Photos by Tonya McCahon and Ann Johansson Garden Design by Jamie Durie

Host of HGTV’s  wildly popular series “The Outdoor Room,” Jamie’s contemporary and stylish design ideas capture the imagination and inspire a whole new generation to rediscover their gardens and outdoor living spaces. Here this darling from “Down Under” shares his tips with Living Barbados magazine on creating your own outdoor utopia.

Born in Manly, northern Sydney, Jamie spent most of his childhood in the mining town of Tom Price, in north Western Australia. Like most Australians, he loves the outdoors and has a deep connection with nature that inspires his design.

Residential and commercial clients around the world turn to Jamie for his unique personal style and innovative approach to garden design. As a qualified horticulturalist, award-winning landscape designer, furniture designer, television host, producer, and seven-time best selling author, Jamie Durie is the ultimate authority on outdoor style. He has appeared regularly on “The Oprah Winfrey Show,” and done environmental work alongside such luminaries as Al Gore and the Dalai Lama. We asked Jamie who splits time between Los Angeles and Sydney, Australia, for ideas on making the most of our local outdoor spaces.



Create an accent point in your garden. The best location for this is the strongest view line in the garden. Often this is the spot you look at as you enter the space from your house. Make sure whatever is in that location looks amazing, as you will be looking at it a lot! Focal point ideas include a sculpture, an interesting plant in a pot, or a lovely tree. The plant you choose to be the focal point has to be so interesting that just one will attract attention. They might have unusual or striking, year-round architectural structure and colour like Cordyline fruticosa and Bismarckia nobilis or a habit that acts like an exclamation mark in the landscape like a bird’s nest fern or a Blue Cycad called a Dioon. Remember the key here is to use the plant as a magnet but don’t give it all away at first glance.  Allow people to discover it and use it to draw people into the landscape.



Pavers are far and away the most popular option when it comes to outdoor floors, and why not? They come in a huge range of shapes and sizes and are made of anything from clay to concrete to reconstituted stone. Different elements can be added to the mixture for colour and texture and the surface treated to produce great finishes like sawn, polished, flamed, honed, split faced, bush hammered and picked. Keep in mind a space looks bigger with a larger format paver and consider the spaces between the pavers; from none at all with butt-jointing, to a joint large enough to allow herbs or scented ‘floor’ plants to poke through.  Pavers can also be laid in patterns or with inlays of other materials, tying in the floor covering with other materials used in the garden or even the house.



Just as furniture is a crucial part of interior design it is also essential to outdoor decorating. The technology used to create outdoor fabrics and furnishings has advanced immensely in a short period of time. These days, there is very little inside that can’t be converted for outdoor use. It pays to invest in good quality furniture with coatings and finishes that can withstand all weathers. When shopping for outdoor furniture look for strength, durability and style. Furniture that can be customized by colour or cushions is a great way to inject some of your own personality into the piece. Don’t rule out making your own from recycled material or restoring a second-hand piece. There are no rules when it comes to furnishing outdoors, in fact, rugs, chandeliers, coffee tables and even lamps can look fabulous in a private garden.  Just be sure the material can withstand the elements and that they are a reflection of your taste and personality.  Start by photographing everything in your house: paint, fabric, carpet, art, even your wardrobe. Your secrets will be revealed!



• Choose local plants and water-wise plants where possible.

• Use efficient drip irrigation systems with a simple weather track system that doesn’t irrigate when it rains and soil moisture sensors that only water when required.

• Give plants only as much water as they need by grouping those with similar requirements together.



Adding a splash of color is a great way to make a garden space feel new and exciting! Choose colors already used within your home and draw them out into your garden through accessories such as pots, cushions, lanterns, sculpture or even plant colors.



No matter how great your garden looks, if it doesn’t feel private you will not want to spend time in it. Assess the privacy issues and determine the best way to tackle them. Sometimes it may be as simple as planting a hedge along a boundary or a trellis with a climber growing up it, other times it may be the creation of a roofed pergola. Either way, ensure you discuss with your neighbours before launching into any project affecting boundaries and views.



