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Real Life Landscape Design Experience at MIFGS

07 Nov 2017

Tucked away behind the hustle and bustle of Tokyo’s Shibuya precinct are the gardens of Meiji Jingu, a Shinto shrine built early in the 20th century.

As you walk by Harajuku train station, through the Torii and into the garden, the city falls away replaced by densely leaved camphor trees and underbrush. The cacophony of city noise fades as the cheerful chatter of birds fills the space, it’s about this time you feel like you’ve crossed into an altogether different place, a different world. This is what is known as a portal garden, a concept that formed part of Anthony Coyle’s inspiration for his entry into the 2017 Avenue of Achievable Gardens award at the Melbourne International Flower & Garden Show (MIFGS). “I wanted something nice and mysterious, something you could get lost in, where it's kind of like a completely different planet, you could say,” said Anthony. He says a portal garden is a place people can escape to: “It's like you are in Melbourne, in the metropolis, and you go into your backyard and you enter into a different world.” But, this wasn’t Anthony’s sole inspiration for his ribbon winning garden at MIFGS: The Mermaid’s Tea Garden. “I’m right into getting the most out of your garden, as in value, not ornamental. I know a lot of people look at gardens as: ‘Oh yeah, that looks nice’. I’m not even interested in that, I'm interested in what people can source from the garden.” “I’m into reducing energy use and by growing a lot of stuff yourself. By growing your own food and stuff, you can actually reduce your carbon footprint.” So, Anthony designed his entire garden around tea. With what he learned studying landscape design at Melbourne Polytechnic and his background in horticulture, he was able to grow 28 tea varieties at his home before transporting them and planting them at the flower show.

Avenue of Achievable Gardens

Now in its 11th year, the Avenue of Achievable Gardens is a competition for students looking to flex their landscaping and design muscles. An achievable garden is something anyone can build and design, which is in stark contrast to many of the other gardens on display at MIFGS. For Anthony, that makes those gardens high stakes means some of them have pretty generic designs: “You can take risks with an achievable garden and if you don’t pull it off it doesn’t matter. Whereas if you did that in one of those expensive gardens you’ve invested a lot of money for something that may not be pushing the boundaries.” James Farmer, head of the horticulture department at Melbourne Polytechnic, says the competition is designed to give students starting out in landscaping or horticulture the opportunity to test their skills in a public situation and be judged on it. “The best thing about the achievable garden and the course here is all the practical experience you get and that's really important for all our guys and it doesn’t matter what course it is.”

Interaction with industry

He says the competition gives students the opportunity to interact with the industry. “It is real to life, they have to consult with companies, like local nurseries or suppliers and they even borrow stuff from them because they are limited in how much they can spend.” The students and apprentices in the Landscape Design courses often do very well in the competition because the course is designed to get students thinking beyond the practice of just building a garden. “The course gives apprentices and students the skills to go a bit further and become a business orientated person. It teaches them to draw up designs and plan. To know the history behind what the designs are about and know more about plants and how to do plans by computer and by hand. And, how to create the design for their clients in the future as well as that basic practical experience of how to actually build it.” He says this is perhaps why Melbourne Polytechnic is often one of the biggest contributors to the competition. “[The students all] do a real genuine job and they are really passionate about what they are doing, and Anthony’s garden was as good as any of the others, considering the space consignment. If he had more money and tonnes of area he could have done a lot with it.” If you are interested learning more about landscape design or horticulture, please get in touch with us today.