Interview

Georgina Reid of The Planthunter

by Lucy Feagins, Editor
Friday 11th April 2014

studio-still-life-photograph-of-house-plant

An image from the Plant Portraits series as featured recently on The Planthunter. Photo – Daniel Shipp.
Planthunterpic-SophiaKaplan-OliviaKaplanForaged Floral Wreaths as featured recently on The Plant Hunter. Photo – Olivia Kaplan.

The Planthunter - Brendan Moar

Celebrity garden guy Brendan Moar, who Georgina recently featured on The Planthunter website.  Photo – Daniel Shipp.

The Planthunter - Georgina Reid

Georgina’s own sweet courtyard garden in Sydney.  Photo – Daniel Shipp.

The Planthunter - Hayley West

Georgina Reid, founder and editor of The Planthunter. Photo – Daniel Shipp.

I know, we’ve already introduced The Planthunter website ONCE late last year but… in the meantime I have met and become a HUGE fangirl of Sydney based landscape designer / writer / editor and founder of The Planthunter, Georgina Reid. And I the more I have come to know this incredibly clever and slightly crazy lady, the more I have realised that she reaaally deserves a little more time in the TDF spotlight!

Plants have always been a big part of Georgina’s world, but it took a little while for her to turn this passion into a career.  After completing a degree in Journalism in 2001, she wafted around in the media world for a while, soon realising it wasn’t for her.  After a little soul searching, it didn’t take too long to find her true calling – having grown up on a farm surrounded by nature, and with a horticulturalist for a Mum, in retrospect it seems almost inevitable that Georgina would end up in a ‘green’ career.  She undertook a diploma in horticulture and landscape design in 2006, and the rest is history.

Amazingly, Georgina’s first real job in landscape design was working with the team at Durie Design, Jamie Durie’s landscape design company.  (For this reason we couldn’t help but dedicate an entire question in the following interview to Jamie, sorry Georgina – couldn’t resist!).  Georgina spent four years with Durie Design, which was an incredible learning experience – working with a team of talented landscape architects and designers on projects all over the world.  I can’t help but wonder if Jamie’s incredible drive and entrepreneurial spirit might have also rubbed off a little on Georgina during this time…

Since 2011 Georgina has run her own landscape design consultancy, Reid & Friends.  She’s also been plotting for some time to create The Planthunter!  After around a year in development, Georgina finally launched the site late last year. Sitting somewhere between a blog and an online magazine, The Planthunter celebrates plantlife in all its forms, offering an intelligent and at times wonderfully weird mix of content, from thoughtful opinion pieces, to conversations with a great variety of planty folk, to Pinterest-worthy gardens for inspiration at home, and a healthy pinch of horticultural know-how. Georgina’s editorial voice is friendly, informed and always entertaining, and she has pulled together a fantastic supporting cast of contributors, each with their own quirks and engaging stories to tell.  As she states below, Georgina’s focus with The Planthunter is simple – to create ‘top notch, unique and interesting content, created with integrity’.

I am not sure I can adequately state how much I truly LOVE what Georgina is doing with  The Planthunter.  It is quite honestly the best Australian online magazine I’ve seen pop up in recent years, and such a brilliant example of innovative, intelligent online publishing. Just one clever mind, a bunch of eager troops to rally, and a whole lot of hard work really can build spectacular things.

And that brings me to a little admission I must make. There’s another reason I’m introducing Georgina today – I am SUPER EXCITED to let you know Georgina will be joining TDF as a regular contributor, with a monthly Gardens column, starting this month!  Georgina has already sourced a handful of amazing and truly unique gardens which she will share with us over the coming months.  Her first story is up next week – I have no doubt you will LOVE it… please make her feel very welcome!

Tell us a little bit about yourself and your background? How did your obsession with plants begin, and what career path has led to what you’re doing now?

I think I have green blood! I grew up on a farm, with a horticulturalist mother and plenty of space to build gardens, cubby houses, and the like. Some of my fondest childhood memories are of traipsing around behind my mother while she gardened.

After completing a communications degree in 2001 I half-heartedly hung about in media land. I soon decided being a newspaper journalist wasn’t my thing; I wanted to do something more creative, something I was passionate about. I had no idea at that stage what this was, so I flirted with all sorts of creative pursuits like photography and fashion design until one day, while killing time at a rather unfulfilling job, I discovered that there was a profession involving creativity, people, and plants. Landscape design! I was immediately hooked. Soon after that I quit my job in the media and threw myself into studying landscape design and horticulture.

Prior to launching your own landscape design business, you worked for a little while in the team at Jamie Durie inc! Tell us a little about this job, how you landed this role, and what it was like working there?

