Gardening is sexy

Landscape artist and environmental activist Jamie Durie is on a mission to make gardening sexy – and to save the planet one backyard at a time.

"Gardening is no longer a granny sport," the Australian gardening celebrity told Reuters during a recent visit to Singapore, where he is landscaping a luxury housing compound.

"Gardens are now a reflection of your personality as much as the rug on your floor or the jewellery around your neck. They are a connection to nature, a sanctuary."

A self-confessed frustrated architect who "paints with plants", Durie is a bit of a pin-up boy for gardening.

A qualified horticulturalist, he is the founder of the award-winning PATIO Landscape Architecture Design (www.patio.com.au) and author of five books on landscaping. He was host to popular Australian TV garden makeover show Backyard Blitz and currently hosts long-running American gardening and outdoor show, "The Victory Garden", for U.S. network PBS.

Durie also trained with former U.S. vice president and environmentalist Al Gore to become an environmental ambassador.

Q: How can landscaping help the environment?

A: Any plants that you can get into the soil will help absorb carbon dioxide emissions, and yes, it is possible to have urban developments and sustain the environment – that's where landscaping comes in.

Also, if you take care of your own garden, it encourages others to do the same and then we'll be saving the environment one small backyard at a time. That's why I try and make gardens sexy, an evocative space that provides a destination, not just something that you see from behind your kitchen window.

Q: So, is gardening fashionable now?

A: Certainly! People are becoming more creative and they recognise that gardens are as much a part of their décor as their living room. There's also a trend towards going back to nature, towards organic produce because of all the chemicals and hormones and gene splitting... that is more dangerous than actual warfare. Growing organic produce has never been more popular and it will continue to grow. We're in the middle of an organic revolution.

Q: What inspires your designs?

A: Everything. I travel extensively, so I often gain inspiration from the natural landscapes I see. You have to be receptive to your surroundings and keep your eyes open. One of my designs was based on a crack in the pavement. The bigger my library of concepts, the more I've got to give.

Q: Creating a beautiful garden can be very expensive and also requires space – luxuries many people don't have.

A: That is true, but I want the homeowners of today to fast-track to what the older generation have achieved after years of working: the nice house with the big garden. See what gardens can do for you! They give you peace and tranquility. My advice would be to look at the value of your property and use that as a benchmark to decide how much to spend on your garden. If you're spending less than 5%, that's skimping, you can do better. And if you don't want to do it for you, do it for your kids. Do it for the environment. It's your responsibility.

Q: Do you have any tips for city-dwellers who would love to have a garden but who don't have the time or the space?

A: Go to your local nursery and start taking photos of plants you find attractive. Go to the botanical garden on the weekend and see how plants are arranged. Fall in love with the plants and then take them home. By growing a plant, you're empowering yourself, giving yourself confidence, demystifying nature.

Everyone can have a little patch of paradise, there's no excuse not to.

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