Saturday, March 29, 2014

Melbourne International Flower & Garden Show 2014 review

Today I made my annual journey to the Carlton gardens for every Melbourne plant and garden nerds favorite show MIFGS (pronounces miff-guss by those in the inner circle) aka the Melbourne International Flower and Garden Show. The weather was overcast in the morning but the sun broke through the clouds with impeccable timing, beaming onto the exhibits and show gardens as soon as I left the main building to wander outside. I'm not sure what the overall head count was but the show was packed with more visitors than I have ever seen. I heard that there were record numbers visiting on the first day so it looks as though gardening is well and truly booming in the city of Melbourne (which is interesting considering the rather savage weather Melbournites have endured this summer). As usual I bought a few packets of bulbs. For the record this year I purchased Oriental liliums,  drumstick alliums, peacock flowers and a single Ferraria crispa to compliment my Ferraria undulata. Because of the sheer numbers there it was difficult to get good photographs without waiting for ages for people to clear out of shot. Nevertheless I took quite a few. If you are reading this the night I have posted it then tomorrow is your last chance to see the show before it packs up for the year. Get down there and have a look.

Interflora was the major sponsor of the flower section. Just like last year they didn't fail to impress with their display.

I took several shots of the flowering arrangements done by my fellow students at NMIT. The floristry students are in the same building as the horticulture students and as such I see them working away during the year.  This first shot is an arrangement by Alena Matthews. At first it seemed very morbid but it is actually representing the Mexican 'day of the dead' festival.

 Leyla Ismail from NMIT did this this lovely display.

Margaret Mclennan from NMIT took out 3rd place with the arrangement below. The sun was really streaming in with intensity from behind the arrangement making it difficult to get a good shot.

Bianca Besanco from NMIT secured 2nd place with this arrangement.

Finally Susie Dimitra Portelli from Marjorie Milner College won first with the arrangement below. Damn it NMIT bought home the silver and bronze but missed out on the gold.

Ever since I obtained my first David Austin last year I've become a real fanboy of Mr A's roses. The new rose they were showcasing there was called 'Princess Anne'. Of course I had a whiff and of course the perfume was amazing.

Another company that always puts on a great display at any MIFGS is Tesselaars. The sun lit up these jonquils just at the right time.

Everyone loves Hyacinths.

Tesselaars are most well known for their tulips. I love the ones to the right. They are called 'Monet talent'.

Speaking of Monet you can see why he painted tulips. The only editing I did on the picture below was bumping up the light levels a smidgen along with bit of cropping. The more I look at the photograph I took below the more it looks like a painting (especially the red tulips at the front). 

 Sean Diamond created this steel eagle.

Alistair Mason created the sculpture below named 'Chook Chaser'. It is made from reclaimed steel.

'The midnight garden' was designed by Lisa Ellis gardens. It took out first place in the boutique gardens section.

The next four pictures are of the 'Patriarch garden' by Cycas Landscape Design. It took out the gold medal and overall best in show awards. Yes it was stunning and in my opinion deserved to win. Aside from the plants I loved the paving and steps they incorporated. There was lots of natural stone in this design.

This next shot is of the design called 'Here & Now' by Phillip Withers. It won the sustainability award.

One of the big draw cards for this years show was a design by uber designer Paul Bangay. When I saw the design at the show I liked it but I wasn't over impressed. Then when I got home and looked at the photographs I snapped I seemed to like it even more. It a really well layered design and being a Paul Bangay design it incorporates a bit of topiary. Paul named this design 'Tension'.

 The next two shots are of a design called 'The Muse' by Natural Design. I love that sculpture in the foreground.

 This next design is called 'Vanguard' by Hunter Black Designs. It took out the bronze medal.

The picture below is a design called 'Left-overs' by Ian Barker Landscapes. It featured an old shipping container as an outdoor living space.

This design is called 'A gardeners garden' by Emma Tenni and Thomas Pinney of NMIT. It took out third place in the achievable gardens category. This category showcases up and coming talent as all designs are by horticulture students.

 Below is a design called 'Edible space' by Scott Tappenden and Melissa Greenslade of NMIT. It wond second place in the achievable gardens section.

