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Ellerslie 2005 - a horticultural extravaganza!

Yates' Judy Horton reports for Greenworld.

Although it seemed to have fewer landscaped gardens than in previous shows, New Zealand's 2005 Ellerslie Flower Show remained true to its established tradition of mounting a horticultural extravaganza that delighted thousands of visitors.

Caption: Xanthe White's creation 'The Kiwi Garden'

One of the main attractions was the 1000 square metre feature display called `Kiwi Garden - From Cultivation to Inspiration' which traced the history of New Zealand gardening. Xanthe White, the darling of the New Zealand landscape design world and an award winner at the 2003 and 2004 Ellerslie shows, had been invited by the show organisers to design and coordinate this massive display. From the entrance (curiously hidden behind a row of catering tents) the main pathway led through ten garden `rooms' that opened out initially into a re-creation of the original natural landscape, next showed it reeling and recovering with the arrival of the Maoris, and then traced European settlers' progress from preoccupation with growing food for survival through to enjoying gardening for its artistic and creative rewards. The last section was a very modern, minimalist display of sculptural plants in a kaleidoscope-coloured maze.

Xanthe White headed for stardom
More than 2000 plant varieties were featured in this stunning display, which proved such a hit that Tourism New Zealand has now confirmed Xanthe will represent her country at the 'garden design Olympics', the Chelsea Flower Show in London in May 2006.

Caption: Lucy Lee's low allergen garden

But back to Ellerslie, where the award for horticultural excellence went to the Auckland Botanic Gardens' attractive mixed vegetable and ornamental display flanking an outdoor entertaining area. The popularity of this well-put-together blend of flowers and edibles was doubtless enhanced by its prominent position but, as the garden show host (the show moved a few years ago from its original home at Ellerslie Racecourse to the grounds of the Auckland Regional Botanic Gardens), the Botanic Gardens could be forgiven for grabbing a top spot.

The 'Hort Galore' tent had some very professional-looking displays put together and manned by volunteers from various amateur plant societies. Participation from such groups is always a good indication of broad community support for any show.

The winner of the Judges' Supreme Award was the futuristic Inplants Ltd display. Its space station setting showed off the very latest in plant material, including the odd-looking Podophyllum `Kaleidoscope'. This plant was outdone, however, for the 'Best in Show Award' by Tandarra Nurseries' Lobelia `Hot Arctic', for which the term floriferous could well have been coined.

Highlights of Ellerslie 2005
Quirkiest display: My choice was the peanut-coated, pig-on-a-spit (pictured) in the Auckland Vegetable Growers' display (loved the cauliflower and strawberry pavlova too!).

Dominant colours: Christmassy red and green combinations turned up everywhere, most aptly in the Morning Fresh detergent display garden. Flower of the Show: It seems all New Zealanders have a love affair with sweet peas that obviously dates back to fragrant childhood gardens. Warms the heart award: Tea company Twinings and the Royal New Zealand Foundation for the Blind chose vision-impaired designer Merv Cox to collate an award-winning display of plants with scent, form or texture that could be appreciated by those with less than perfect sight. Designers of the future: Secondary school students were invited to design landscapes for the Flixonase Low Allergy Garden Competition, with Lucy Lee from Epsom Girls Grammar submitting the winning entry. `Lucy's garden has a fantastic hot Mediterranean feel,' said judge (guess who?) Xanthe White.

Public involvement display: Weekend Gardener magazine's letterbox competition attracted a range of creative entries (pictured). Best Australian contribution: Renowned Australian garden designers, including Jim Fogarty and the `re-use king', Andrew O'Sullivan, flew the Aussie flag by giving well-attended talks in the New Zealand Gardener speakers' marquee.

And that was Ellerslie 2005.

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