The return of Jamie Durie

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Jamie Durie is back in Australia and on a mission to create gardens that are beautiful, sustainable and edible.

Story: Peter Barrett
October 2018

After spending the bulk of the past 12 years in the US, celebrity gardener Jamie Durie is back in his home country and loving it. “It’s good to be back,” says Jamie, fresh off the stage after giving a talk at RACV’s Torquay Resort for Sustainable House Day in September. “I got kidnapped by Oprah in 2006 and didn’t look back. It’s been a fun ride but I’ve missed Australia.”

The kidnapping he is referring to was a four-year stint on The Oprah Winfrey Show, which opened countless doors to meet and work with movers and shakers all around the world. There were the TV shows, too: a host of local titles including Backyard Blitz, The Block and Australia’s Best Backyards, along with US makeover shows such as The Victory Garden and The Outdoor Room

 “We’ve all been conditioned to think that edible plants require more maintenance and they don’t."

Jamie only discovered his true calling as a green thumb after travelling the world as an exotic dancer in the all-male revue Manpower Australia in the 1990s. Inspired by his Sri Lankan-born, keen gardening mother, he became a student of NSW’s Ryde School of Horticulture at the mature age of 26. “I knew I was creative because I was designing lightshows and costumes and all sorts of (things) in my younger years in Vegas in the 1990s,” he recalls. “I just wanted to learn to do something positive for the environment.”

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jamie durie presentation sustainable house day racv torquay resort



By 2008 he had taken out one of the most prestigious gardening gongs of them all – a gold medal at Britain’s Royal Horticultural Society Chelsea Flower Show. He’s since written many books, including the highly popular Edible Garden Design: Delicious Designs from the Ground Up, a 2014 title he says he wishes he had put out today because vegetable gardening is so much more prevalent now. “We’ve all been conditioned to think that edible plants require more maintenance and they don’t. Citrus in particular thrive on neglect. Some of the best lemon trees that you’ve seen are the ones that are forgotten about that grandma planted two generations ago.”

jamie durie sustainable house day racv torquay resort gardening with children


These days, Jamie is on a mission to get more children interested in gardening so they can become our “planet warriors” of the future. “Every tree we put into the ground soaks up one tonne of carbon emission in its lifetime and if we drive a car we should be planting between 14 and 17 shrubs or trees to offset our carbon emissions. So there’s nothing negative about putting plants into the ground.”

Other Jamie bugbears include the lack of water tanks in residential properties – “we shouldn’t be sending out any storm water into our oceans. It just shocks me that that still goes on” – and apartment designs that block out light – “stacking balconies on top of each other is lazy architecture”.

And finally, the secret to a good garden? “For me, a good garden is one that’s never given away all in one glance.” According to Jamie, gardening is all about seduction.