Jamie Durie brings “Outdoor Room” to HGTV

Jamie Durie
Some people look at pictures in magazines to get inspiration for their backyard redesigns. Jamie Durie goes a bit farther. Literally.

For each episode of HGTV’s The Outdoor Room With Jamie Durie, the renowned landscaper and horticulturist travels the world to bring back ideas best suited for his client’s desires — whether it be a New Mexico-inspired party patio or a Japanese-flavored relaxation oasis — then enlists his crack crew of professionals to finish in just a matter of days gardens that normally would take a month. Other locales his show has visited include Italy, Puerto Rico, Miami, Key West, Wisconsin (Door County), Bali and Thailand.

It’s a challenge well-suited to the industrious Durie, whose green thumb has already made him famous in his native Australia. He’s built gardens for companies and clients all over the world, and he’s known to viewers in the U.S. as the host of The Victory Garden on PBS, HGTV Showdown, and for his several appearances on The Oprah Winfrey Show. Viewers also will be seeing him as he hosts HGTV’s coverage of the Tournament of Roses parade in Pasadena, Calif., on Jan. 1, and he’ll be all over the network’s new Dream Home specials, beginning in January.

Durie took some time to chat with us about his new show, and how he’s learning about the U.S. one cultural malapropism at a time.

The Outdoor Room With Jamie Durie premieres Jan. 1, then airs Saturdays beginning Jan. 2 on HGTV.

How is The Outdoor Room different from other home-and-garden shows?

We’re giving information in the viewers in the form of inspiration. The first five minutes of the show we could be in the Gardens of Versailles in France. The next week you might find me in Japan in … one of the oldest Zen Buddhists garden in the world. I’m there for a reason. I’m there on behalf of the client, finding ideas to bring back to them but also opening up the viewers’ eyes to some of the sights and experiences that I’m lucky enough to see when I travel. But I can then see how I can convert that inspiration into everyday American families’ lives, and Australian families and English families. The reason why it works so well is because America is a multicultural country. Our clients are constantly talking about their backgrounds being European, or Spanish, or African-American, so you have the opportunity to go back to some of their roots and actually learn about the traditions of the cultures and bring some of those ideas that have been going on for thousands of years — much longer than America or Australia have been developing their culture — and bring them back into their personal spaces.

They have you moving pretty quickly on each of these projects. How has that affected the energy of the show?

We take three days to create these shows, and these are gardens, some of them, that normally would take a month to do. … For me, this is a passion project. The beauty of this show is I don’t even know the cameras are going. I want to please the client. This is what we call docu-design, they are purely just documenting what’s going on in real life. They’re increasing the stakes by getting me to build two of these every week. … We’re 24 episodes in now, so I’m a little more seasoned.

Many of these backyard renovations could be beyond the budget of many viewers. Was that a concern as far as how relatable it would be?

We try to make all the bits and pieces that we do in the garden bite-size. For the weekend warriors who want to give this a go themselves, it’s achievable. Some of the things are specialized, and a lot of it is extremely inspired. You look at shows like ABC’s Extreme Makeover, they’re building quarter-of-a-million-dollar projects. That doesn’t stop people from watching it at all. People want to be inspired, they’re hungry for new ideas. They’re hungry to keep up with the Joneses, and they want to know how they can do it on a budget, so we’re teaching them how to do it on a bite-size level. The gardens I’m doing here are also on a budget, we’re not spending hundreds of thousands of dollars here. We put a really experienced team of tradesmen who are constantly innovating, constantly learning how to build things with quality but on a budget. And the fact that I’m from another country and I’m bringing some fresh ideas into these American tradesmen hands, it makes it even more fun because I have my own techniques, my own style and my own language even. (Laughs) I’ve learned over the last couple months some of the words I use, even though they’re nodding their head, they’ve got no idea what I’m talking about.

Got any examples?

I just found out what a ‘smore was the other day. We built an outdoor fireplace and then they’re like, “Oh, we should get some s’mores.” I’m like, “What is a s’more?” So they brought out a big bucketload of s’mores for me. Something like that happens every week, it’s hilarious. It’s the merging of the Aussie and American culture. We get along really well. I’ve made a lot of new friends on this. It’s really fun.

There is a version of this show already airing in Australia. What has changed for the U.S. version?

In the original format, we had a chef come on and cook toward the end of it, but we had a little bit more time to play with. This is a half-hour show at this stage. If we get a little more time, we can add that in toward the end. We do have a lot of cooking on the show, but essentially that was the original concept was to talk about the traditions, the food, the design.