The Holistic Horticulturalist – Sydney Horticulture

Deb Meyer - Sydney landscape designer. Vogue & Vine - Landscape Designers Sydney

This weekend we discover the sustainability of the soul. The growth of the co-entrepreneurs and Mother/Daughter team, interviewing Deb Meyer. The Holistic Horticulturalist. We step inside the shoes of this highly spirited landscape designer and ask ‘How does her garden grow’?!

Video Interview with Henry Weinreich on 27 June 2021 @HenryandFriendsLive

Planning for Play – Garden design for health

Vogue and Vine Landscape Design

“We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing.”  

– George Bernard Shaw 

We all know the importance of planning, with January an obvious time to focus on goal- setting for the year. Usually our health, family and work feature at the top of most lists, but what about prioritising playing

As a landscape designer and former actor and drama teacher, I understand well the importance of play. When we engage in Play – an activity for enjoyment rather than a serious or practical purpose, the focus is on the doing, rather than necessarily a means to an end. We focus on the present and put aside the self-critical part of our brain that restricts us from trying new things and divergent possibilities.  

The benefits of play for children, are more broadly accepted. We know that play is important for their healthy brain development, learning social skills and developing creativity, imagination and many other benefits. 

“Do not….keep children to their studies by compulsion but by play” – Plato 427-347BC 

Importance of Play for Adults 

For adults, however, play is less of a focus, but nonetheless critical in our stressful lives. It releases feel-good endorphins, improves memory, problem solving and overall brain function, stimulates creativity, enhances social connections and helps us feel younger and more energetic. It makes us feel happier, which can only benefit our mental, physical and emotional wellbeing. 

With increased responsibilities as adults, it’s not surprising that many of us experience ‘a poverty of play’, as D.W. Winnicott, the British Paediatrician (1896-1971) stated.  

Gardens as a Playground 

Outdoor spaces are a terrific playground for both adults and kids. Gardens, in particular, allow adults to play, like we did as kids playing in the dirt. Though now we call it soil and gardening. Many of us know the satisfaction we get from planting seeds, young plants or herbs and vegetables, watering, tending to them and watching them grow. It’s one of the most rewarding and mood-boosting kinds of play. 

As a landscape designer and horticulturist, one of my favourite parts of the design process is playing with design styling, with good old-fashioned pencil and paper, and exploring playful pieces in the garden as well as creative plant combinations. I will often say to clients ‘Now, we can play’, once we decide on the form or structure of the design.  

Playfulness in garden design can come in many forms, from the design concept, line-styling, material choices, hidden nooks, objects for climbing, pops of colour, and other surprising, delightful and unexpected elements, including furniture, pots or artwork, to name a few.  

In our work, as well as down time, playing doesn’t have to mean child-like, but more a freeing state of mind, in any area of life. 

“Play is the highest kind of research” – Albert Einstein 

With the start of a new year, it’s as good a time as any to plan more play in our lives – on our own, with our partners, children, friends, colleagues or broader community. If play is ‘training for the unexpected’, as Contemporary American biologist Marc Bekoff aptly writes, then during these uncertain and frequently dark times, perhaps play is precisely what we need more of.  

Deb Meyer is a landscape designer, horticulturist and outdoor stylist with Vogue & Vine – a landscape design and outdoor furniture company in Sydney. follow Vogue & Vinevisit @vogueandvine on InstagramFacebook and Pinterest.

Poisonous plants Sydney – Is Oleander really a COVID-19 miracle cure?

poisonous plants, landscape design Sydney, Vogue&vine

Published on LinkedIn 28 August, 2020

It surprises me just how many everyday plants are poisonous, either to people or our pets. Usually this doesn’t affect significant casualties, but it can be very serious when it effects even one. The best way to prevent poisoning is to learn the types of common poisonous plants, so we can recognise and avoid them, and teach our children to do the same. Or keep those plants away from the reach of children and pets.

