Kate Herd & Jela Ivankovic-Waters - authors of Native: Art & Design with Australian Plants 

Author Q&As

Tell us about your book – what inspired you to write it?


Kate Herd: I think Jela and I wanted to write the kind of book on native plants that we ourselves would like to read. We wanted something to show clients what we’re on about when we talk about contemporary native gardens and to illustrate just how sexy and amazing Australian plants are. I joke that by doing this book it was an excuse for us to meet our design/garden heroes and to annoy them with questions over a long period of time.


Jela Ivankovic-Waters: I was inspired by the need to compile a rich visual resource of native plants from my work as a landscape designer. Since I had worked extensively with Australian native plants, I knew how tough and varied they were as design elements. This hands-on experience, as well as my horticultural and landscape architecture training, gave me the confidence to be adventurous. However, I was also observing interesting and striking uses of natives in design, such as Fiona Hall’s espalier of Eucalyptus cassia at Heide Museum of Modern Art, Fiona Brockhoff’s garden ‘Karkalla’ and Paul Thompson’s work with TCL (Taylor Cullity and Lethlean) at the Botanic Gardens in Cranbourne. These examples were on a range of scales and contexts, which was exciting to observe how the plants performed as key design elements over time. I was keen on highlighting how natives were being used in all their flair and sheer resilience. There was really no other book at the time that combined a vivid display of planting design examples, information about plants and the people who inspire new ways of thinking about natives. It was a great opportunity to work with Kate in bringing together such a rich array of perspectives including growing, designing, science and art. Meeting practitioners from such diverse fields was energising and made this project a true labour of love.


Which book would you want to read again for the first time?


Kate Herd: As I don’t think I can go back and re-read it (too intense!) I would love to read Elena Ferrante’s ‘My Brilliant Friend’ as if for the first time. As a 10 year old I adored ‘My Family and Other Animals’ by Gerald Durrell and remember laughing like a loon over the antics of Gerry’s self-obsessed siblings while wishing that I too could have had a free-range childhood on a Greek Island.


Jela Ivankovic-Waters: ‘The Signature of All Things’ by Elizabeth Gilbert



Which author/s living or dead would you like to have dinner with?


Kate Herd: I’ve been reading a lot of Georgia Blain’s books over the last 6 months and have become increasingly preoccupied with the tragedy of her death. I wish she was alive and I could talk mothers, daughters and writing with her.


Jela Ivankovic-Waters: Graham Green, J.M Coetzee, Helen Garner, Hannah Kent, Elizabeth Gilbert, Haruki Murakami, Barack Obama and Alexis Wright.



What’s in your reading pile now?


Kate Herd: I’ve just finished two novels which could both be said to be about characters in small towns – Rachel Cusk’s ‘Arlington Park’ and Elizabeth Strout’s  ‘Anything Is Possible’. The latter (the follow-on book to ‘My Name Is Lucy Barton’, which I loved) had me up all night devouring Strout’s familiar cast of damaged souls, trapped by love and obligation, poverty and circumstance. I’m enjoying the third volume of ‘Conversations with Creative Women’ by Tess McCabe and hoping to get to ‘The Easy Way Out’ by Steven Amsterdam next.


Jela Ivankovic-Waters: ‘Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine’ by Gail Honeyman, ‘The Museum of Modern Love’ by Heather Rose, ‘A Long Way from Home’ by Peter Carey, ‘Mothering Sunday’ by Graeme Swift, ‘Extinctions’ by Josephine Wilson, ‘The River of Consciousness’ by Oliver Sacks and ‘Elon Musk’ by Ashley Vance.



We know you are a talented writer, do you have any hidden talents?


Kate Herd: I wouldn’t call it a talent at this stage but I’m learning to sew and I’m knocking up a few dresses for my daughter. Sewing is a great distraction from work that I really should be doing and satisfying in that—unlike writing books—you get to see and hold the results of your labor pretty quickly!


Jela Ivankovic-Waters: A deft pruner and cake maker.


Can you tell us what you are working on now?


Kate Herd: I would like to have a show of my prints and drawings sometime this year, so I should be busy making some new work. If I were to start a writing project I have a hankering to do something about trees.


Jela Ivankovic-Waters: Completing a PhD about innovation and digital technologies in landscape architecture, as well as researching for new book about planting design.