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Ellerslie International Flower Show 2012
Hagley Park, Christchurch

SHOW REVIEW continued

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The Gardens

The supreme winner at Ellerslie 2012 featured a giant penstock, concrete pipes, wilding pines and wild lupins. Not your usual concept of a garden. In spite of this, flowers were back in most gardens. Here are our highlights- the gardens which worked best for us.

Max's Pipe Dream (Paul Roper-Gee) married the industrial furniture of a hydro scheme with the landscape of the McKenzie Country it sits in, while also giving a nod to the rowing facility which was created by Max Smith, the scheme's engineer. The colours were subtle and the plantings a mixture of the "weeds" noted above and plants native to the area, from the native climber Parsonia twining itself through reinforcing steel, through native groundcovers, grasses, ferns and shrubs to the mountain beeches and kowhais. The detail of planting was deceptive as is the landscape it reflects. What looks empty and simple is, on closer inspection, a complex ecosystem.

Xanthe White's Garden for Christchurch didn't win best in show but it won our hearts. It's a gardeners' garden where the clear, open design of the large courtyard and the smaller, leafy refuge were also full of plants, most of them easily available for home gardeners.

In the dry garden Flower Carpet roses mingled with Federation daisies, catmint, salvias, kangaroo paws and scabiosa, to name a few, and with native corokia, wahlenbergia (harebells), mazus and astelia. The green garden was packed with plants - ferns, geraniums, fuchsia, grasses and more, again in a mixture of natives and exotics, and with red highlights from another Carpet rose and Lobelia cardinalis "Compliment Scarlet". This was a garden to savour slowly and to return to.

Transitions, the garden designed by Colin Meurk of Landcare Research, demonstrated how a "pocket park" could fit into a small urban space (such as that created by an empty section in an earthquake-damaged city), providing green space, wildlife habitat and a place for rest and reflection for humans. Certainly much was included in a small site from recolonising rubble to mature trees.

It was designed as low maintenance, predominantly native but co-existing with some exotic weeds. That this is a scientist's garden was clear from the variety and density of species, and from the accompanying explanatory notes. It was also natural, convincing and restful.

Ben Hoyle's "She Loves Me, She Loves me Not" was pure fantasy. A giant lotus, filled with flowers and floating on a pond and reached by stepping stones, it was a spectacle rather than a garden. It was the Peoples' Choice, an indication that it was a spectacle people connected with, and the visual imagery was stunning with its fabric-draped petals, airy floral interiors and magical reflections.

Casa de Vidro (MetroGlass Tech and Sandi MacRae) was full of light with its triple-glazed and etched wall panels reflecting and absorbing light, and the frameless glasshouse and crushed-glass paths, surrounded by meadow plantings (verbena, gaura, salvia, and baby astelia) and architectural pseudopanax.

On the "less is more" theme we were taken with Olive Screen's Straight from the Heart where two simple heart shapes - one wooden and one lawn - echoed each other and supported the idea of a space suitable for wedding ceremonies. Low corokia edging (Genty's Ghost) filled with ruby heuchera gave appropriate formality and richness.

The Emerging Designers walk was a popular place. Winner Rachael Matthew's garden Gone to Seed was exactly that, a refreshing contrast after lots of clean lines and formal tidiness. The slatted paths with compost bins beneath (would they work?) and the recycled bean poles - the flower stalks of alliums, flax, bulrushes and toes toes - were highlights.

Exhibition Displays

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, 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, and its display of a B-grade movie complete with skulls and skeletons was full of rare, lush tropical plants.

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Ellerslie 2010
Ellerslie 2009
Ellerslie 2001

Ellerslie 2000

Max's Pipe Dream
Max's Pipe Dream

Max's Pipe Dream
Max's Pipe Dream complete with 'weeds'

Parsonia in Max's Pipe Dream
Parsonia in Max's Pipe Dream

The dry garden
Xanthe White's Garden for Christchurch

The green garden
Xanthe White - Gold Medal Winner

Colin Meurk's complex native planting
Recolonising urban spaces - Transitions

Ben Hoyle - pure fantasy - Yates Peoples choice award
Ben Hoyle's "She Loves Me, She Loves Me Not"

Casa de Vidro - light airy structures
Casa de Vidro - all glass

Olive Screen's garden Straight from the Heart
Straight from the Heart

Vegetable profusion in Gone to seed
Emerging designer winner Rachel Mathews "Gone to Seed"

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Last revised 5 May '12