MIFGS: Ground Zero

The Melbourne International Flower and Garden Show (MIFGS) has been and gone and for those that were involved, or perhaps visited, some elements of the show may have left a lasting impression.

Today, I wanted to provide a behind the scenes insight from a designers perspective from ground zero.

There is no other avenue that allows a designer to showcase their own design in a public forum. Under ‘normal’ circumstances, the client has a brief which we adhere we too. A show garden allows us to speak to the public through our work, which realistically is a form of art within the landscape.

MIFGS brings together a bunch of passionate people with a common thread. The beauty of landscape design is that we all have our place. If our designs are true, they should reflect who we are and that being the case, they are all different. It is this diversity that undeniably makes the show.

As a designer, you have the opportunity to leverage this platform for whatever reason you choose. There is always a purpose behind each show garden which can vary from garden to garden. It allows some designers to make a statement, to spur a new way of thinking. For some it is to reinforce their strengths. For others it is a commercial decision in the hope of generating new commissions. Whatever the reason for participating, you are putting yourself, your ideas, your aesthetic, what makes your heart sing, on a platter for all to see. It is all exposing, nerve-wrecking, exciting and thrilling.

The gardens are a direct interpretation of creative thought. Some may simply appeal to you more than others. Some are practical. Some are not. Some are artistic. But all of them, big or small, are the result of heart and soul, and utter hard work. What has to be appreciated is the commitment and dedication to these gardens from very VERY passionate people.

For those that haven’t been involved behind the scenes, I would like to share the enormous and exhaustive involvement that it takes to complete a show garden. No other event that I have ever been involved in can generate such huge emotion, energy, stress and immense joy. It is wholeheartedly consuming, sometimes to the detriment of all else.

As a designer, ideas can commence flowing years in advance. These ideas are casually documented before finally putting them down on paper/computer. Even when the design is completed, it is most often tweaked up until a month, sometimes weeks before the show. These alterations could be for a variety of reasons such as a change of materials, product availability and sponsorship, or simply ‘a designers mind’ which is never still, never content.

From around the 6 month mark the meetings commence. Meeting after meeting occur with construction team members, contractors, sponsors and partners of the garden.

A month out from the commencement of construction and the sleepless nights begin to kick in, almost on cue. Sleep deprivation, excitement and stress swirling together to form a stunning concoction of varying degrees of madness.

By now, all of your ducks are in a row, and you are ready to commence construction on site at the sublime location of the Heritage Listed Carlton Gardens. You have your team, your adrenalin. And so the MIFGS bubble begins. For the next 16 days, we will spend more time at Carlton Gardens than at home. The days are long but disappear in a heart beat. A 16 hour day from dawn to dark is not uncommon.

MIFGS brings out the best and the worst in people. At every site, they will have their ‘day’, when things do not go to plan, stress levels elevate, adrenaline explodes, and the odd ‘sniff’ can eventuate… Other days appear seamless as you steam ahead in leaps and bounds. It is simply a rollercoaster.

Not only is it the designers work that is being exhibited but the pure craftsmanship of the construction teams. To complete these gardens within 9 days (with no digging into the ground) is a monumental effort that takes incredible planning, skill and commitment.

Months and months of work simply boils down to 5 days of show time. 5 days when your garden is exposed to the eyes of the media, fellow industry and the public. Judgement can be harsh. It can also be ridiculously rewarding. It is also part of the territory. After all, it is the entitlement of opinion, which everyone deserves.

The result of this instantaneous environment is simply jaw dropping. I am always in awe of the skill of the designers and overwhelmed by what can be created from a collective of pure craftsmanship.

Sincere congratulations to all that were in involved in this years show. It was an honour to be a part of it. Now it’s time to sit back with a cup of tea and reflect upon all that was MIFGS 2016.