It’s a sight to behold, watching the warm afternoon sun peeking through the trees and throwing shadows over The MIFGS Welcome Garden by Phillip Withers Landscape Design, a multi-level and multi-sensory garden that is entirely as inviting as its name would suggest. Located at the Victoria Street entrance of the Melbourne International Flower & Garden Show, Withers took advantage of this crucial position and created an inviting space for rest and repose. “People are actually able to come in and immerse themselves within the garden. [They can] sit on the rocks and just be able to look up at the garden and take it in,” Withers explains.
At the core of this garden is the notion of story-telling, which Withers weaves into the plant and material palette of the space. “[We tried] to utilise materials and plants that work and tell a story of Melbourne and Australia,” he elaborates. Hefty slabs of Victorian bluestone from Bamstone in Port Fairy are stacked one on top of the other – a staircase-cum-sculpture. The garden features predominately Australian plants ranging from Australian white cedar (“One of the only deciduous Australian trees,” shares Withers with excitement), bronze-tipped, smooth leaved quandong and a collection of ever-idiosyncratic grass trees. Withers says of the design: “We’ve tried to mix a format of luscious and dry, which I think Australia does so well.” Representing the former category are bird’s nest ferns and cardboard palms, among others.
Mixed into the undulating garden is a cast of native edibles including midyim berries, saltbush, native mint and finger limes. “It’s almost like a little playground for a kid, but it also sort of creates … a learning experience,” Withers shares.
The Welcome Garden was built with the future in mind. After the show, the stones will go to other gardens and Withers explains that the plants will be used in upcoming projects. Even the mulch will be repurposed: 45 cubic metres of it will be sent to one of his big projects in Dromana. “Every time we do show gardens now, we think how [we] can do it sustainably. That’s just in our nature now,” summarises Withers.
The Welcome Garden is kept in good company at MIFGS. Other stand-out gardens include “Australian Case Study Garden” by Eckersley Garden Architecture and Australian House & Garden and “Living Garden” by Stem Landscape Architecture & Design. Non-alcoholic spirit distiller Seedlip has also set up a pop-up bar within a reimagined British garden which includes couches fashioned from hay bales.
The Melbourne International Flower & Garden Show runs from 21 – 25 March at the Royal Exhibition Building and Carlton Gardens.
Author: Georgia Thomas