20 Cheeky Questions: Phillip Withers

Phillip Withers has been playing with plants since he was a young boy.  A stint of overseas travel following high school ignited his passion for nature and plants and lead Phil to study horticulture and landscape design. On finishing his study he jumped straight into starting his own design business – Phillip Withers Landscape Design. He’s renowned for his creative and playful design responses and is passionate about encouraging people to engage with the natural world. I caught up with Phil recently to find out more about his life, with plants.

Phillip Withers. Image by Amelia Stanwix

Hi Phil, can you please tell us about Phillip Withers Landscape Design?
I started Phillip Withers Landscape Design in 2012. We’re based in Melbourne and design residential and commercial gardens across the East Coast of Australia. I enjoy greening and activating outdoor environments – creating exiting spaces that the whole family can utilize to pick, eat, roam and play.

One of our key philosophies is to respect and celebrate the natural world through good design and sustainable practices.

How important is play to your creative process?
It’s very important! I come up with my best ideas through adventure and play. I enjoy surfing and exploring with my partner in crime and find that that balance helps to keep everything fresh and interesting…

Show gardens provide great freedom to play with experimental design concepts in a way that working with clients doesn’t always offer. What ideas are you playing with at MIFGS this year?
We are playing with ideas around biodiversity and space activation within our design. There’ll also be an element of wildness – we’ll use different plant types such as cactus, edibles and shrubs to create different spaces to sit, ponder, eat and play. The combination of lush greenery and local Australian materials will create a sense of warmth and connection to the natural environment.

Food Forest, MIFGS Show Garden 2015. Image by Josephine Ball

If you were a plant, what would you be?
A blueberry bush.

What cheers you up?
Big ideas, and time with my closest friends.

What is the habit you are proudest of breaking or want to break?
I’d like to be better at concentrating. I often drift away…

What is your favourite word?
Bitsy or liney. They often get used when I’m correcting a mark-up of a planting plan by one of the team.

Have you ever been in love with two people at the same time?
No, I can’t say I have, but travelling made for some interesting stories…

Name a skill you wish you had.
The piano, I’d love to learn…

What is the most played song on your playlist?
Leon Bridges – River.

If you had to make a garden with 3 plants, what would they be?
This is a tough one! I reckon I’d pick Rosmarinus prostratus (creeping rosemary), Echinocactus grussonii (barrel cactus) and Citrus myrtifolia ‘chinotto’ (Chinotto cumquat)

What makes somebody sexy?

What do you miss most about being a kid?
The adventure, it’s always about how to keep that alive…

What’s the first thing you notice when you meet a person?
Their demeanour.

What qualities in people do you admire the most?
I really admire considerate and humble people.

What would you be doing in an alternate life or career?
Maybe a farmer.

What’s your perfect three-course meal?
Cheese, biscuits and dip / lasagna / fruit salad and ice cream.

What’s special about where you live?
Richmond is close to the city but far enough away to feel quiet and there’s lots of greenery.

If you could control your dreams, what would you dream about?
Travelling and exploring…

What’s your favourite kind of weather? I like autumn weather in Melbourne – It’s a lovely time to be outside in the evening.

How many people are you completely yourself with?
Hmm, as I grow up I find I’m getting to a place where I’ve stopped acting a role, I’m just being me.

Check out Phillip Wither’s WEBSITE / INSTAGRAM

Phillip Withers Landscape Design is exhibiting at the 2o17 Melbourne International Flower and Garden Show next week. Check out their ‘I SEE WILD’ Garden at A76. The show runs from March 29th – April 2nd 2017.

Top image by Vivian Scarpari

Food Forest, MIFGS Show Garden 2015. Image by Josephine Ball
Cube-Ism, MIFGS Show Garden 2013, image by Patrick Redmond