Working for Jamie was an experience! It was my first landscape design job. I joined a team of highly creative and talented landscape architects and designers working on projects all over the world. From luxury residential developments in places like Singapore, Barbados and America, to high end private gardens and resorts all over Australia. I learnt a lot, and then some!

Words can’t really describe Jamie. He is one of the most driven people I have ever met. He is highly creative, extremely generous, and doesn’t take no for an answer – this is quite a formidable combo! Working with him was an incredible experience.

When and how did the concept for The Planthunter come to you, how long has the idea been in development, and what are your goals for The Planthunter?

The Planthunter has been floating around my head for many years, in one form or another. It arose from a number of vaguely connected thoughts revolving around plants and people. As a landscape designer I am always thinking about humans and their relationship to plants. Yes, the garden is the obvious setting for such a conversation, as a kind of intersection between humans and the natural world, but it doesn’t end there… food, fashion, art, literature, design, you name it, plants are everywhere. I wanted to explore and celebrate these connections.

For a long time, I have felt a bit frustrated by plant websites and print media. While very informative and useful, somehow they don’t seem to capture and illustrate the abundant beauty and diversity of the plant world in a way that appeals to me. Yes, I am interested in how to grow plants, but I am equally interested in the way they have historically been used, who has been inspired by them to create great art, and so on. And, importantly, I WANT BEAUTY! It is such a powerful tool to provoke excitement and engagement. Beauty is my language.

So basically, I wanted to read and write interesting and challenging things about humans and plants. And I wanted to celebrate this connection, because I reckon it’s wonderful and hugely important – if plants don’t exist, humans don’t exist. That’s that. It seemed no one else was writing much about this topic in the digital realm so I just thought, ‘Bugger it. I’ll make a website!’ And I did.

I officially began working on The Planthunter on new years day in 2013. It launched in November 2013. And now it’s a beast. A very needy, generally harmless beast.

My initial goal was to create a beautiful website about things I was passionate about, and have more than 12 weekly readers. This seems to have happened. Now I can retire contentedly.

I have thousands of ideas about potential directions The Planthunter can head in, and it is all rather exciting (and a bit overwhelming) but at the end of the day, it comes back to continuing to provide top notch, unique and interesting content created with integrity. My goal is to maintain and build on this and see where it takes us.

My other, humungous goal is a plant revolution. It’s about time I reckon. Don’t worry, there’ll be no guns but maybe a seed bomb or two. I want to hit people over the heads with plants, I want them to get excited about them, want to grow them, and want to protect them. That’s my aim. It will happen, and all under the guise of beauty. When the time comes, we will put our green floral overalls on and march off into the sunset, seed bombs in hand.

The Planthunter - Hayley West

Georgina’s friend and Planthunter contributor Hayley West, who will feature in an interview to be posted next week on The Planthunter! Photo – Daniel Shipp.
The Planthunter is just six months old and already is a dense jungle of amazing planty content – has it unfolded as you had imagined? And how have you found juggling this new project with your day job as a landscape designer?

Oh gosh no! It is way bigger and more diverse than I ever imagined it would be after just six months! Sometimes when I think about all the wonderful contributions people have made I get a bit teary because I just can’t believe that so many amazing people believe in The Planthunter. It’s mindblowingly exciting and humbling. I am so very grateful.

Juggling The Planthunter with my design jobs has been rather tricky. I didn’t quite fathom just how time consuming it would be until it launched. Then the reality of weekly and monthly deadlines sank in all too quickly. It is amazingly fun, and so exciting, but huge amounts of work.

Which local Australian garden people, plants people, landscape designers or similar do you admire?

I admire people who do their own thing and live passionately. There are heaps of people who I think are wonderful, most of them are quiet, unknown types. But names are good so here are some:

The 36 Planthunter contributors! I am a bit in love with all of them. The depth of thought and intelligence that exists within The Planthunter contributor pool astounds me every time I receive a new story. Such talent.

Jardine Hansen – a plant tragic and florist with a heart of green. Jardine has so much plant love it overflows from her. A true gem.

Hetty McKinnon of Arthur Street Kitchen – While she is not a traditional gardening ‘plant person’ she is most definitely a Planthunter plant person. She creates greatness (ie. delicious food) with plants. I love the concept behind Arthur Street Kitchen and her salads are to die for.

Hugh Main from Spirit Level landscapes – Hugh has a lovely aesthetic. His gardens are beautiful, earthy and modern.

Utopia Goods – Again, not traditional ‘plant people’ but I love what Utopia goods does with the native flora of Australia. Their designs are brilliant and slightly subversive. The best combo!

David Holmgren – The co-founder of permaculture and a true green revolutionary

ThePlanthunter-Hetty

Recipes by the very clever Hetty McKinnon of Arthur Street Kitchen, as seen on the Planthunter website. Photo – Luisa Brimble.
What does a typical day at work involve for you?

