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After the devastation comes Regrowth and fire smart gardens

09 Apr 2009

NMIT Certificate III in Horticulture student, Quentin Addison, didn't win a prize at the recent Melbourne International Flower and Garden Show but his garden design, 2235 - An Achievable Garden, left a lasting impression on thousands of Show visitors by capturing the devastation and resilience that characterised Victoria's recent bushfires.

During Black Saturday, Quentin was on the back of a fire truck helping to fight the fires but his wife, Ros, had to flee from their St Andrews house as the fire tore through their property. She had no choice but to sit on a nearby dam wall and watch her and Quentin's house burn.

This horrific experience subsequently inspired Quentin's design for the Flower and Garden Show in which he incorporated some of the burnt corrugated iron, broken bricks and burnt timbers from his house. The resulting designed garden dramatically captured the essence of NMIT's overall theme for the Show - Regrowth.

During the bushfires, many magnificent gardens were destroyed, but not all plants were equally affected. The NMIT display, including Quentin's and a number of other student garden designs, reflected the ability of many plants to re-grow and regenerate and also highlighted the use of fire retardant plants, both native and non-native, for use in gardens in fire-prone areas.

The themed display was dedicated to the NMIT students and staff affected by the Black Saturday fires and resulted in great interest from visitors and media including the Better Homes and Gardens television program which featured Quentin's design during the week of the Show.

“When I began this project I had just completed my Certificate III in Horticulture at NMIT and created a very colourful garden for my wife, Ros. On February 7 nature decided to show who really is running this planet and our property, like many others, was completely burned out,” says Quentin who decided to share his and Ros' experience via an online blog called 2335 A New Start.

“On the morning I began my blog, I was up at our property. To my amazement the plum tree which had become a twisted and blackened skeleton of its former self was bursting into leaf! Inspired by this wonderful flash of green and life amongst so much grey, black and death, I decided that what I really needed was to show that a new garden was achievable.”

The NMIT display featured many plants with fire retardant properties including Banksia serrata (Saw Banksia / Old Man Banksia) along with heat and drought tolerant plants such as Dasylirion acrotrichum (Mexican Wheel Tree / Green Desert Spoon).

Also available at the display was advice and information on strategies to help minimize fire risk around the home through the evaluation of vegetation used in landscaping.

“If the plants are not easily ignited then they can improve the defence of buildings by filtering out wind-driven burning debris and deflecting burning debris up and over or around buildings,” says Head of NMIT's Horticulture Department, John Neilson.

“Some plants can also act as a barrier against radiation and flame or reduce wind forces which might damage a building, adds Neilson. “There's also the issue of where you position plants so to avoid a 'fire ladder effect' where plants provide continuous fuel up from the ground into the crown of trees.”

Aside from the impact of NMIT's Regrowth theme, the 2009 Melbourne International Flower and Garden Show resulted in some well earned recognition for individual NMIT students. Horticulture student, Phil Robertson, won second prize in the Achievable Gardens competition as well as the Lysaght Award for a garden best incorporating Lysaght fencing. NMIT Floristry student, Jet Paungphaka, achieved 1st place in the Intermediate category while Gwyneth Potts claimed 2nd and Myhanh Rutledge received a Merit Award. In the Advanced Floristry category Youn-Shil Graham placed 3rd and Ro Porter received a Merit Award.


Interview / Photo Opportunity

Media enquiries should be directed to the NMIT Communications Officer, James Gardener, on (03) 92691579, 0413 483 182 or

NMIT (Northern Melbourne Institute of TAFE) - Situated on seven campuses and six training centres throughout Melbourne's north, NMIT delivers vocational training, higher education and lifelong learning capabilities for a global workforce. NMIT forges partnerships with community, industry and government to produce practical, solution orientated graduates capable of making meaningful contributions to their chosen field of endeavour.