This bona fide TV icon isn’t afraid to get his hands dirty. When Charlie Albone isn’t filming a hit TV show inspiring Aussies to get out and transform their outdoor spaces, he’s growing all sorts of veggies, flowers and natives for his family at home.
What draws you to the garden? Have you always had a bit of a thing for plants?
I only really got into gardening when I was 18 – my mother was and still is a keen green thumb and I would watch her in the garden as a kid, but I never got involved. I fell into gardening after I witnessed a car accident, where a drunk driver hit the entry pillars to a large house in the UK. I went in to offer what I knew about the car, which had sped off, and was offered a job – my love started then! I love being outside in a garden. It’s the feeling of relaxation or achievement once you’ve done a solid day out there working that makes me want more.
In what ways do you think art and landscape design overlap?
Landscape design is a great mix of practical and artistic design. You must solve the practical issues first, such as layout, heights and ground falls, but then you get to paint with plants to create an artwork that continues to grow and evolve over time.
Is there a garden or project that stands out for you as the one you’re most proud of?
Chelsea Flower show 2015 and 2016 – both have different feelings for me, 2015 being deeply personal as it was a garden for my late father, and 2016 as it was a garden I looked back at and loved in every way.
What is the most incredible plant you’ve ever grown (successfully or not)?
Who is your favorite child? That’s an impossible question to answer. I wish I could grow peonies but I don’t live in the right climate – instead I got them tattooed on my arm!
What has been the high point of your career?
I met my wife filming a show called The Party Garden. It was a terrible cheap show but I got to meet my future wife and best friend, so not much else can top that.
You’re now a household name and a bona fide TV icon. Tell us about your first TV appearance. How did it come about and where has it taken you since then?
I’d recently split up with a girlfriend of seven years, and at the same time received an email about auditioning for a show (Selling Houses Australia). I asked her if I should and she said “you’ll never do it, and if you do, you’ll be rubbish at it.” That was the push I needed. My first show was an episode called ‘Botany’ and I was so nervous I sang all my lines! TV has been great to inspire other people to get into something I love. It has given me a profile that helps when getting sponsorship for things like the Chelsea Flower Show, which has been the catalyst to working around the world in places such as England, France, Singapore, Hong Kong, China and all over Australia.
What are some common mistakes you see novice gardeners (or even expert gardeners) make?
Not enough water! Gardens love water and thrive the more you give them. Even drought tolerant plants (with the right free-draining soil) love
a good watering.
What makes a good garden? Regular maintenance, planning, fertiliser, all of the above?
Regular maintenance, constant tweaking and the foresight to know what a plant will do and when all help to create an outstanding garden.
On top of everything else you do, you also run your own landscape design business. How do you and your team approach a new project to help a client’s dream outdoor space come to life?
There is a process to designing a garden that starts with a consultation to get to know the site and the people who are going to use it. From there concept plans are developed and changed as the design is worked through with the client. We also construct gardens and maintain them, so we get to be involved in the process right the way through to completion and beyond.
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What’s growing in your garden at home?
I have recently finished four large, raised wicking beds for vegetables. Next to those, I have a wildflower meadow section of the garden that brings in lots of pollinators and beneficial insects, the idea is they support each other.
What role does sustainability play in your approach to landscape design?
Whenever we’re designing and implementing a garden we strive for sustainable practices where possible. It’s so important to create a garden as “lightly” as possible and not rely on the plants to increase the green credentials.
Want your backyard designed by one of the best? Check out Charlie’s landscape design firm Inspired Exteriors, and be sure to tune into Better Homes and Gardens on Seven to see what he’s growing.
Meet the other stars of our Australian Artists series:
Doug Gimesy – An artist behind the lens
Xavier Rudd – An artist on the stage
Jake Kellie – An artist in the kitchen
Catherin Bennett – An artist on the canvas