Oh gosh. My day to day life is pretty mundane! Here goes: Wake up, hopefully before 7. Meditate. Have a coffee and morning chat in the garden with my partner Ameli. Try to avoid the phone/email/social media until after coffee. Generally not successful. Stroll up to my office in Newtown with my dog Bess. Attempt a bit of strategic planning on the way. Sniff some flowers in the back streets of Enmore.

Arrive at the office and switch the computer on. BAM! The rest of the day goes way too fast in a blur of emails, emails, emails, uploading content, resizing images, meetings, design work, garden visits, dog walks, and more emails. I then stroll home, spending most of the half hour walk thinking about what I’m going to cook for dinner. Cooking is up there with plants as one of my favourite things ever! Get home, cook, eat, talk, sleep. I told you, it’s boring.

The long and the short of it is that I spend approximately 87% of my existence either thinking about or working on The Planthunter. It’s an obsession!

PlantHunter-Bob

NSW based academic turned horticulturalist Bob Griffin, as featured recently on The Planthunter. Photos – Georgina Reid.
Please list for us five specific resources across any media which you tune into regularly and which keeps you creatively nourished?

I exist in a green, leafy bubble. Nearly all my waking hours are spent on The Planthunter and my design work, and I have very little time to be looking at what other people are doing. I’m not sure whether this is a blessing or a curse?!

We also have no TV at home! But I do love listening to Radio National. This keeps me updated on the current goings on around the world, and then some. I always learn something from it.

The primary sources of creative nourishment for me are two non media resources: People and plants. I spend so much time creating online content that removing myself from it and talking to people who are doing interesting things is really important to me.

There is so much beauty and inspiration to be found within it the natural world. No matter how caught up I get in the digital realm, just five minutes in the garden is enough to give me some perspective and context. Plants settle my head and ground my heart.

My singular digital indulgence is probably Instagram. It’s a great place to get inspired, connect with like-minded folk, and see what’s happening creatively around me.

PlantPortrait3-DanielShipp

An image from the Plant Portraits series as featured recently on The Planthunter. Photo – Daniel Shipp.
What would be your dream creative project?

Hmm. A collaboration with The Design Files? Ha!

This sounds really dorky but The Planthunter is actually my dream creative project. It ticks so many boxes for me. It is creative, interesting, and challenging. I learn new things every day, and get to meet and collaborate with amazing people. It blows my mind.

My other whackier dream creative project is a botanical empire, Planthunter style. This would consist of an old warehouse/shed with walls, floors, ceilings covered in plants. Green everywhere! There would be workshops, events, food, a plant nursery, anything and everything made of plants. Plants dripping off the roof, plants twining around pylons, moss and dirt floors. Heaven!

But my most serious dream creative project is a garden of my own. A big, rambling, wild one.

What are you looking forward to?

A holiday. Oh, and the green revolution, of course!

BONUS question – we are pretty PUMPED to be working with you on a monthly garden column for TDF! Can you give our readers a little insight into what we’ll be seeing from this NEW COLUMN?

Well, your readers are in for some garden goodness! I have been stalking folks in Sydney and Melbourne, and have sniffed out a collection of seriously beautiful gardens. Like the houses on TDF, the gardens I have found are an eclectic bunch. Some have been designed by big names, some haven’t. Some are indoors, most are outdoors. All are labours of love, and all are seriously beautiful. I can’t wait to share them with you!

Sydney Questions

Your favourite Sydney neighbourhood and why?

Marrickville. I live there and love the combination of old school industrial and residential. You can find absolutely anything here: there is a cheese factory, a zipper factory, lots of timber suppliers, great food (Cornersmith), amazing coffee (Coffee Alchemy), lots of interesting people and two dog friendly pubs (The Henson Park Hotel, The Vic).

Where do you shop in Sydney for the tools / materials of your trade?

Garden Life in Redfern for beautiful pots and garden accessories, Tait for outdoor furniture and products, and Design By Them for sexy hose-reels. Yep, hose-reels. There are a number of great plant nurseries on the fringes of Sydney. The nurseries I love the most are the small, specialist ones with no website and generally eccentric owners. Gold!

What and where was the last great meal you ate in Sydney?

Ester last Friday night with some dear girlfriends. A perfect way to end the week.

Where would we find you on a typical Sydney morning?

Sniffing about with my dog in Enmore Park. My life is wild.

Sydney’s best kept secret?

Wendy Whiteley’s garden in Lavender Bay, and the cheese factory in Marrickville.

PlantPortrait1-DanielShipp

An image from the Plant Portraits series as featured recently on The Planthunter. Photo – Daniel Shipp.

by Lucy Feagins, Editor
Friday 11th April 2014

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