Brendan Moar

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The very successful “Dry Spell Gardening” premiered on The LifeStyle Channel in April this year. The series received excellent reviews and was LifeStyle’s top rating show on the night it screened. We catch up with the host, Brendan Moar, a local Armidale man.

>Which Moar Family do you belong to?

To the best of my knowledge, if you check the local phone book all the Moars spelt M O A R are all related to me. Pre 1984 there would have been only one Moar listing, and that was Mum and Dad! Now all the Moars in the book can be attributed to my two brothers, Victor and Andrew. There’s my sister Bec of course, but she has taken her husband’s surname, Wood. 

Dad and Mum ran the Ampol depot for 16 or so years, as well as a couple of bus runs. Dad now spends all his time looking after their 500 acre property north of Armidale, “Campton” and being an active member of Rotary. Currently he’s working his charm trying to get people to get involved with SLEX. That’s not a typo, by the way, the ‘L’ stands for ‘Living’ – the rest stands for Sustainable Living Expo, which is happening in Armidale in September on the 20th and 21st. Mum works hard helping out with grandkids and looking after the garden at “Campton” – which is lots and lots of work!

My eldest brother Vic, a legend among stock and station agents, runs Armitage and Buckley. Andy, my younger brother, one of Australia’s most brilliant joiners (I like the power here to talk up my bros!) owns and operates Moar Windows and Doors. My sister Bec is doing an astounding job bringing up three children with her hubby Damian. At the moment life is particularly ‘full’ for them, as their youngest Tessa is undergoing treatment for Leukemia in Sydney. Tess by, the way, is responding brilliantly to the treatment.

We moved to Armidale in 1974, after spending about a year travelling around Australia in a caravan. Mum and Dad were in search of an easier way of making a living, having spent seven years carting oil and wheat living next to a railway siding 40 km west of Quirindi. I always marvel at that now – four kids aged 2 to 9 in a small caravan in remote destinations would’ve been no mean feat. In fact, if friends who were in the same situation now announced they were to do a similar thing, I think they’d be regarded as courageous at best, but mostly insane! 

> What was it like growing up in Armidale?

Growing up in Armidale was fantastic. We lived in Kentucky Street just near NERAM, across the road from the Teachers’ College playing fields. We used to run amok in those grounds. Of course we took it totally for granted, but now that I live in Sydney, in the thick of it, I realise what an amazing, fortunate thing it is to have such wonderful expansive green space literally on your doorstep. 

My brothers and sister and I all went to Armidale City Public (or Armidale Demonstration School as it was known then) and then on to Armidale High School. School life was great. Being able to walk to school and move freely, safely and easily around Armidale is something I really value these days.

> How did your interest in gardening begin?

I was an enthusiastic student but was really crap at studying. When it came to my HSC I would need to ‘relax’ before a day of study with a full morning of television; Fat Cat, if I recall, followed with a healthy topping of Days of Our Lives and Young and the Restless. After that I still didn’t feel ready to settle to studying, so rummaging around the garden seemed like as good a distraction as any. There, in amongst the shrubbery, I got hooked. Gardening has a habit of doing that to people – sneaking up on them when they least expect it. 

When I left school, photography, which had become my number one obsession, was all I wanted to do. I worked for a couple of years at Sydney University in their Dept of Photography, but all the while I had a niggling desire to go to university. 

I wanted to do something that combined my eye for design (that photography had been satisfying) with something more environmentally focused. Landscape Architecture seemed perfect. It was a love/hate relationship. I loved everything except the study bit. Can you see a theme developing here?

> What led to you becoming a TV presenter?

I graduated from the University of NSW in 1993 and worked for three years for International Design firm Hassell. All the while I had started another obsession, theatre – the amateur kind. I would juggle both work and my theatrical endeavours, doing show after show to the point where I wanted to give it a go in the professional realm. I made the decision to leave Landscape Architecture and make the leap into professional acting and performance. 

Somehow I managed to get into the over the top mega million dollar musical “Beauty and the Beast”. It was the beginning of a whole new life. The twelve months that followed were one hell of an introduction to the entertainment world, and I was hooked. 

When it finished I tried out for a number of other shows, but I was what is known as a ‘One Show Wonder’. I did quite a few other things such as acting in Oz and American TV shows, but it was when a landscape architect friend of mine told me that The Lifestyle Channel were looking for a landscape architect to be a presenter that all of the things I had been doing up to that point came together. The performer and the designer were united and finally satisfied!

