In the garden with Georgina Reid

Founder of The Planthunter

Georgina Reid is our Sydney Open 2020 Garden ambassador. Discover a new perspective on the natural world with Georgina's experience as writer, designer and founding editor of The Planthunter, as we explore the importance of green spaces in this year's Sydney Open. 

Please describe your garden

As might be expected, my garden is not easy to describe. When we arrived around three years ago it was wild and overgrown. We’ve slowly been clearing weeds (and 30 years of accumulated junk) and seeing what’s underneath. I’ve planted out patches of mostly endemic species, plus a bunch of other tough succulents and perennials. I haven’t done a plan, and I won’t, even though my background is in landscape design. I guess I am most interested in gardening as a conversation with place, rather than an imposition on a place. 

Because of my approach, my garden looks more like a tangle of weird things than a garden. I think it’s beginning to develop a sort of mad visual cohesiveness, though this is not my only concern. Whilst it is important to me that my garden is beautiful (to me), it’s equally as important that it is a home and a refuge for other lives as well – birds, insects, plants, microbes, worms. 

What is your favourite part of the garden? 

My favourite part of the garden is the one I’m currently touching, smelling, seeing. It changes daily and I definitely cannot pick favourites! My attention is usually drawn by light – a scene or plant that might be nondescript at one time of day can transform, as if by magic, when the light shifts. I love capturing these moments in the garden.   

What does ‘garden’ mean to you? 

‘Garden’ is both noun and verb. I love this. It is a place of connection and an action grounded in care. To garden is to listen, observe, experiment and play. To garden is to care. To garden is to cultivate beauty. To garden is to be engaged with the mess of life at its most particular and universal. What a wonderful pursuit. 

What can we learn from the act of gardening? 

The garden teaches the gardener humility, acceptance, patience and wonder. It reminds those of us lucky to have our own patch of soil, that to care for land and the lives that grow from it is both a privilege and responsibility. 

How has your own garden changed with you in the time you have lived here? 

My garden changes every day. The weeds grow overnight and the shrubs I planted as a windbreak a few years ago are not growing fast enough. As always. There is always something to appreciate, and always a weed to pull. This never changes. 

What role has your garden played in the last 6 months of the COVID-19 situation? 

I work from home all the time, regardless of global pandemics. The garden has played its usual role over these last months. Garden as therapist, physical trainer, spiritual guide, home. I am very lucky.

Why are green spaces important to urban life? 

Humans co-evolved with plants. We know them, we need them. It really is that simple. Living divorced from other-than-human lifeforms is a very recent human experiment and the cracks are showing. The more time we spend trying to convince ourselves we don’t need nature, that we’re separate from nature, the more damage we do. Green spaces are important to urban life because green spaces are important for all life. 

If you could visit any garden in Sydney what would it be? 

I’ve had the privilege of visiting many amazing Sydney gardens. If I could travel back in time, I’d love to see the pre-1788 gardens of Sydney. And by garden, I mean a landscape shaped by relationship and care. I would love to walk with the first custodians of this land. 

Why did you start The Planthunter

I started The Planthunter because I wanted to tell stories that highlight the connections that bind humans to the other-than-human world in a way that encourages connection and contemplation. I want to seduce people into caring, seeing, here, now. We’ve got work to do.

What projects do you have coming up? 

I am currently working on the first issue of Wonderground, a new print journal exploring the human connection to landscape, plants and place. It is the physical manifestation of The Planthunter digital platform. The first issue will be out in early 2021 and I am very excited. 

Wonderground is not a magazine, it is not a book, but grows in the fertile soil somewhere in between. Each issue of Wonderground responds to one key idea, articulated and explored via essays, interviews with designers, artists and thinkers, poetry, photo essays and opinion. It’s shaping up to be very special, and very beautiful. I cannot wait to share more! 

Black and white portrait of woman.

Georgina Reid. Photo © Daniel Schipp

Woman sitting in frame of door in garden setting.

Georgina Reid and dog Luna in the studio she re-built and where she works from - editing The Planthunter online magazine and Wonderground journal.

Photo © Daniel Shipp

View of water through trees.

Georgina's garden is sandwiched between the banks of the Hawkesbury River and Muogamarra Nature Reserve.

Photo © Daniel Shipp

Orange flowers in garden.

Nasturtiums growing up a home-made wallaby barrier in Georgina Reid's river garden.

Photo © Daniel Shipp

View through garden and trees to water.

Georgina's garden is a testing ground. '...my garden looks more like a tangle of weird things than a garden,' she says.

Photo © Daniel Shipp

View of garden path.

Georgina Reid in her garden.

Photo © Daniel Shipp