!
The show boasts over 150 stalls selling everything a gardener could ever need or want - retail therapy is the order of the day! Another feature of the show is the number of celebrity gardeners in attendance, spruiking the latest book, pushing a TV show or just catching up with fans! I caught up with many old friends including Angus Stewart, Sophie Thomson, Graham Ross, Michael McCoy and many more.
To conclude the first day, I headed off to a nearby venue for the annual Horticultural Media Association dinner, where some awards are presented, good food and wine is consumed and a great deal of networking is conducted. I was seated with landscape designer Phillip Johnson, whom many will remember for his award-winning Best in Show 2013 Chelsea Flower Show garden The Trailfinders Australian Garden. Then it was off to bed and a much-needed sleep before doing it all again tomorrow!