There’s such a wide range of interesting people around our local area – and Claudia Bowman is one of them.
I knew her husband Matt back when we were knocking about in Bronte as kids, and I’ve been amazed by Claudia’s work bringing more green spaces to the gorgeous precinct where we all now live.
I sat down with Claudia for a chat about her love for the area, her passion for plants and some of her all-time favourite haunts.
How long have you lived in the area?
I’ve lived in the area for about 14 years. First, we were in Potts Point for 9 years and now we’re in Rushcutters Bay – people are always amazed when I say it’s our forever home, but it really is.
I often hear that from locals. People seem to love Potts Point and all the surrounding suburbs and stay for a long time, do you agree?
Yes, and even though we’re a little way out of Potts Point now, we’re still in the neighbourhood – staying in the same community was really important to us. Plus, the City of Sydney is the most amazingly progressive local council, so I wanted to be in that catchment. But where we’ve moved, right on Rushcutters Bay Park, is perfect given my husband Matt and I have three very active kids!
You’re bucking the trend, not moving to the suburbs…
We have made a commitment to living in the inner city. And we love our apartment – it looks tiny from the outside, but it’s huge – a 4-bedroom in an old 4-storey 1920s block where each level is its own apartment. It’s deceptively big. We’re on the ground floor and we’ve got a beautiful big window that’s 4 metres wide and retracts to bring the outdoors in. We’ve done some renovation on it and it’s largely open plan with a very minimalist vibe. I haven’t read Marie Kondo but that’s basically how we live. If something isn’t used for 2 weeks, it’s out!
Apartment living is so big in our area. How do you manage it, with three kids – any tips?
Our philosophy is that home is a place to hang your hat and sleep, and you live outside – and that’s what we do. The kids are on the oval or riding their bikes around until sunset. I’m outside gardening a lot of the time. We’ve got a cricket oval, a massive climbing tree, we’re about to get a skate park. We’ve got galleries and restaurants and Potts Point up the road, a train station nearby. It’s just a beautiful area for kids to grow up in. Each to their own, but I tend to think you could have a big house in the suburbs with a big backyard and it can be a bit isolating. Plus – not having a huge house means less space to clean! It’s dreamy and I kind of feel like we’re creating our own magic and rewriting the rules of how you can raise a family in the inner city and in an apartment.
You mentioned gardening… tell me about some of the gardens you’ve worked on in the area.
Gardening and horticulture have been my passions for so long. I had trade accounts at every nursery in town for years before I went professional, even though I was doing a lot of it for free back when I started. I used to clear gardens and plant and landscape – mainly for friends and family. I am also an advocate for encouraging the neighbours to water trees or the council verge outside their apartment blocks, especially when the drought was really bad! I’m just committed to keeping public spaces beautiful.
And I know you’ve donated your time to do that, haven’t you?
Yes. Our family is inspired by the vision and leadership of our council’s Lord Mayor who is passionate, proactive and protective of shared and green spaces. In our apartment we’ve established a beautiful sunken window however it hasn’t quite quelled my desire for gardening, So I adopted the two council hedges outside – with the council’s approval of course – and I use them to hone my topiary skills! I spend all my pocket money on soil conditioners and extra soil and I’ve planted a gorgeous bougainvillea. There’s also a jacaranda tree, which means we get exceptional pink flowers and purple jacaranda and it’s just stunning. I love working on it – especially as other locals stop and chat. I get to meet everyone and their dog on their way to the park!
I also planted four of the garden beds at my children’s school. The school paid for the flowers and I donated my labour. It was a big job but it looks beautiful and given I’ve married a teacher and have three kids in the public system I wanted them to have a gorgeous environment to go to every day. It was a way of showing my kids how much I love them.
And now you’ve turned your passion for horticulture into a job?
Yes, my new landscaping business, McIntosh and Bowman Gardens, is 15 months old and I’m now into my second year of part time study at Ryde TAFE College of Horticulture & Landscaping and working 4 days per week in my clients’ gardens as well. I’ve just finished a paving project and I’m working on a massive scaffolding job at the moment removing ivy off a huge Bellevue Hill house – it’s sad because the house looks like something out of Harry Potter, it’s stunning with the ivy, but they’re getting mould issues inside and the ivy can break into the bricks and create opportunities for rain to get in. I also do small jobs for people – one client has a lush herb garden in pots around her pool and I have to replace them every month for her to keep them looking nice. I do everything from garden maintenance to clearance, to garden design, planting, turf and lawn care and landscaping.
What do you love so much about plants and creating beautiful gardens?
Unlike a lot of things in life, with gardening you can put in the effort and immediately see what your hard work has achieved. I fully appreciate how energising gardens can be for people as well, There are so many studies about how green spaces and gardens uplift and inspire people; we tend to feel less stressed looking at a beautiful green space. Plus, green spaces can improve mental health. And it’s so nice to see green even when you live in the city.
What would be your advice to inner-city people who crave a garden but don’t have the space, the knowledge, or a green thumb?
Definitely get onto Instagram and search for some inspiring gardening accounts – often they’ll post videos of how to successfully plant things in small spaces and you can really learn so much. Watch, learn and read to get ideas. You can do great things in small spaces, even hanging baskets can transform your outdoor space. If you’re planting herbs, go for large pots of herbs rather than seedlings or seeds, as it can be easier to get it going. And I would also suggest getting help from gardening experts who can come and suggest ways to make the most of your space.
What are your favourite haunts around the area?
The best-kept secret in the neighbourhood is the family-run Oracle Café in Llankelly Place in Potts Point – exceptional service, awesome coffee art and they do a hearty and healthy big brekkie. Our entire family is besotted with the new sweet spot in town, Cafe Del La Fontaine, also in Potts Point – they do croissant ice cream sandwiches! And of course the classic espressos and toasted sandwiches at Room Ten – also in Potts Point.
Where can we find more about you and what you’re doing next?