They call it the lucky country, but Australia's no luckier than New Zealand when it comes to mad weather and impossible gardening conditions.
Last time I went to the Melbourne International Flower and Garden Show in, I think, 2004, they were frantically trying to figure out how to deal with dry gardens.
This time it was all about wet gardens. And, um, dry gardens. And floods, droughts, high winds, not enough sun, too much sun, too hot and too cold. Pretty much the same as here, then.
Being Australians, they were fairly good-humoured about it all, and the lucky/unlucky country's top landscape designers, gardeners, artists, horticulturalists and manufacturers turned on a fantastic show, which kept The Partner and I occupied for two full days. He'd have spent longer but by mid-afternoon on the second day I had a sore knee, raging hay fever and had worn the skin off the bottoms of my feet. Needless to say, I ceased to be my usual, good-humoured self.
Anyway, two days was enough to establish the Australians are seriously into sustainability, vegetables, metal and vertical gardens.
It used to mean saving water, but in many places on the Australian east coast of late, getting rid of it has been the issue. So Aussie gardeners are hedging their bets and creating stylish, user-friendly gardens with sustainable planting and water-saving solutions.
My favourite, "Equilibrium", won gold, and I have already printed numerous photos and the plans for The Partner to recreate it at home. "Equilibrium" was designed by Phillip Johnson.
Now I won't pretend for a milli-second to understand vertical gardening. It was everywhere at the Melbourne show and, despite serious pondering, I still don't get it. Having said that, it's new(ish), quirky, interesting challenging and space-saving, and it's probably really good for people with sore backs or lazy ones like me who hate bending down, so who am I to ask why you would bother?
I haven't found out how to make a vertical garden that might last longer than the flower show, but if anyone wants to know, I'll get the information from one of The Partner's 16kg of brochures, booklets, flyers, magazines, and DVDs, which had to travel home outside of our 7kg cabin bag allowance.
Just as well we didn't want to bring home any of the Australian's hard landscaping material of choice.
Metal is the new timber, and, necessarily, rusty brown is the new black. They're using it for panelling, garden edging, sculptures, art panels - you name it - and as well as looking pretty good, it doesn't go all to pieces when it rains, so you've got something that will last the distance. So, more points from the sustainability police.
Something I found truly wonderful about the show was the fast food. In the two days we were there the only fast food we saw people eating was corn on the cob. Kiwis, take note.
For more information on Melbourne or Victoria visit www.visitmelbourne.com/nz