Australia's Best Garden Designs

Our Gardening Expert, Charlie Albone, tells us all about his top 5 gardens from the 2014 Melbourne International Flower and Garden Show. 

Last week was the Melbourne International Flower and Garden Show (MIFGS) and as usual it showcased the best in Australian landscape design.  All of the gold medals winning gardens were absolutely superb as were many of the designs awarded silver. 

All photography is by Greg Sullavan, on behalf of Canon Australia (Social Media: @canonaustralia #canoncollective)

Here are my top five MIFGS 2014 gardens (in no particular order).

1) 'TENSION' - Paul Bangay 

To me Paul Bangay’s garden titled ‘Tension’ was an excellent example of how scale and proportion are everything to a gardens success.  The garden was a master class in Bangay’s signature simplistic design style; that’s not it say it wasn’t detailed, cause it was, but it showed you don’t need to throw every idea into a garden to make it an interesting space.  Plants in raised beds containing lots of clipped Buxus, white Hydrangea, magnolia and Japanese anemone, bordered the garden.  A shelter and water feature both in aluminum painted to look like distressed copper anchored the design and gave it some weight.   

The real triumph of this design was the detail in the cobble flooring, the circle around the water feature angled in slightly, like a velodrome, focusing the eye inwards.  The garden was constructed by Conway Landscaping, who helped to construct the Australian winning ‘best in show’ at The Chelsea Flower show 2013, so as I’m sure you can imagine the standard of installation was world class.

2) GARDENER'S LIBRARY - Vivid Design

The gardener’s library Designed by Vivid Design was one of the more grand installations based around a library or summerhouse that had been shipped out from Ireland.  Although the design leaned a bit heavily on the structure itself I did enjoy the opulence of the whole design and the white and green colour scheme gave it a very upmarket feel.  In front of the doors to the library was a mass planting of Pelargoniums either side of a pond, the shocking ‘big red’ variety used gave great impact, smacking you in the face.  The use of lattice in the design helped to create a feeling of intimacy and painted bright white proved a quality feel can come from inexpensive building materials.  

3) Phil Withers 

Phil Withers garden was a real delight to be in and put a huge smile on my face and reminded me of Adam Frost’s gold winning 2013 Chelsea Flower Show garden as they both combined ornamental and edible plants.  Phil’s design was much less structured than Adam’s but the combination of plants like Kale, cabbage and corn nestled in with colorful species like Dahlia and sunflowers really added a pop.  Colourful paving, tumbled glass mulch, a relaxed winding water feature and a hen named Gary all went to prove the point that a garden is for the individual and as long as the owner of the garden wants to be out enjoying it, well then it’s a success.  

4) 'THE MUSE' - Peta Donaldson 

‘The Muse’ was unmistakably a Peta Donaldson design with plenty of overlapping rectilinear structures taking you through the various levels of the garden.  This space was a great inner city getaway and as Peta explained the structure sitting amongst the design was ‘a space to sit and reflect’, a calm space for the mind.  I loved the timber structure and up close it only got more enjoyable.  The burnt cypress pine added a tactile natural detail that contrasted beautifully with the pencil edged granite blocks.  The colours combined with the plant textures really gave this garden a modern feel.  Great use of sculpture from Lump studio added interest to the foreground and the rust colour combined with the changing leaves of the oak tree was a delight. 

5) 'THE PATRIARCH'S GARDEN - Mark Browning 

Mark browning from Cycas landscapes won a gold medal and the coveted ‘Best in show’ award for his design ‘the patriarch’s garden’ which was a garden for his father who recently passed away from kidney failure.  This garden was based around a strong corten sculpture that represented his father and humongous cut pieces of bluestone boulders that radiated from the sculpture symbolizing his family, the size and gravity of the stone representing strong ties only found amongst family members.  The weight and impact from the stone and steel was off set with purple and lime green in the planting, having a tour and hearing first hand what the garden meant to Mark was a highlight of the show. 

Got a question for Charlie? Click here.

Find out more about the show at

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