> Has your celebrity status helped your career goals?

Um, I don’t think I qualify as a celebrity – at all. Most of being a celebrity is about being known, a familiar face that everyone knows. I’ve been making TV shows full time for the last nine years, but working on subscription TV means that you fly under the radar to a large degree – which suits me just fine. Being recognised is not what I do this for. 

I love making quality TV that is beautiful, intelligent and meaningful. The audience that tune into the shows I make are making a choice – a discerning choice. I’m very passionate about spreading the word about how life changing beautiful garden spaces can be, how gardening and garden making of all sorts at all levels is a richly satisfying endeavour.

> How often do you return home to Armidale?

My whole family lives in Armidale, so I have major incentive to return home – apart from the incentive that Armidale is just a wonderful place to be, full stop! I get home about three or four times a year, sometimes more. While I don’t mind giving June to August a wide berth, I do like to be reminded of the full range of seasons places like Armidale experience, and a cold winter makes for a magical spring – if there’s been a bit of rain about of course!

I love returning to work at the garden at ‘Campton’ – or I should say, marvelling at the work Mum has been doing! Gardening in Armidale’s climate is very challenging at times, but so very satisfying. 

In fact, one thing I really love pursuing in our garden is how to make the plant choices more in line with a changing climate, which means greater drought tolerance as well as coping with greater temperature extremes. The fun bit is doing that in a way that creates an exciting visual and aesthetic experience.

> When did the first series of ‘Dry Spell Gardening’ go to air?

‘Dry Spell Gardening’ first went to air in April this year. The show was a chance for us to try and find new approaches to creating climate friendly gardens. It’s a whole new approach to garden-making shows in this country. Note here, that I avoid the use of the word ‘makeover’. I find that implies something that is quick, cheap and without great substance. Dry Spell focuses on the real journey that the people whose garden we’re building go through. It’s shot in an observational documentary/reality way. The gardens are absolutely cutting edge design, pushing forward the whole notion of what the Australian garden is and how it’s changing in a changing climate.

> Have viewers appreciated the difference?

The show has been received really well. The ratings have been great, regularly ranking in the top 5 shows for the channel every week. Apart from ratings though, people have responded to the show’s honesty.

It most certainly doesn’t just focus on all the good bits, but shows all the gritty bits – when things aren’t going so well, the stress (real stress, not the contrived variety) and when people aren’t liking what they’re seeing. Which was all pretty confronting for me at first, but I love the format now.

It was important that the show, given the focus of climate consciousness, was not preachy or guilt endowing for the viewer. Given that I don’t present straight to the camera, the viewer feels like they’re part of the conversation rather than being talked at.

> Thank you Brendan.

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24 Responses to Brendan Moar

  1. Liza McLeish says:

    I Love Brendan’s work. I would love a Brendan Moar Designed Garden. Does he have an ongoing business or just his lifestyle channel show? I have craved the opportunity to be allowed to be unconventional yet sustainable with great design features. Brendan’s Designs tick all the boxes. Does he service Brisbane? Does Brendan offer a design only service and allow the home owner to project manage to keep down costs? My husband and I are demolishing our house in about 12 months time and would love a consultation with Brendan to maximise our gardens ultimate potential

  2. Phyl Finch says:

    Dito on the above comment but we live in Sydney and have a property that needs real work at Port Stephens up the coast.
    Can Brendan help?

  3. Troy says:

    My wife’s 40th birthday is in May 2010 and I’d love to give her a Brendan Moar garden. We’ve just finished renovating the inside of our house and its time to move on to the garden. We back on to Lane Cove National Park so we’re keen to do the right thing by the environment we’re in. I’m sure Brendan would have a fantastic solution for us.

  4. kirsteen says:

    Hi,
    I am also a fan of Brendan’s magnificent gardens. I am not a gardener and have never been interested in gardens until seeing some of Brendan’s designs. I am really hoping to get in touch with him to see if he would be ineterested in designing something for us.
    We are about to start building on 50acres (in victoria – yarra valley) and have been approached by Grand Designs Australia to possibly film our build as we have used a local architect to come up with a great house/studio for our family. My husband is an artist and works with wood so it would be great to incorporate Brendan’s work into the whole project.
    Great work Brendan – keep it up!!

