As I pushed open the door to the nail salon the phone rang. "Hi Karen? Jamie here. Jamie Durie."
Realizing my much needed manicure was going to have to wait I hastily ducked back out and rushed to my car where I had a notepad and pen handy just in case this happened! I had been trying to set up a face to face interview with the legendary TV host, landscape designer and author Jamie Durie while he was in town but that wasn't possible so I knew the best chance I had to pick his Australian horticultural brains was by phone.
First though I needed to see if his sense of humor was as genuine as it appeared on TV.
So when did you escape the penal colony?
After a brief pause he laughed out loud "2008. But I split my time between homes in Los Angeles and Australia."
At that point I could envision the twinkle in his eye and cheeky smile and knew we were going to get on just great.
I had decided to focus my questions around garden design as I love his HGTV program and accompanying book The Outdoor Room. That concept and format had been Jamie's idea and proved so successful that it ran for five series. "I almost killed my crew though" he said. Despite that they are in fact all really good friends, gathering together just a couple of days ago to celebrate Jamie's birthday.
"I wanted to do something I was passionate about – reconnecting people with Nature". His new series Outback Nation on FYI Network continues that theme by helping families re-discover their gardens and each other.
As a designer I find his ideas, choice of materials and styles refreshingly different. So sit back and enjoy eavesdropping on our conversation as I asked questions with you in mind.
How do you suggest homeowners gather inspiration and ideas for their gardens?
"I tell them to look within. Within their homes that is. Grab your camera, stand in your lounge room and take pictures of everything you see. then open your wardrobe and do the same. You'll quickly see what colors appeal to you most and get a sense of the style you have.
Pinterest boards and magazine clippings are also good for gathering ideas.
When I'm designing for a client I prefer not to see those ideas right away though. I find the best ideas come to me in the first 10-15 minutes on site; the raw material. After I've got the basic drawing done and am padding out the design – that's when those clippings are helpful."
How can homeowners create a garden that they experience rather than just look at?
"Create a functional analysis first. Plot the building within the property boundaries on graph paper then use simple bubbles to mark out the different areas of their wish list from utility space to play zones, edibles to dining.
Then use plants to compartmentalize the space and create a series of different rooms. This is always much more interesting than having one big open space. Think of each exterior room as you would an interior room with walls, windows, door, ceiling and floor then consider what plants can fill that function.
Good garden design should seduce you!"
What advice would you give a young couple with big dreams but a low budget?
Annuals and perennials are important and they give a lot of color but I recommend my clients set aside half their budget for foundation plants; those key trees and shrubs that add character to the space, define boundaries and provide privacy.
Privacy is one of the most important things for us all. I'm not talking about a hedge necessarily but rather layers of trees and shrubs to create an amphitheater effect. I'd tell this young couple to spend their money so they can garden naked if they want to knowing they have complete privacy. Heck I often wander around the garden in my underwear!"
Be still my beating heart…… No photo to support that particular design tenet readers; sorry!
Tell us about your personal garden
"I'd probably describe it as 'mid-century modern'. It's a 1950's home. However there isn't a straight line in the garden anywhere! Funny but after years of studying landscape design and architecture I didn't want anything formal.
There's the original 1952 pool that I've had renovated to include an infinity edge which is just beautiful. That's important since it gets looked at 80% of the time and used just 20%. It's like a giant water feature so it has to look good.
The pool is also a catchment system for all the water run-off for the entire property. So when it rains all the water flows into the pool that then runs through a UV filter. I don't use any chemicals and basically swim in rain water, which is as good as it gets. It's heated by solar power too.
Besides that I've basically turned my house inside out and have outdoor rooms for a bathroom with a cool tub I designed as part of my new furnishings line, a bedroom with two big daybeds for napping or reading a book, a dining room and great kitchen and prep area."
What would you say to the homeowner who has been nervous to get started on a garden re-design?
"Break ground! Just get something planted. Start with something easy like a tomato plant maybe and build your confidence but don't lose any more time."
Two hundred lucky ticket holders were able to join Jamie for his talk at Molbak's Garden & Home the next day so we did finally have a chance to connect faces with accents. His presentation was entertaining, engaging and energizing in equal measure!
Wrangling a 10' tall Japanese maple from the stage set he showed how the canopy could become the ceiling of an outdoor room or a carpet of fragrant creeping thyme could become a rug. Jamie suggested how a hedge of blueberries could replace boxwood to provide food as well as a traditional ornamental role and he coincidentally did a great job of selling my book Fine Foliage as he stressed the importance of great foliage plants such as small leaved wintercreeper (Euonymus fortunei)!
You can read more about Jamie's shows, blog, books and new furniture range on his website.
Oh and the answer to your unspoken question? Yes he is pretty darned cute!
Photo credits; www.jamiedurie.com – apart from the last one!