Jamie Durie is a born showman. In the high-rating Backyard Blitz, Channel Nine’s garden makeover show, he is the host with a direct line to the hearts and minds of middle Australia.
In his day job as chief designer and chairman of Patio, a high-profile landscape design company, he is in demand among well-to-do Aussies eager to tap into his daring style. His calling card is the outdoor room, a concept that takes indoor living spaces into the garden -“ it’s also the subject of one of five books he’s authored.
The latest addition to Durie’s legacy is a do-it-yourself DVD titled Growing Dreams that includes footage assembled from numerous gardening trips overseas.
It’s an impressive list of achievements that would seem to be at odds with the all-male strip group, Manpower, which he performed in and eventually managed throughout the 80s. But if nothing else, Durie has shown himself to be a master of self reinvention. Far from burying the nasties of Manpower (let’s face it, basically the show was selling sex), he embraces it and even includes rarely seen footage of Manpower’s Las Vegas shows in the DVD. Press pause to admire those beautiful bodies -¦
Over the phone, Durie is Mr Nice Guy personified. Blessed with the gift of the gab he speaks passionately about the great love of his life -“ creating beautiful garden spaces.
I feel that a garden should serenade you, it should be romantic, it should be evocative, he says with television-honed emphasis.
It’s not just about putting a patch of flowering shrubs in these days and saying, -˜Look, honey, the azaleas are out.’ It’s about creating interesting gardens with multi-layered foliage and colour contrasts all year around.
The hallmark of Jamie Durie’s landscape designs is the merging of interior and exterior. In transferring indoor living to outside areas, he draws on influences from the Middle East and Asia. Such cultures, he says, have been living in this way for thousands of years.
Under Durie’s creative influence, privacy and intimacy are the buzz words. Inner city courtyards become outdoor lounge rooms with sculptural water features and multi-layered planting. For larger expanses, garden landscaping incorporating terracing and the use of natural rock outcrops is the go. Once again the emphasis is on spaces that seduce and entice.
A better portrait of Durie could not be drawn than through such designs. In a metrosexual sense, he is a man at ease with himself and the direction of his life. It’s very much a case of the garden maketh the man.
Durie is more than comfortable with this wholesome image, but admits it has been a hard slog to shake off the stigma of Manpower days.
It’s very easy for the entertainment industry to frown on you when you’re essentially selling sex, he admits. After all, we did market the whole show with beautiful male bodies. But I’m proud of that. We revolutionised that whole industry. There was never anything as big as Manpower and for women and gay men it opened up a whole new form of entertainment -“ we had a huge gay following.
It’s a fascinating career trajectory to leap from the worldwide phenomenon of a hunky all-male revue to one of Australia’s top horticulturalists and landscape design gurus.
Durie credits photographer James Houston with that career rethink.
He said to me, -˜You buy and sell these houses in between tours and you’re so good at it, why don’t you do something outside of Manpower?’ Once he ignited that little flame in me -“ my god, I was unstoppable.
Four years studying horticulture, a few bung business ventures later, and that gamble has more than paid off. Durie has definitely found his niche. Who doesn’t want to live in a serene environment and the peace of mind that promises?
Keen to tap into his garden sensibility, I wonder what advice he has for inner city homosexuals planning to redo their balcony or courtyard. Without missing a beat, Durie suggests they get hold of his DVD. You don’t spend 10 years at the top of commercial television without learning a trick or two. But then his passion for gardening surfaces.
What is hot right now is standing in your lounge room and taking a photograph of everything in that room -“ literally turn 360 degrees and take photos. Then take that whole vision outside. Take your lounge room, take your bathroom, take your living room outside. It’s that simple.
From buffed strip show performer to Backyard Blitz landscape design guru, there’s a lesson in that for all of us.
Jamie Durie’s Growing Dreams is available at all good DVD stores. His website is at www.patio.com.au.