  5. Patricia Desjardines says:

    As per the comments made by Liza and Phyl, I would really appreciate finding out whether Brendan does design work for consumers (outside of his television show). We will be bulding soon on the lower north shore in Sydney, with a difficult plot to be developed into a garden. I would love to have a Brendan Moar design for our garden,. I love his show. Is there another one coming?

  6. Susan Gladstone says:

    I’m yet another one who thinks Brendan Moar is brilliant and his garden designs are absolutely wonderful.
    Am also in Sydney, Allambie Heights, in a newly purchased home with no garden. Would love to know whether Brendan does private design work.
    Looking forward to the new episode on LifeStyle late Nov.

  7. Hi my name is margaret I live in blayney I watched all of your shows Brendan I love them all I have tried doing things in my backyard but very hard being by my self I tank since I built my little kit home two years ago. I have tried so hard to try and use the tank but with it so dry i would love better alternatives in gardening.I dug a bit of the backyard and put down pebbles i love gardening so much I would love some ideas as what to do design or even Brendans help .I also at a loss as a screening tree or plant for privacy. looking forward to hearing from someone .MARGARET

  8. Ken Beilicz says:

    All of the above. We recently relocated back to Jindabyne on 3.5 acres. It offers Brendan a unique challenge – snow and heat, all in one location. Is Brendan up to the challenge???

  9. Mel Scurr says:

    Hi
    I too am enquiring as to whether Brendan does design work in Brisbane. We are on a sloping block and have a substantial amount of rock so we have issues with keeping water up to plants and lawn alike.

  10. clare parbery says:

    Hi

    my son recently married and he and his new wife have a completely empty rooftop to design a garden for. It is in Mosman with wonderful views over Middle Harbour, but neither of them are gardeners and they need ideas to make the most of their space. Is it possible to get some ideas from Brendan for this quite large tiled area?

    I am a huge fan of Brendan’s show and said I would help out as I have a huge garden in Turramurra, but don’t know where to start with a blank canvas

  11. Felicity Kay says:

    Hi

    Would love some infomation on how to go about Brendan doing a small unit garden for my mum in victoria, her yard isnt all that flat and it worries me that shes going to have a fall while hanging the washing but living 1300ks away I’m clueless on how I can help unless someone as wonderful as Brendan can save my mum from the dangers of her garden and myself from the worry.

    regards
    Felicity

  12. Etesa Vettori says:

    Hi I am another Brendan Moars fan, love his show and after reading his article I hope his niece Tess has a full recovery from her treatment, my nickname is Tess and this story caught my eye..
    Brendan we live in Pakenham – Victoria and if you are ever out this way we would love some advice for a dryspell garden for our property, we have been here 3 years and still not sure what/how to achieve what we need and again if you see this it would be nice to chat ..

    Thanks Etesa and Jeff Vettori

  13. Patricia Johnson says:

    Dear Brendan,

    I live in Paddington, Sydney, in a block of six units, old building 1926 built as a corporate of Greek families back then. I have seen you occasionally in the street and presume you live somewhere around here.

    Like our building, our front (rainforest) garden and small back garden have undergone a lot. I once found a 1932 penny in the little front garden in front of my office (I am a writer). I would really like you to call in one day to see what has been done in the back garden on the merest scrap of a budget. This, I have to say, has been mainly my doing : some things have come up by themselves and, where they fit, they have been welcomed to proliferate. Other things I have got from cuttings. I have two Angel Trumpet trees (beautiful apricot) that were propogated from one single cutting from a tree in Margaret Olley’s garden in Paddington. Other cuttings have come, free, from Shoalhaven Heads, on the South Coast, where I owned another house a number of years ago. I have a marvellous-looking orchid that is now, in a pot, in full bud, rewarding me for picking it up from a garden throwout in the street a couple of years ago. We have a general maintenance gardener who only comes in every 6-8 weeks (needed more) to keep the Body Corporate happy with minimal expense.

    I’d love you to get in touch, come in, have a glass of wine and meet me and Chiqui (woof woof).

    I have long been a fan : you combine knowledge with instinct, genuineness and charm : not a bad recipe for a thoroughly engaging human being.

    As for your name : A few years back I had a UK producer attached for a film project. He was a native of the Isle of Man and his home was called ‘Creggan Moar’. He told me that meant ‘Big Rock’ in Manx, as his (ancestral) home was built on the edge of the cliff : images of ‘Wuthering Heights’. Maybe that’s where your ancestors came from. I have a novel, ‘Geckos and Moths’, in which I’ve named a (fictional) Australian homestead ‘Creggan Moar’.