And first place went to.............  Kingsley A Barker from Holmesglen TAFE! Incredible just as in the flower arranging  my fellow NMIT students take out 2nd and 3rd but miss out on 1st place.

Last of all I'm going to finish off with these humungous corten steel birds Folko Kooper and Maureen Craig. Impressive they are but maybe a little bit too large for my garden at home.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Garden visit to Coolart wetlands and homestead Mornington Peninsula Australia

 Coolart wetlands & homestead in the summer

Early this year I was lucky enough to take holidays at a small beach side town called Somers on the Mornington Peninsula. I've visited Somers several times in the past and on the drive into town always saw a sign labelled 'Coolart wetlands'. I used to think it was purely a nature reserve of sorts so I was pleasantly surprised to find an attractive and large garden there when I visited this year.

Coolart homestead and wetlands started out as a pastoral lease for the Meyrick brothers in 1839 (I wonder if that is the reason that a nearby town is called Merricks?). In 1895 it was purchased by Frederick  Grimwade for use as both farmland and a country retreat. In 1937 it was purchased by Tom Luxton and it was he who persuaded the state government to declare the estate a wildlife sanctuary. It was also at this time the garden was developed and many of the plantings still survive to this day. The state government took over management of the estate in 1996.

The gardens surrounding the impressively large manor contain several well established exotic trees. There are also several herbaceous borders, a rose garden and lots of hedging. The wetlands area is home to lots of wetland birds and there is also a woodland area that is home to the local Koalas. The interior of the house when I visited was very rundown. I could only get into a few rooms as all of the upstairs section was closed due to plaster falling from the ceiling and walls. There is also a herb garden and orchard on the estate. Entry is free and If you are in the area I would definitely recommend a visit. 

The large manor house in all its glory.

Orchard near the entrance

Fast growing wisteria crawling all over an archway.

View of the front lawn

One of the herbaceous beds. 

Good old dahlias in flower. 

A nice little pond area with bridge. An original small building in the background.

 The herb garden looked a bit dry. Then again it was summer so it was to be expected.

A European beech tree.

A golden ash tree. One of many exotics planted by the Luxtons.

Close up of lovely gingko biloba leaves.

The gingko in its entirety. Quite a large specimen.

Some sort of cedar tree.

Canna indica

Muehlenbeckia hedging. So popular in Melbourne.

Classic box hedging.

It was a really hot day when I was there. Shady areas like this were a godsend.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

How to preserve fresh beans by freezing them


I went out into my garden the other day to inspect my edible plants to find that I had a bumper crop of beans. Presently my beans are in full production mode and as such I have more than I can eat so I decided to freeze some. I will admit that I haven't really done much preserving of produce in the past so I thought that freezing my beans would be an easy start into the world of produce preservation. Its really easy to do and many of you probably already know this but some may not so here it goes.

Why should you freeze beans using this method?

Freezing beans using this method will preserve the colour and nutrients inside the beans. If you just throw them in the freezer without blanching them they will be dull and less nutritious when you re-heat them.

You will need

  • A colander
  • Freshly picked beans (the sooner you freeze them the better)
  • Chopping board
  • Knife 
  • Boiling pot
  • Cooling bowl (any large bowl)
  • Zip lock bags
  • Water
  • A freezer


1. Pick your beans just before you plan to freeze them. If you leave them in the fridge overnight and then freeze them they won't be as nutritious or tasty

2. Boil a large pot of water. You will need enough to cover the beans.

3. Cut off the tops of the beans (the part with the stem attached) and the tails if desired. Then cut them into bite sized pieces.

4. Fill the cooling bowl with cold water and plenty of ice.

5. Place the beans in the boiling water then remove them after 2 minutes. Drain them in a colander.

6. Directly after draining the beans place them into the cold water until cooled.

7. Once cooled drain them in the colander.

8. Pack them into your zip lock bags, leaving a little room at the top, then place them in the freezer.

Re-heating the frozen beans

The trick to reheating them is not to boil or steam them for too long. If you do so the beans can become mushy and a bit bland. I usually place the frozen beans in boiling water then just bring the water back to the boil for only 30 seconds. If you are unsure just taste one of the beans and remove them when you are happy.