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Phillip Withers creates The 2017 ‘Best In Show’

By James Wall.

A story about a gold medal Show Garden that Gardenworld sourced many of the plants for.

On a cold Wednesday morning we were queuing outside the historical Exhibition Buildings when I bumped into a rather forlorn looking Phillip Withers. Like most designers doing a show garden, the last few nights had been late ones. Phil however looked a little pale. It after wimpish handshake or two I noticed his right hand was looking damaged. He had sustained a rather large splinter late last night and this had caused his hand to swell considerably. The hospital had been unable to remove the stubborn fragment of wood, but this was one breakfast that Phil could not resist.

This was the awards breakfast. A rather silly time slot as it is on at 7.15am on the first day of the Melbourne International Flower & Garden Show. I guess it’s the only time you can arrange all these dignitaries in the one room. At least the coffee was dark and the food was out soon.

Of course there were only a few awards announced, with the cream of them being ‘Best In Show’. This is for the best outdoor garden display. This is what Landscape Designers aspire to, and hang there hat on. For those that have never won it, it can be an incurable addiction leading to the quest of a lifetime – sometimes an Everest that is never reached.

“and the winning garden is ‘I See Wild’ by Phil Withers. There was a gasp in the room. It was not one of the more formal gardens that one. It was not the typical garden that 90% of clients would ask for. It was different – it was wild, maybe that was why it one. It was also built on time, and the quality of plants made the garden shine. There was an aura.

 

I am sure at this point all the pain left Phil’s hand and for him, his team, and his sponsors, there was a shiver of delight and almost a tear in the eye. His speech was humble, loose and genuine, in its typical Phil way. Here was a man who had toiled on show gardens with bronze and silver medals only, but who had come up through the ranks and not only got gold, but the even more coveted, best in show.

Later that morning there were some mumbles from the detractors of Phil’s garden. How can a garden have a grass tree, a fig tree and a 3 metre cactus make sense. What is the theme ? What type of garden is this ? How can it have won Best In Show with very little hard construction like a building, or without the obligatory but fraught with danger water feature. There was something special about this garden though, because the punters dwelled, they stared, they oohed and they aahed. Yes maybe Phil did pull off a heist – but gee he did it well.

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