Garden god Jamie Durie gives us a piece of his fertile mind, weighing in on gardening's new sex appeal, his outdoor bathtub and what he'll be looking for when he visits the Twin Cities next week.
If landscape design has a rock star, it's Jamie Durie. The telegenic horticulturist has been a regular on "Oprah," hosts his own HGTV shows, including "Outdoor Room," and gets featured on admiring fan websites with names like "hunk du jour." Oh, yeah, and he's also an outspoken environmentalist, a globe-trotting mogul and bestselling author, with his own design firm, line of products and nine published books. We caught up with the Australia native, who's now based in California, in New York City:
Q You've been quoted as saying you're on a mission to make gardening sexy. Have you succeeded?
A I don't know whether I've contributed, but it certainly has become sexy.
Q How can you tell?
A Look at the type of people doing it now -- they're younger and younger. Ten years ago, it was more of a granny sport. Now young couples bump into me on the street and talk about it. I was at the International Contemporary Furniture Fair in New York, and I must have had 30 people stop me, all of them young students, saying things like, "We love your work," "You've inspired us -- I want to study landscape design." It's definitely something that's top of mind for the youth of America. That makes me feel great. If I can inspire young people to put in a few plants, they will be much better stewards of the planet.
Q How has the outdoor-room concept evolved since you first started talking about it?
A The products have certainly backed up the statement. There are now hundreds and hundreds of luxurious outdoor products available. I call it luxescaping. That's my new catchphrase. People are luxuriating in their outdoor spaces.
Q Now you're doing seminars on "The Human Garden" -- what's that?
A My passion is creating gardens that are interactive, that you live in, not just look at. Gone are the days when you plant a bed of annuals and go back in the house. When the snow melts, you want to make the most of your outdoor spaces and spend those precious months outside. It's about creating destinations in the garden and furnishing them the same way you furnish inside.
Q You recently created a series of outdoor rooms at your own home, one to correspond with each indoor space. Tell us about that.
A I've been preaching this for so many years, I figured I'd better do it. It works -- I spend way more time outside. I've even put in an outdoor bathtub area. If the Finnish can do it, Minnesota can.
Q Which outdoor space do you spend the most time in?
A The dining room. I'm always out there with friends and family, cooking and entertaining. I wedged the dining room into the side of a mountain, almost creating a green cave, with a green roof and the garden completely encased, with seating and a marble table I designed, and a small gas heater that gives a soft glow. It does get chilly, and it's a fabulous way of warming up that little cave.
Q How can someone with a limited budget get the most bang for their buck outdoors?
A Invest in plants -- evergreens, coniferous plants and shrubs -- that become wall dividers that last through the winter months. Create an evergreen foundation, then play with annuals, perennials and deciduous plants.
Q How about someone with a big budget?
A Then the sky's the limit. I would invest in solar-powered heating, a pizza oven and outdoor kitchen.
Q You've been pretty vocal in your opposition to chemicals. If you could ban one product or practice, what would it be?
A I'm not a huge fan of weedkillers. The toxicity levels are extremely high. I use Natural Guard organic [products]. Good old elbow grease is the best way to get rid of weeds. And mulching -- 4 to 5 inches --will keep away a multitude of sins. From a gardening standpoint, I don't endorse bald spots. I plant abundantly. I don't even give weeds room to pop up.
Q You've written nine books so far. What's next?
A I'm working on my 10th. There's no title yet. I'm meeting with my publisher to finalize that.
Q Give us a hint.
A It's definitely surrounding food and also geared toward interior design. Some of my ideas work well inside. I treat the indoors like the outdoors and the outdoors like the indoors. When you challenge boundaries, it becomes a more evocative space.
Q What else are you working on now?
A I have a new iPhone app, "Garden Design by Jamie Durie." You get six videos filmed in my private garden, and rudiments of my design philosophy -- you can tap straight into my psyche. It allows anyone to become a DIY designer. There's a plant out there to deliver every shape, color and texture you want. You punch in your ZIP code and it gives you the top plants in your area and directs you to a garden center. It gives you instant gratification -- and puts me out of a job.
Q What will you be doing in the Twin Cities during your down time?
A You have a really amazing local food movement, and I enjoy visiting local restaurants. This time, I'll visit whatever comes along -- wherever I can find a nice little organic joint.
Kim Palmer • 612-673-4784