Sex-up gardening? This Aussie is trying

  • Article by: CONNIE NELSON , Star Tribune
  • Updated: March 3, 2010 - 4:16 PM

Garden design has never been a sexy subject. But a horticultural hottie is poised to change all that. This year, he launched yet another venture: a new HGTV show, "The Outdoor Room With Jamie Durie."

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Jamie Durie has a new HGTV show, "The Outdoor Room with Jamie Durie."

Jamie Durie's a globe-trotting, jet-setting, celebrity horticulturist.

Maybe the only one.

The former stripper has been a regular on "Oprah," designed for Charlize Theron, trained on climate change with Al Gore and hosted a forum on sustainability with the Dalai Lama. He went "Dancing With the Stars" (he made it through seven of 10 eliminations) and hosted the venerable PBS show, "The Victory Garden" (the 32nd season). He's written five books (all garden-related), created his own line of outdoor furnishings and garden tools, and founded a landscape company, Patio, which is designing gardens in 11 countries. This year, he launched yet another venture: a new HGTV show, "The Outdoor Room With Jamie Durie."

Durie, 40, an Aussie with a killer smile, took a break from scuba diving in Barbados (no kidding) to talk about what he learned in Las Vegas, why he's into native plants and his hopes for his travelogue/glam garden show.

Q You've been credited with making gardening sexy. Have you?

A Well, I've given it a bloody good bash.

Q Doesn't sound like an easy task.

A No, it's hard because 25 years ago, it was a real grandma's sport. So how does this guy from Aus make geraniums sexy to young people? That's what you've got to do. If you can get your young people interested, they'll become real ambassadors for gardening -- and for the planet.

Q So how do you make geraniums sexy to young people?

A That's one of the reasons I wanted to do "The Outdoor Room." It combines gardening with travel and then I eat all these exotic foods. Our show appeals to travelers, foodies and to young people. I'm trying to harvest a whole new audience for gardening shows.

Q So you're making plants exotic?

A We're all pretty much experts on what grows on our street, but to take the blinkers off and see what's growing in the rest of the world, that's exciting. Plants really give a sense of place, and a sense of escape.

Q How did you get into gardening?

A I grew up in the Australian outback. My dad was a miner and my mom was a passionate gardener. She had the ability to grow roses in the desert soil. It wasn't until after I dabbled in show business in Las Vegas that I began to take what I learned about lights, sets and staging and apply it to the garden.

Q So how do you design, post-Vegas?

A We're all spatially aware. We know what it takes to feel comfortable in our living rooms. I'm just translating that to the garden. You have to create a space that's so comfortable, so private that people feel like they could go out and walk around naked in their garden.

Q What are the essential elements of a garden worthy of nudity?

A First and foremost, you have to create boundaries and build your green walls. Once you've claimed back your space, you can start with the more ornamental plants that pull you through the landscape. The rest of the plants are for abundance.

Q What kind of a gardener are you?

A I'm what's called an abundant gardener. I pack 'em in, mate, I pack 'em in. If I see any bare soil, I put in a plant. My clients pay for instant gardens. So I want them to walk out in their garden and say, "This is incredible! I don't know which way to look!"

Q Judging from some of the gardens you've done, you've got a great eye. Do you also have a degree in horticulture?

A Yeah. You have to get a degree in horticulture if you're going to call yourself a garden designer or a landscape architect.

Q You're a pretty outspoken environmental advocate. Did that evolve with your gardening?

A I've been aligned with environmental groups for 15 years. I trained with Al Gore to be a climate change presenter. I've developed a real love for the Earth.

Q Most eco-friendly gardeners use lots of native plants. Where do you stand on natives?

A I try to use natives in every garden I do. You've got to hit the 50 percent mark or you're not being responsible. As a horticulturist, you can't turn your back on your knowledge. You know that if you plant an invasive species, you're going to pay for it somewhere.

Q What's your take on chemicals?

A It's lazy gardening. I walk through the garden stores in America and I just can't believe that there are shelves and shelves of chemicals used to kill. I see people walking around spraying this and spraying that.

Q You can dance, you can write, you can garden. Is there anything you can't do?

A I can't eat tomato sauce. The whole ketchup thing makes me puke. When I come to America, it's a real challenge because I have to ask them to make my burger without mayo or ketchup.

Connie Nelson • 612-673-7087

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