    Best wishes and I look forward to hearing from you. Patricia Johnson.

  14. Dimitri De Angelis says:

    Hello my name is Dimitri De Angelis and i would like please Bredan Moar to call me on 0420 285 920
    as i have a lot of Topairies in my garden and the front of my garden i want to add a fountain and something else i dont know yet so i need maybe you to also utilise my home for your filming
    i am also on the news at the moment on many TV shows
    i live with my boyfriend in Turramurra NSW

    Please click on this link:

    http://video.au.msn.com/watch/video/man-of-mystery/xiqib1r

  15. Cheryl Harvie says:

    I also think Brendan is brilliant, with a surname like MOAR he would have to be

    So Brendan which Moar (my maiden name) family do you belong to? with possible roots to the Orkney Isles.

  16. Carleen Gaby says:

    I like everyone before me am a huge fan of Brendan’s work. I have often daydreamed out of the kitchen window looking onto my lawn that is full of weeds, wishing Brendon would come to my rescue and solve my landscaping dilemma!
    But I have not thought my dream could ever come true as firstly he is a TV star and secondly we live in Perth.
    But if Brendon was ever tempted to visit the beautiful beaches of the West he may like to design a WA dry spell garden whilst he was here.
    We purchased our house 3 years ago a recently renovated 1950’s house of the international style of architecture. It was designed by a Perth architect Raymond Jones and was awarded house of the year in 1958. It is a fabulous house and deserves a special garden. Brendon does love the 1950s do you think he may be tempted by a West Australian commission.
    Kind Regards
    Carleen Gaby

  17. Dimitri De Angelis says:

    please could you remove the demand of doing topiaries in my garden it was not me so please remove my name DIMITRI DE ANGELIS

  18. Dimitri De Angelis says:

    I have never asked for topuiaries or a new garden to be done
    someone has used my name to put this article into your site
    please remove it

    thank you very much

  19. lorise goonan says:

    I am at this time doing our version of the Moar family tree, our Great Grandfather Hugh Leask Moar arrived in Australia (Brisbane) in April 1863, from Stromness in the Orkney Isles. I figured this is where most of the Moar family came from. so please let me know when your branch of the family came here and who was that person.

    As you have noted there are a lot more in the phone book now, when we were growing up there were only two in the Sydney book one being my Father and the other one amazingly lived quite close by. There are now quite a few. As you said in the above article your brother is the windows man I have looked at that website before and didn’t until now know how to reply to find out this info, so was glad to see your new page.

    The other Moar the plumber is my nephew Andrew although is notice is missing at the moment.

    Hope you are able to reply to my request. thanking you.

    Lorise

  20. DIMITRI DE ANGELIS says:

    Dimitri has passed away age 45 at his Vaucluse’s Home

    sadly we will miss him so much

    his fan club

  21. Dimitri De Angelis says:

    I would like to Thank Brendon for his incredible work at our new home

    The newly bought home in Vaucluse needed an excellent garden designer
    after six month of intensive work the garden is finally done
    Dimitri De Angelis will be living between his new home in Vaucluse and the northern suburb
    Dimitri will settle well in our Eastern Suburb
    A.Wendercout

  22. Dimitri De Angelis says:

    Thanks to Dimitri for his incredible artistic side and his patience
    His newly bought home in Vaucluse with 7 bedrooms is an incredible piece of art
    We welcome Dimitri for his courage and kindness
    We wish you a beautiful new life Dimitri

    Karen Hoover

  23. Dimitri De Angelis says:

    Dimitri De Angelis
    13 Queens Avenue
    VAUCLUSE NSW 2030

    What an incredible house that guy bought near Sydney

  24. Helen Barton says:

    Hello Brendan and Hello Lorise (comment 1 year ago).
    We have the old cottage “Stromness”, that was once owned by Hugh Leask Moar, and was built around 1865 at Kangaroo Point in Brisbane.
    It is now at Mount Tamborine, and would be interested in any information or old photographs you may have about it or the early Moar family who lived in “Stromness” – as one day I would like to write a book about the cottage.
    It was at the site of Moar’s slip and I believe Hugh Moar did a lot of work under the cottage and built the cottage himself.
    Helen

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