MIFGS & Sustainability – The afterlife of a show garden

Visitors to the Melbourne International Flower and Garden Show come to see the latest in garden design, including new plants and landscaping materials, a wide array of gardening products, amazing floristry and, of course, incredible show gardens that take your breath away. Behind the scenes there is a hive of activity, as complex garden landscapes are constructed within a week and then disappear forever, as if a garden fairy had simply waved her magic wand! However, some might wonder what happens to all the plants and materials once the show is packed up and finished? Sustainability is an important issue these days and many designers try to recycle as much as they can. However, anyone who has seen the rubbish skips after the show could tell you that much is still wasted. Two EWHA members and garden designers are attempting to tackle this issue, by giving their show garden an afterlife at The Royal Children’s Hospital (RCH) Melbourne.

Emma Sheppard-Simms

La Muxlow


Emma Sheppard-Simms (Plantery Landscape Architecture) and La Muxlow (La Muxlow Garden Designs), are constructing a garden in this year’s Border Garden Competition at MIFGS. Oasis, their design, envisages a cool, green refuge for Australian gardens that is designed to be low-maintenance and beautiful. It contains a show- stopping collection of rare sculptural plants placed within soft clouds of silvery-grey perennials and aqua green groundcovers. Biodiversity is also a central theme of the design, and the plants in Oasis provide important habitat for a range of garden creatures – from the smallest of microbes, to insects, reptiles, amphibians and native birds.

Another consideration was the broader community message of the garden, which would be seen by thousands of people at the show. Emma and La agreed that children’s education was particularly important, given the garden’s focus on waterwise plants, biodiversity and sustainability. This raised the longer-term possibility for installing the garden in a children’s educational or therapeutic setting, so Emma reached out to Dan Wheals, Therapeutic
Garden Program Co-ordinator at the RCH, to see if they would be open to a one-off donation of plants.

Emma and La are now in the process of organising the donation and installation of Oasis into the hospital’s therapy garden precinct. According to Dan Wheals;

At the RCH we want kids to thrive. Fresh air, nature and tending plants help children focus on positive experiences. We can have difficult conversations as well as lots of fun – the magic works on parents and staff too.

The project is also personally significant for Emma, whose daughter has been a long-term outpatient at the hospital. She says,

Over the years the doctors and staff at the RCH have provided an incredible level of advice and support for our family. This garden is my small way of giving something back, and saying thank you for all they do for our kids. I just love thinking that these plants will grow and ‘pay it forward’ for many years to come.

The ongoing community and environmental impacts of show gardens is an important question to consider, and Emma and La hope that Oasis can demonstrate what can be achieved when show gardens are linked in with broader community initiatives. In the case of this show garden, it is hoped that it will continue to provide an Oasis for children and their families for many years to come.

Emma and La are currently accepting donations of native plants for the RCH project. Please contact Emma on 0435164720 or emma@plantery.net.au if you’d like to contribute.

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