Unfortunately there are no ‘one size fits all’ factors to look out for. As the Sydney Children’s Hospital Network website succinctly states, “There are no common characteristics of form, colouring, odour or taste, which mark a poisonous or harmful plant from a non-poisonous plant. As a general rule of thumb, plants with a bitter taste, funny smell, milky sap or red seeds or berries may be poisonous.”

Some poisonous common house plants include: Euphorbia and Philodendron varieties, Monstera, Hydrangeas, Daffodil, Foxglove, Elephant Ears, Poison Ivy, Lily-of-the-valley, Ficus, Rhododendron, Aloe, Angel’s Trumpet, Lilys, Succulents and many others. Some of the various symptoms, from either touching, tasting or smelling the plants, (depending on the species), include: rashes, burning, vomiting, lethargy, stomach upset, nausea, seizures, mental confusion, blindness, and in worst cases, coma or death. For a more comprehensive list of poisonous plants, visit articles on Raising Children and Sustainable Gardening Australia.

Only recently, I was visiting a client who was moving house, and warned the removalists to be especially careful when moving the large potted Euphorbia tirucalli (Firesticks) as it’s particularly toxic. I was most concerned to receive a call, only a short time later, that part of the Euphorbia snapped off and went into one of the removalist’s mouth! Not a call I was hoping to receive. The poor man was in burning pain, which affected his mouth and progressed to his nose and eyes. Thankfully, after going to hospital, he had a full recovery, unlike others who have gone blind from the milky sap.

Another severely toxic plant is Nerium oleander (Oleander). This may sound familiar and was featured in the New York Times earlier this week. The article claims the chief executive of American company My Pillow, and Trump major donor, Mike Lindell, hailed Oleandrin as “the miracle cure” for Covid-19, whose essence comes from the Oleander plant. It’s widely known that ingesting even a tiny amount of the shrub can be extremely toxic and potentially fatal.

As the article highlights, it’s not uncommon for plants, even poisonous ones, to generate interest as treatments for disease, however many scientists claim Oleandrin is untested and potentially dangerous. No studies have yet shown that Oleandrin is safe or effective as a coronavirus treatment.

I’ll leave the research findings of Oleandrin to the scientists, but it was a clarion call to highlight the importance of education in making people aware of the potential risks of certain plants.

If you suspect plant poisoning has occurred, immediately call your Doctor, Vet or the Poisons Information Hotline, 131 126, which is open 24 hours.

Though severe poisoning isn’t frequent, it’s always best to be safe, and where possible, please ‘caveat planta emptor’ – let the plant buyer beware.

By Deb Meyer, Landscape Designer from Vogue & Vine – a landscape design and outdoor furniture consultancy in Sydney.

Spring/Summer property frenzy – Best garden design tips for house sale.

outdoor garden design Eastern suburbs


1. Purchaser/People – who’s your Target Audience/ your most likely purchaser – who are you designing for? (Purpose – are you providing a manicured garden or rather highlighting the potential?)

2. Planning the space – areas you want to include (eg lawn, entertaining space, etc)

3. Pruning (in the broader sense of the word) – eliminate any superfluous or undesirable elements in the garden

  • Leaves and Weeds
  • Dead flowers or plants
  • Trim overgrown shrubs/trees
  • Clean or remove rusted items
  • Clean dirt from pavers, walls and furniture with high pressure hose

4. Planting

  • Lawn – freshen up
  • Pop of colour gives a fresh appearance, at the entrance & in garden beds. See what’s in season & suits your specific microclimate – see what’s growing well in your neighbourhood
  • For privacy or noise – plant a mature hedge (even some planting goes a long way)
  • Mulch all your plants – gives an instant manicured garden
  • Edgings – make sure they’re sharp & well-defined, gives the landscape a professional look.

5. Products

  • Pots – provide layering for instant visual effect, and you can take them with you
  • Furniture & BBQ – highlights a certain lifestyle
  • Mirrors can enlarge a small space