Bring on the garden shows

By Karen Smith

Entering the Exhibition Centre, Carlton Gardens for the recent Melbourne International Flower and Garden show (MIFGS), visitors were treated to a sea of colour, the main area complete with a carousel in the centre surrounded with chrysanthemums, and the eye-dazzling floral displays nearby were works of art. For the first time in three years plant lovers could wonder at the creativity of designers and feed their passion for plants.

From the minute the gates opened there was immediate coverage on television, social media and newspapers. The popularity of the show was obvious. People needed their garden shows. Having missed so many shows over the past couple of years, the public was excited. I listened to people walking around and heard comments like “I feel like a kid in a lolly shop” or “oh look at this, how beautiful, I have to have one”, followed by another comment, “why only one?”

Shane Charles performs a cleansing ceremony (Image: Karen Smith)
Shane Charles performs a cleansing ceremony (Image: Karen Smith)

Sure it’s costly to exhibit, and the amount of work involved to design and build show gardens is massive, but this is how we market the beautiful industry we work in. People fee inspired to go home and redesign their own garden or balcony, or build on their collection of indoor plants. This is us driving our industry and we do it so well. The importance of displaying plants, either in show gardens or beautiful exhibitor displays, is important on so many levels. The wow factor creates the need.

So, considering the coverage that has already taken place in the media which focuses on the major features such as the show gardens, emergent and boutique gardens and the Avenue of Achievables, I have decided to write about some of the other points of interest that I saw that were a little different. Besides, Gabrielle Stannus covers more of the show gardens in her landscape feature and Daniel Fuller talks about the Career Hub in this issue.

I spoke with many of the exhibitors over the three days that I spent at the show. Most were thrilled with the number of visitors, particularly on the first day. Whilst they felt there may have been slightly fewer exhibitors and show gardens this year, the number of visitors exceeded 103,000, and I have to say it was terrific seeing people with their trolleys laden with plants.

Lots of native plants for sale (Image: Karen Smith)
Lots of native plants for sale (Image: Karen Smith)

There seemed to be a focus on indigenous plants, sustainability and inclusivity. Shane Charles, a Yorta Yorta, Wurundjeri and Boon Wurrung man, performed a cleansing/ smoking ceremony and entertained the crowds with didgeridoo playing.

Van Schaik’s Bio Gro, which is in the organic recovery industry, has been a sustainability partner for the show for many years. They supply mulch for the show gardens and when the show is over, they collect all the green organic material, refine and repurpose it. This year was the first time they had a stand. They were not selling products but it gave people the opportunity to talk about their products and at the same raise awareness of their business and what they do. Van Schaik’s Bio Gro’s mantra is Recover, Refine and Reapply.

Visitors were interactive at the PP5 plastic pot and label recycling exhibit. According to Greg Carrick from Garden City Plastics, the show had been terrific, and the response about plastic recycling he said, has gone from plastic being a dirty word to ‘where do I recycle’? People were confused as to how and what they could recycle. People only have to scan the QR code on the plant label to find their nearest PP5 Collection point. Currently there are around thirty locations Australia wide.

Plant Pot Recycling Bin for PP5 plastic (Image: Karen Smith)
Plant Pot Recycling Bin for PP5 plastic (Image: Karen Smith)

It has been on people’s minds for a while that while they love to buy plants, they worry about the plastic containers they are sold in and the plastic labels. PP5 plastic can be recycled over and over again. People just need to find their nearest PP5 collection point. Visitors were urged to contact their local councils and nurseries and ask for collection points.

First time show exhibitor from The Plant Runner, Duncan Hilder, said the show had been fantastic for their business. They supply a range of certified organic products that are made from sustainably sourced, carbon negative material such as kelp, saw fly frass, bio char and more. All their products are Australian made and also have plastic-free packaging, selling mostly in glass. Their existing customers were encouraged to bring their empty glass containers in for free refills during the show. Duncan said it was a way of rewarding and meeting their customers in person.

The Sustainable Landscape Company exhibited for the first time and displayed their Biofilter food cube, an urban farming system that reduces food miles and food bills by growing over half a tonne of fresh vegetables per year.

The Sustainable Landscape Company displaying their food cube (Image: Karen Smith)
The Sustainable Landscape Company displaying their food cube (Image: Karen Smith)

Sarah Fitzgerald from Botanica World Discoveries, a travel company that takes tour groups to beautiful gardens throughout the world, said the response from the public was very positive. People are keen to get out and feel inspired by visiting great gardens again. They gave themselves a target to reach throughout the show, to hand out a certain number of brochures, and they reached that target on the first day.

On a final note, a presentation was awarded to Anthony and Sheryl Tesselaar for providing the Media tent for members of the Media for the past 20 years. I personally take advantage of this generous offer, as when you spend several days at the show lugging around a heap of camera equipment and computers it’s a welcome relief to get out of the sun (or rain) for a short spell to collect thoughts, rest your legs and download images. It is greatly appreciated by many. Thankyou. (My only disappointment was that Sheryl said in the old days they used to provide shoulder massages but due OH&S issues they had to cease that, a pity!)

Anthony and Sheryl Tesselaar receiving their award (Image: Karen Smith)

Authoring an article about an event like MIFGS doesn’t do it justice. Even selecting images to include, when you have taken hundreds is difficult. I guess what I am saying is it’s really worth attending the event. You gain more than the purchase of a few plants or products, you gain inspiration. Bring on more garden shows, the public needs it!

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