Plant Life Balance

Between two palms with Fiona Bruyn

Her journey’s a fascinating one, from from modelling to landscaping to TV. We first heard about Fiona via whispers that she has crafted the best backyard bath in all of Australia and, well, we reckon it’s all true.

You can find the bath at Kookawood, Fiona’s property in the NSW Blue Mountains which is available for holiday rentals. She also helped us designed our Backyard Bather look, full of dreamy weekend rural vibes. What’s not to love?

How did you get into gardening?

I used to be a model when I was young but in my twenties decided to study urban horticulture. I loved gardening and kept calling the nursery to ask plant questions, so it seemed like a good idea. While I was studying, I decided to start my own landscaping business.

Around this time I was asked to be a TV presenter on garden makeover shows, which I did for about eight years, commuting between Katoomba and Sydney. It was a great experience for me because we created a diverse variety of gardens for people – most landscape gardeners would choose a particular style of garden to specialise in and that’s what they’re hired for. I was also able to travel around Australia and see some incredible gardens while shooting for Australia’s Best Backyards and writing articles for newspapers and magazines.

What’s your proudest gardening/greening moment?

When I worked on Groundforce it was wonderful to give beautiful green spaces to people who had no idea what to do with their neglected backyards full of weeds and rubble, transforming them into a place they can enjoy and be proud of.

How did you end up running Kookawood?

My husband and I decided to rent out our Katoomba property as a holiday let while we were building Kookawood. When we finished building, we decided to also rent it out as a holiday stay mainly on weekends. It’s such a beautiful place and we wanted to share the experience with other people from Sydney and around the world; the views, wildlife and peaceful setting are very appealing to anyone looking to escape the hectic pace of city life, even if it is only for a few days.

Your Kookawood garden looks so perfect right now, what do you think it will look like 100 years from now?

Most plants don’t have a 100-year lifespan and I doubt I will be here to look after our garden then either. Gardens are living things and unfortunately, a lot of plants only have a relatively short lifespan so it will probably revert to bushland and gum trees if it’s not being cared for by another person.

The father of our neighbour who was the previous owner of the property cut down a lot of the trees on this property maybe 40 years ago to allow for his sheep to graze on the land. You wouldn’t know it now because time and mother nature have regenerated the bushland to what it once was – how wonderful is that!

What are some durable plants you would recommend for first-time gardeners?

It does depend on where you plan on the situation like sun, shade, soil type and climate. But succulents are my go-to plants for the first time gardener – great for pots and hot dry sunny spots needing very little water, for those with shady gardens in frost-free areas, Clivea are incredibly tough and can survive under trees and in shade they are also great for pots. Phormium is also brilliant if you want a dramatic foliage plant (the purple leaf form is my favourite) and a great contrast plant for fine foliage plants like fine foliage grasses like Lomandra.

How’s your Plant Life Balance?

Green is my favourite colour so green plants just give me an overwhelming feeling of happiness. To also see something grow and thrive is such a wonderful feeling.

They are living things that you nurture and receive great joy from when they are doing well, and because they are always changing it’s never boring!

You also learn a lot when growing and caring for plants. It really makes you appreciate life when you see the insects, birds and animals that come into your garden. Health benefits of getting outside instead of sitting inside in front of a computer are obvious, a garden forces you in a good way to get out there and enjoy the fresh air and environment by either walking through it to explore its beauty or getting exercise when maintaining it.

Get the new Backyard Bather look and plant list in the Plant Life Balance app. Download it for free from the App Store or Google Play.

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