Swinburne University of Technology: Autumn Sun shines on Melbourne International Flower and Garden Show

In the early Autumn sun, Melbourne welcomed the return of one of its most cherished landmark events, as the Melbourne International Flower and Garden Show breathed life and a calm energy into the Royal Exhibition Building and surrounding Carlton Gardens with an array of brilliant displays.

As supporters of the occasion for more than 15 years, Swinburne was proud to have past and present students continue the University’s long history in the competition across both the Boutique and Emergent Gardens categories.

Impressing in the Boutique Gardens Category

An Intimate Garden designed by Invidia Landscapes – Renee Reiter, Diploma of Landscape Design
Taking home an impressive second place in the Landscaping Victoria Boutique Garden Competition, Renee impressed all-comers with her carefully crafted, inviting space that showcased a variety of natural and constructed elements.

Anchored by a long-curved bench for effortless entertainment, the display proved popular, with patrons snapping countless inspiration photos to take back home.

Renee carefully considered the design and build, creating an open space that could feature in a multitude of different concepts.

“The build process was all meticulously planned from January. We built as much as we could offsite so this week it all ran like clockwork, it was just so much fun,” Renee said.

“I wanted the space to be customisable. You could add more tables, chairs and beanbags. Nestled in a relaxed lush space to unwind and entertain.”

Katie Johnstone sits next to a little teepee fireplace in her emergent garden. She is surrounded by kid sized hills, plants and other fun things to explore
Katie Johnstone sits by the campfire in her Emergent Garden.

Natural spaces in the Emergent Gardens Category
Katie Johnstone, Diplomas in Landscape Design and Horticulture

Katie’s garden puts an immediate smile on your face. Designed as a natural playground for children, it was hard not to be drawn in by the teepee, tunnel and campfire. The local wildlife agreed, as nearby bees and butterflies could be seen gathering in the space to enjoy the garden’s fruits.

It’s been a long time coming for Katie, who had a previous design ready to go but unable to be constructed due to COVID in 2020. The extra sense of satisfaction from completing the garden this time around was a reward in itself.

“It was totally satisfying. I really didn’t know what to do with myself when it first got cancelled in 2020. Two years later it’s happened and I’m delighted,” said Katie.

In an increasingly digital world, Katie wanted to design a place where kids could test their boundaries and engage with their surroundings.

“For me it’s a children’s playground. This is where they can find plants, eat, smell and feel textures. There are pops of colour to attract wildlife and levels of risky play. Kids can figure out and react to their surroundings, get on their hands and knees and test their balance.”

An open plan garden with stepping stones down the centre leading to a large wooden circle that can be used as an entertainment platform

Riley Cooper and Angus Haughton, Diplomas in Landscape Design
Swinburne alum Riley Cooper and Angus Haughton returned to the festival with another comfortable, multi-purpose space in the emergent gardens category. Now graduated, they have a strong history in the event as students, having taken out the bronze medal in 2019 for their display Gallery To Garden in the Achievable Gardens category.

Manager of Horticultural and Environmental Technologies at Swinburne’s Wantirna campus, Stewart Detez says he was proud of all the Swinburne entrants’ ability to overcome adversity.

“Off the back of two years of COVID interruptions, preparing and committing to competing at the 2022 MIFGS is no easy task. Wind the clock back to 2020, all of Swinburne’s entries were prepared and ready to compete in the event,” said Stewart.
“To bounce back and take on the task again in 2022, bigger and better, is testament to their resilience, passion, and commitment to their aspirations within the industry. The work that they executed was of a high standard.”

An important event for students, university, and industry
For the Horticultural and Environmental Technologies teaching team, the event allows Swinburne to demonstrate to industry and the community that skills and expertise are not limited to the classroom or online platforms and provides an excellent opportunity to work closely with industry.

Craig Taberner, CEO of Nursey and Garden Industry Victoria says students’ participation is crucial.

“From an industry and students’ point of view there’s a great learning and training element. They work so hard for 6-12 months to deliver an activation to their future customers. It’s hands-on training, learning and engaging with the public,” said Taberner.

There’s also a strong networking angle at the event.

“It’s the best experience they can get outside the TAFE itself, it’s a chance to develop personally and work up the confidence to talk to the public and develop their marketing and networking skills.”

Megan Flower, CEO Landscaping Victoria Master Landscapers agrees, emphasising the need to learn planning skills, how to source materials, and create relationships with suppliers to deliver these display gardens.

“Even at that student level they’re promoting themselves and their passions and they can communicate and promote those values here through their work. There are so many different reasons why somebody would participate at MIFGS, it’s a great event offering a whole range of opportunities,” she said.