Ellerslie International Flower Show
Hagley Park, Christchurch, New Zealand
7-11 March 2012
by Ruth Chapman and Helen Williams
It's an interesting thing, the Ellerslie Flower Show. It's not in Ellerslie and this year it was very definitely in Christchurch with lots of references to living with and recovering from the earthquakes. It's not really about flowers, with design and hard landscaping often dominating the plantings. It's definitely a show, with something of interest for all of the tens of thousands of visitors each year. We're a gardening website so we're going to focus on the garden design and the planting.
There were gardens that made you gasp, show stoppers and spectacles never intended to be part of your own back yard. And there were real gardens with real ideas, new plants, and old plants in interesting combinations or new uses, all to ponder and to take away and translate into your own reality.
- Tranquillity, a place for reflection or inspiration or reconnection, a haven. On the whole these gardens were intended as places for private enjoyment rather than for public display.
- Several gardens had earthquake inspiration or references, whether it was creating a temporary garden or recolonising the rubble in a pocket park. Some designers consciously escaped the grim reality of a shaky city with its dust and rubble and gardens lost, to create beautiful spaces full of light and life.
- Sustainability is a theme seen in earlier years. It seemed to us that it is now a given, something integrated into the overall design rather than an end in itself. Edible gardens are in and can be things of beauty in themselves or elements integrated into a wider design.
- Lots of impact plants, a favourite being Eucomis, the pineapple lily. Also popular were the sedums and other succulents and Calecephalus, the cushion bush with its grey, wiry branches.
- Meadow plantings with salvias, gaura, scabiosa, echinacea and more. It was uplifting to see the butterflies and bees working in these temporary gardens, a reminder that flowers are not just pretty.
Indeed a main theme of the Canterbury Horticultural Society's Love (in) your Garden was the process of fertilisation. Watching the bees on the sedums in the Show sent us home to look at our own which were covered in both honey and bumble bees showing that that these flowers are important late season food.
- Hedging: for screening with Griselinia (native broadleaf) and totara, and also with camellias; for edging with close-clipped corokia, an effective and disease-free replacement for box.
- Hydrangea paniculata with its lovely cone-shaped flowers, offering a soft pale element in the gardens.
- Dark-plum Cercis "Forest Pansy" was a favourite among the many small trees used in the gardens.
- And, deserving special mention though it featured in only one garden, the wonderful new David Austin rose, Munstead Wood, which was the knock-out plant in Tasman Bay's delightful stand. Munstead Wood is a rich, opulent deep crimson, heavily quartered and with a sensuous, fruity fragrance. A must for rose lovers.
Here's a plea. Some of the gardens had useful descriptions and planting lists which gardeners who wanted to learn more could read and take away. Many did not. More plant lists please!
And another. Some gardens had someone in attendance during the show who could interact with visitors, answer questions and provide information. Most did not. Every time we spoke to a designer or someone associated with the garden our appreciation deepened. The creator's role isn't over when the judges have left.
Egmont seeds the show sponsor had floral display hanging baskets scattered across the show and their stand was busy selling a wide range of high quality seeds from all the over the world.
In the Starlight Marquee Dan Rutherfords garden Fresh Start struck a chord with locals complete with a garden (regenerating native seedlings and weeds), lighting and screen images. He had managed to get his hands on some heritage demolition materials which were constructed in an eccalesiastical theme.
The Floral Art marquee was busy and there were amazing creations on view and it was mostly about flowers! The Hort Galore tent had interesting and informative exhibits. The Christchurch Botanic Gardens display was in keeping with the disaster and destruction theme. The theme of a B-grade movie complete with skulls and skeletons was full of rare, lush, wonderful tropical plants.
Hydrangea Paniculata makes a statement
Edible Garden Retreat
Sedums in Reclaimed Space
Sustainable, edible, medicinal and pleasurable
Cercis, hydrangea paniculata in Urban Reflections
New release Munstead Wood
Belfast Couple all in black at the Belfast Cemetery
What one doesn't need
Hanging garden baskets