MIFGS 2023: Old Trees Never Die by Tracie Dyson

Describe your garden in 5 words

Gratitude for elders. Respectful renewal.

Which plant was the hero of your garden and why?

I really wanted to bring in (mostly) native plants in a soft metallic palette which included silvers (Eucalyptus polyanthemos), copper-bronzes (Leptospermum ‘Burgundy’) and grey-greens (Dianella ‘Cassa Blue’) but my hero, undoubtedly was my dead-but-not-done tree.  My message about the value of generational collaboration, and the often overlooked value of old trees (and old people) was warmly embraced by those who came to see the garden. 

What was an obstacle you had to overcome and how did you do it?

The most difficult challenge I encountered in this process was sourcing suitable plant material as Australian natives are typically not available in an advanced size that is appropriate for a show garden display.  This was compounded by some unusual weather conditions in the months leading up to the show with a much cooler, wet spring and summer, and many plants not “coming on” as normal, for the growers.  As the weather finally warmed up in early March, strong demand for native plants led to even wider impacts on suitable plant availability.  These issues were widely experienced within the industry and students presenting plant designs at the show needed to make many changes to their plant choices as, with the deadline looming, it was necessary to respond to what was available.  I owe many thanks to Bonnie at Humphris and Laura at Yarra View Nursery for their amazing support and dedication to the industry by going above and beyond to showcase the best plants under difficult external conditions. 

What piece of feedback will you always remember?

For me, what I took away was just how well everybody responded to my display.  It was so validating to watch the faces of people as they took in the garden, not knowing I was the designer, and I got a lot of joy out of seeing the moment when folks cracked a big smile as they recognised the fire-pit and beautiful Australian/New Zealand plants as a setting they could imagine using in their own homes. So many people told me how much they loved the harmonious colour scheme and the textures.  Almost all were amazed when I pointed out that the “Grass Tree” was a very achievable trick that anyone could make at home.  I even fooled a few experts until they looked more closely and discovered my own cheeky idea of using a local indigenous Knobby Club Rush (Ficinia nodosa) and building a brushwood plant stand that looked like the real thing.
I mostly just enjoyed seeing how I could make people happy with the thing I had made.

The stage is yours, what do you want to say?

Coming off 18 months of very debilitating and life-changing illness, I was concerned that getting back up and running would be too much for me but I have been so fortunate to be able to come back to complete the final unit of my Diploma of Landscape Design at Swinburne, Wantirna.  The project planning skills I have developed and the physical need to build my display stage, craft all of the elements and move all those pots and mulch has been a great motivator to push myself hard to rebuild both my body and my life. I have gained some work from the show and I am grateful to all at Swinburne who gave their support as, without this opportunity, I would not have been so optimistic about my future in an industry that I am so passionate about.
 
I have been personally heartened by just how many brilliant and talented women were involved at all levels with our student group at the show, along with the many amazing and wonderful blokes who gave so much advice and support.
 
I’d like to thank all those who helped me along the way. Many hands made this happen and I will not forget all those who gave so much to me.
 
Photos supplied by Tracie Dyson
 
 

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