Without some form of lighting you cannot enjoy the pleasure of your garden at night. Lighting is such a versatile medium and can easily transform a space. It can be functional and atmospheric.

Use it to mark boundaries, pathways, entrances and steps and to illuminate points of interest such as sculptures, trees, walls, water features and hedges. Lighting gives you an endless palette of different colours, shapes and textures to use.You can transform your garden with the flick of a switch.

The first thing to think about when it comes to lighting is how much lighting does your garden need and what is the most efficient way to make this happen.Think about the strength and direction of the light. Do you want a soft glow? Or a strong beam of light? You can also keep things simple with twinkling lanterns, solar lights or even candles. Use stencils to create interesting patterns or rotating colour wheels to add some drama.

The possibilities are endless. Of course, before anything else, the most important thing to remember when doing anything related to lighting is safety and of course responsible energy use. Look into LED lighting, fiber optic lighting and then halogen. These are all energy efficient and highly sophisticated.



•  Improve moisture and nutrient retention in new garden beds by adding organic matter to the top 30cm of soil.

• Make your own compost from kitchen scraps, lawn clippings and other garden waste.

• Create a worm garden. Worms exude vermicast which is a powerful and free organic fertilizer.

• Use water saving crystals or even products like Hydro stretch that maximize the precious water that goes into the landscape.



• Trade-in unnecessary areas of turf for water-efficient garden beds.

• Choose slower-growing, less thirsty turf varieties (Palmetto & Sir Walter are good examples).

• Do not over fertilize. People who over fertilize in coastal areas are causing damage to the coral. Nitrogen run off is extremely dangerous to the environment. Choose low nitrogen fertilizers and use sparingly.



• Install a rainwater tank for all your garden needs.

• Greywater is green. Use your water more than once. Your sink water, bath water, and even clothes washing water can all be reused in the garden provided you use biodegradable    detergents. This is an intelligent form of water conservation.



• Plant into the ground rather than in pots. Pots limit a plant’s drinking and nutrient zone and choose pots made from less porous materials so that water and nutrients are maintained within the soil mix.

• Repot every 2 years to avoid plants being root bound.

• Rotate all potted plants 180 degrees every two weeks to event the natural light distribution.



• Use a pool cover as often as possible. Without a cover more than half the water in your pool can evaporate over a year.

• Check for leaks often and make repairs or replacements.

•  Use a Spectralight UV filtration system so you minimize chemical use. I’ve just installed a new iPhone controlled system that allow me to control my pool from anywhere in the world. Amazing technology! It’s called Aqualink by Zodiac.





• Zamia furfuracea: Sometimes called Cardboard Palm. They have beautiful architectural habit but are tough as nails.

• Macrozamia species: Great architecture with feather like foliage, will take dappled shade. See image on right.

• Heliconia’s: Variegated Ginger, Strelitzia juncea or Narrow-leaved Bird of Paradise and Plumeria obtusa – these are all gorgeous plants with great habit that work in a potted environment.

• Maori Chief (Phormium ‘Maori Chief’): A colourful, medium sized strappy-leafed flax. Needs plenty of sun.



• Hoya, Wax Flower (Hoya carnosa): A light, tropical-looking climber with waxy leaves and flowers. Ideal for a smaller space and will easily wrap itself round a pole. Likes cooler climates and constant moist soil.

• Stephanotis floribunda, sometimes called Madagascar jasmine: A beautiful white flower with a large leathery green leaf. See image.

• Flaming Glorybower (Clerodendrum splendens): A great climber to add a burst of colour to a small, warm space.The flowers are great for attracting butterflies.



• Lemon Scented Tea Tree (Leptospermum petersonii): An excellent mosquito repellent that can be grown as a small tree or trained as a hedge. Clipping the leaves will release the lemon scent.

• Gardenia (Gardenia augusta): Fragrant flowers but thirsty plant and requires good, fertile soil conditions.

• Frangipani Tree (Plumeria rubra): Fragrant flowers available in red, pink and white varieties. Works best in warmer climates in areas that get plenty of sun.

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