Interview Series: Lee Gray Landscape Design
With over 20 years of experience in the landscape industry, Lee is passionate about designing beautiful gardens and functional spaces that complement her client's lifestyles.
We have a relaxed chat with Lee.
Where and how did your career begin?
Throughout my childhood I developed a love for construction, horticulture and landscape design. I’d help my father build and landscape around our family home and spend school holidays on a dairy farm where I was encouraged to pursue an education in horticulture.
My interest in design became evident when, as a little girl, I’d sculpt and tidy my Grandma’s gardens. These gardens were a far cry from the Adelaide Hills native garden we had at home and I loved mowing lawns, pruning roses and repositioning pots.
I studied horticulture throughout high school at Urrbrae Agricultural College and carried on my study at the Brookway Horticultural Centre. I was very lucky to find a love and passion for landscape design, which, in Adelaide is a niche profession.
Whilst studying horticulture, I also worked in the industry. I started working at a series of garden centres whilst then taking on a supervisor’s role for a popular landscape and garden maintenance company where I honed my horticulture and construction skills.
After 20 years of working as a designer for several landscaping companies, I decided that I would like to start my own Landscape Design Studio. I haven’t looked back.
What’s your best daily habit?
Early Starts. I’m a morning person and start designing when I know I’m at my best. Coffee also helps.
What’s your favourite project you’ve worked on?
I find this question similar to “who is your favourite child?” There is no answer. They’re all favourites for different reasons.
I was recently meeting a client whose garden was installed a year ago, her children were recounting to me stories of how popular their new garden was with their school friends. They all loved playing amongst the steppingstones and for this reason it made the project a favourite.
Another favourite was having a meeting where a client cried with joy over the beauty of their garden and the childhood memories it conjured.
Where would we find you on a typical Sunday morning?
On a Sunday morning, I am either gardening or working on designs.
Spending time in the garden is my happy place however, sometimes it’s hard to garden when you have a pile of exciting landscapes waiting to be designed. The creative process is as rewarding as tending to plants and the satisfaction is addictive.
What is your proudest career achievement to date?
I am very proud to be surrounded by good, talented and kind people. I have a fantastic network of landscapers who are happy to take on my projects. I am also very lucky to have some long-term relationships with creative architects and interior designers as well as a good network of suppliers that support my business and take interest in every project.
My proudest moment was this year when my son was on site with me, measuring and taking levels in a garden. I am so grateful that I can impart my knowledge and passion for landscaping to my son and the aforementioned community has also supported him with work experience and employment. Seeing my son in HiViz and steel cap boots filled my heart with joy and pride.
Best gardening or styling tip?
The best gardening advice I can impart is water, fertilise and prune hard.
The best design tip is “When in doubt, listen to your heart, does it bring you joy?”
What are one to three books/audiobooks/podcasts that have greatly influenced your life?
I can highly recommend Brene Brown’s Daring Greatly. Her book contains some fantastic insights for people with creative personalities and professions. Brene references Theodore Roosevelt’s “Man in the arena” speech and it’s been a priceless mantra for me.
Favourite albums you’re listening to right now?
I’ll be showing my age because my Spotify playlist contains nothing new. I’m living in the past and it’s a bit of everything.
‘The Strokes’ remind me of a time of our lives that my husband I lived in the outback, and we would listen to the album on repeat to stay awake driving back to the big smoke.
When I was pregnant with my eldest son, he would move around in my belly whenever The Strokes were playing, he is now 18 and still loves them.
‘Nirvana’ and ’Sonic Youth’ reminds me of my high school years, whilst The Hill Top Hoods reminds me of singing in the car with my youngest lad and his basketball mates.
For me, listening to music is like gardening, it conjures up fond memories, and memories are precious.
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