"It's important to be bold, brave and, when old and wrinkly, to not have regrets about dreams you haven't followed."
For English-born Richard Unsworth, his green thumb developed at a young age, but it wasn’t until he followed the sun down under that he turned it into a career. Today, Richard is one of Australia’s most renowned garden designers, his store Garden Life is a Sydney institution, and his book by the same name is an apt celebration of both.
Tell us a little about your current work - what do you do, and what inspires you to do it?
We help our clients transform the outdoor spaces surrounding them, with an emphasis on creating gardens that resonate and inspire them in their daily lives. Through our store, we bring together a collection of really beautiful garden objects, pots and plant material from travels around the world or around the corner. I've always loved the trade of retail, of being a merchant and bringing together things I love.
How does your work enrich your life or the lives of others?
If I can focus on being of service to others in my job as a designer - of helping to create beautiful spaces for others - it gives me immense pleasure when I see the gardens develop, mature and, in turn, enrich the lives of my clients. I love seeing people's reaction when they come into our store.
Can you share a recent project you’ve worked on that you’re most proud of?
I've been re-working a garden for a very dear friend and neighbor. It has been thrilling to see it literally blossom and fill out this summer. The veggie garden on the rooftop is constantly used and shared among us.
What was the pivot point that set you on your current path?
Wow - I think I have a pivot point every week! I think the original pivot point was when I took the plunge and left my job, studied horticulture and started gardening for others. Then I guess I was brave, naïve and had a strong spirit for adventure - not dissimilar to today, although I like to think I'm less naïve.
Who or what has been your biggest inspiration in shaping your career?
I have been so fortunate to have had amazing support though my career from many different people - and I think most of them were non-gardeners. I'm lucky to continue to have inspiring guidance from people who know me, know what makes me tick, people who love, understand me, and also who can call me out when I do f*%$ up!
What advice would you give to others to identify and embrace those moments of action?
I feel it's important to be bold, brave and, when old and wrinkly, not to have regrets about dreams you haven't followed. Fear has always played a part in my life, but I've found the solution to be in moving through it and taking constant action.
What’s the one piece of advice you’d give someone who’s going through their own transformation?
Try to be true to yourself, do what you want for yourself in your life, but in that, see how you can contribute to others, to the people around you, to your friends, neighbors and community.
Where in the world would you describe as your soul place?
I always adore my trips to India. I grew up in northern England with a huge Indian community on my doorstep, so India feels so comfortable and magical at the same time. My happy place is closer to home in Sydney's Pittwater and I am gardening there like a madman. The garden feels like a life project. It's a historic place with endless sandstone, wildlife, and surrounded by huge spotted gums - heaven!
If you could do anything, what in the world would you want to do next?
Have the time to garden more at Pittwater and buy a little old wooden boat and learn to fish. Traveling to the Galapogos is on my list and I want to further explore Africa.
All images used with permission from Richard Unsworth.