Utopian Magazine Judith de Graaff Urban Jungel

Interview with Judith de Graaff co-author of the bestselling book Urban Jungle

Judith de Graaff is a freelance graphic designer and cocreator of the Urban Jungle Bloggers online community with Igor Josifovic. She lives lives in Paris.

Judith (1980) is a freelance designer living in the south of France, with a focus on interior design, travel, color, and plants. With Igor Josifovic, she is the co-author of the bestselling book Urban Jungle (Callwey Verlag, 2016) and Plant Tribe (Abrams Books, 2020) and co-founder of the Urban Jungle Bloggers community. Read more about Judith on her blog JOELIX.com or find her on Instagram @joelixjoelix

Urban Jungle Bloggers™ started in 2013 when friends Igor and Judith met over coffee in Paris chatting about their favorite blog topics, like interiors, travels and greens. They soon realised that they share a common love for houseplants and decided to turn this into a monthly blog series on our own blogs. They called it Urban Jungle Bloggers. From the first month, their blog readers loved it and fellow bloggers asked to join in and in the next months, dozens of bloggers joined and a global community of plant lovers was born.

Are you ready to answer any questions or are you gonna hide your life?
I was born ready 🙂 No seriously I’m ready for a lot of questions!

What turns you on creatively, spiritually or emotionally?
Color!! Bright vibrant colors set against a beautiful neutral… or a good scent! Intelligence and flair. Sunlight.

What turns you off?
A space that is not cohesive: where one room is fully decorated in a specific personal style and the hallway/bathroom/guestroom looks just plain ugly. I understand when there’s no budget left to design the entire house, but style ca

What is your favorite virtue?
Kindness. It makes life so much easier when everyone is so much kinder to each other.

What is the biggest mistake an amateur gardener can make?
Probably the biggest mistake is to start with an abundance of plants, buying more than a dozen plants at the same time when you have no idea what you’re doing. Growing a garden is a slow process, that takes time: you will learn through trial and error. And yes sometimes buying a ton of plants at the same time can be an error or a huge success: but start small and grow.

What is your advice to a beginning gardener?
Start small with a few plants that you love and choose plants that match your home situation (available space, light, humidity) and lifestyle. Research some basic plant care (or dive in deep if that’s what you prefer), take care of them for a while and see how you like it. Visit your local plant shop or nursery for valuable insights and tips and connect with like-minded plant lovers through social media and offline events.

Do you approach designing public and private gardens differently?
This questions seems a bit strange: I don’t design gardens (except my own, but I didn’t really design that, it just grows/changes as time goes by. So maybe we can skip this question?

How far ahead do you work when designing a new garden? How much planning time do you take?When designing a new space I tend to go with the flow and trust my instincts, but some projects require intense moodboarding and more planning. Sometimes all it takes is a trip to a local nursery or plant shop, sometimes it needs more investigating to order the perfect plants via online retailers or nurseries. And sometimes I can work with the plants that are already in place!

Do you have rules for colour combinations, mixing textures and using different heights and variations of species?
I don’t have rules, but generally I trust my instincts. Bright and colorful hues pair well with more subdued colors to avoid a color cacophonia and create a harmonious blend. When mixing textures, aim for a balance between fine, medium, and coarse textures to create visual interest and depth in the plant setup. Integrate varying heights and species by layering plants from shortest to tallest, considering their growth habits and the overall aesthetic you want to achieve.

What’s important about designing a garden that can provide joy year-round and in all weathers?
Design for year-round joy by incorporating a mix of evergreen and deciduous plants to ensure visual interest even during the dormant seasons. Integrate elements such as bird feeders, water features if your climate allows it, and wind chimes to engage the senses and create an inviting atmosphere regardless of the weather. Additionally, select a variety of flowering plants that bloom in different seasons, allowing the garden to constantly evolve and delight throughout the year. And don’t forget to place a comfy chair or outdoor sofa somewhere so you can enjoy your garden to the fullest!

The garden is intended as a permanent fixture. How can we expect it to evolve—throughout the seasons, and over the years?
Expect the garden to evolve seasonally through the changing colors, textures, and scents of the plants, as well as the shifting patterns of sunlight and shade. Over the years, anticipate natural growth and maturation of the vegetation, leading to a more established and lush landscape. Be prepared for potential adjustments as plants grow and compete for space, necessitating periodic pruning, replanting, and potentially the addition of new species to maintain balance and harmony.

Are you at least spending more time than usual in your garden at home during these quite unusual weeks?
Like many people I find solace and comfort in gardening or spending time outdoors during challenging times, as it provides a calming and rewarding outdoor activity that helps alleviate stress and promote well-being. Engaging with nature in my garden is a beneficial way to relax, stay active, and cultivate a sense of accomplishment during unusual or difficult periods. Not only do I spend more time in my garden, I also tend to my indoor plants more often, as I feel grounded and present when taking care of them.

Was there also a political message behind it, a call for more sustainability?
Growing a garden, wether it’s indoor or outdoor, is a choice. I’m not entire convinced it is entirely political, but I believe it helps to grow awareness about nature: when you understand how something grows, which is truly magical in most cases, you easily feel the urge to do more: to make more conscious decisions in other parts of your life. Thus becoming more sustainable as a side-effect. However, there are brands and companies that (still) force their clients to buy more, treat more, produce more, and provoke consumerism beyond measure.

At some point, you have to leave your gardens to those who will cultivate them. How easy is that for you?
When going on holiday, family or friends usually take care of our house, cats and plants. I give them some simple instructions (like don’t water very often, don’t move the plants etc.) and feel confident the plants (and cats and house) will be fine. It’s always a surprise to see how much they grew over the course of several weeks. Overall I believe that my urban jungle will adjust to my far-from-perfect caring duties. And like life: not everything survives, sometimes you have surprises, failures, struggles and pure bliss.

Tell Me About a Time You Failed?
Failure is often a stepping stone towards success, providing crucial lessons that contribute to our personal growth and resilience. Embracing failure as an opportunity to learn and improve can lead to valuable insights that foster innovation and a deeper understanding of our strengths and weaknesses. As long as you promise to yourself to do your very best, failure is completely underrated.

Why Do You Do This Job?
Because I want to make the world just a little bit more beautiful.

Tell Me About Yourself?
I’m a woman, wife, mother, stepmom, daughter, sister, friend, colleague, creative, dreamer, plant lover and maker.

Are you ready to fight for a cause? Which one?
There are a thousand causes I would fight for, yet at the same time my preferred weapon of choice is setting an example by doing and showing things to a few or to as many people as possible. If I can change things for the better by my humble acts, that’s more than worth it.

Are you happy today?
Yes! I’m counting my blessings.

What can you say to your followers?
Do it! Go for it! The world needs more love and common sense. And get yourself a copy of the Plant Tribe book! https://www.amazon.com/Plant-Tribe-Living-Happily-Plants/dp/1419740415

Enri Mato

​Founder & Concept creator: UTOPIAN Magazine
Talks about #media, #artist, #magazine, #urbanism, #architects & #landscape