Essence of Australia: Hampton Court Palace Flower Show

This year at the largest garden event in the world, Hampton Court Palace Flower Show in England, an Australian entry won ‘Best in Show’.  It was an exciting accolade for the many people who brought the project to fruition.

Jim Forgarty ©Kim Woods Rabbidge

Multi award-winning landscape designer Jim Fogarty.

A team of fifteen installed a plan by Jim Fogarty, who’s no novice when it comes to garden design awards both in Australia, and overseas. In 2011 he won a Gold Medal at Chelsea, and you will have read our recent blog on his Gold winning garden at the Singapore Garden Festival.

‘Essence of Australia’ was a collaboration between Royal Botanic Gardens Melbourne (RBGM) in partnership with Tourism Victoria, Tourism Northern Territory, Qantas and Trailfinders – the UK based travel company. Show gardens like this rely on a huge amount of sponsorship but it’s a win-win for all parties.

The show is situated either side of The Long Water in Hampton Court
Park and the expansive 10-hectare site is filled with a frenzy of garden lovers coveting the latest plant releases, and being inspired by design trends. Many gardens this year considered natural wildlife habitats, and sustainability as did the Australian entry.

Jim was keen to share the award with everyone involved and hoped the garden would reflect the diversity of Australia – from contemporary architecture in the cities – to the Outback with its red sands and delicate wildflowers.

It was a quintessential Australian design – complete with iconic plants such as kangaroo paws – Anigozanthos hybrids, native hibiscus – Alyogyne, daisies – Brachyscome, Eucalyptus, especially ‘Little Boy Blue’ – and complete with muddy billabongs.

‘Essence of Australia’ demonstrated how the most appealing native gardens benefit from good structure: mass, or repeat plantings of one species, appealing flower and foliage contrasts, strong focal points and clever hardscaping complementing our native plants to perfection.

Essence of Australia 8Hampton Court Palace Flower Show©Kim Woods Rabbidge

From inside the pavilion. Hampton Court Palace Flower Show visitors loved this garden – it was unique in so many ways.

Professor Tim Entwistle, Director of RBGM said there were many plants included suitable to grow in the United Kingdom, but one of the main aims was to showcase RBG Australian Garden at Cranbourne.

“One of the driving forces for us is we hope to encourage more visitors at the Australian garden at Cranbourne to see even more of our amazing flora and to see contemporary garden landscape design.”




Of course The Outback is also a major attraction – that’s where we can find many of these plants at home!

If you haven’t visited Cranbourne – or The Outback where you’ll discover exquisite plants, put them on your ‘must do soon’ list.  (You can find a blog about the absolutely wonderful Cranbourne garden in our archives below.)

One of the most fascinating elements – and also amusing – was the reference to the mythological Aboriginal Dreamtime rainbow serpent. It is believed that the land was sculpted by an underground serpent that pushed up hills and formed valleys.

So in this garden, mysticism was brought to life with a sophisticated algorithm and 21 century technology: when people around the world tweeted ‘Essence of Australia’ a submerged pump in the billabong was activated and bubbles randomly appeared. It was great fun watching and waiting – and imagining that a serpent may be beneath the ground – well as long as you hadn’t lost your sense of wonder!

Many native plants have useful purposes, and some are used for bush tucker by humans – and others by animals and birds. When Eremophila glabra – emu bush (the silvery plant pictured below) is added to the diet of grazing sheep it can reduce methane production. It happens to also be nutritious and thrives in more arid regions. Aboriginals used it for liniment, medicine and antiseptic – plus – it’s a wonderful alternative to azaleas, with pretty flowers covering the bush in spring. What attributes!

A vignette of time: this magnificent Xanthorrhoea johnsonii, Johnson’s grass tree is estimated to be a similar age to Hampton Court Palace  – that’s about 450 years old!

For further information about this garden you could read my article in the current issue (October 2014) of GARDENING AUSTRALIA.


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