Gardening Australia cast. Picture: Colin Page

Costa Georgiadis, genial host of the ABC staple Gardening Australia, is impressed. Seems I am the first person to point out the trademark beard he has been tending since 1990 is about the same age as the show, which is celebrating 25 years on air this weekend.

"You've got a whole new angle there," he laughs down the line from Sydney. "My beard was a source of chagrin to a lot of the show's original audience but after two years they have adapted."

As the show's relative new kid on the block, Georgiadis is thrilled to be part of the long-lived program that offers practical, down-to-earth gardening advice.

"For a TV show to be running that long it must be doing something right. In coming on board my key task was bringing in what is contemporary now and helping get the message out to a younger audience."

In the special birthday edition kicking off the 2014 series, all of the presenters come together to share their memories, and there are clips from the very first episode.

There's an entertaining interview with Peter Cundall, the show's host for 18 years, where he recalls the digs at his accent and the trouble he got into with ABC bosses when he first signed off with his trademark, "and that's your blooming lot".

Three years shy of his 90th birthday, the picture of health and vigour, Cundall is the perfect advertisement for the health benefits of eating homegrown produce.

"Peter has always been a grand advocate of eating kale," Georgiadis says. "He is as active and feisty as ever and still doing wonderful work."

If there's one thing that Cundall and Georgiadis and all the other presenters have in common, it is passion.

"No one would be there without that passion," Georgiadis says.

"I am passionate about the soil and the importance of a fresh, local food system. My key message is that we are living things in a living environment that requires living plants to survive. This provides acres of opportunity to tell stories about how people interact with plants and the landscape.

"All the show's presenters have their own particular bent, which creates a planet of opportunity. The great challenge is finding consistently new angles on the basic principles of nature."

Georgiadis clearly relishes meeting other gardening geeks.

"I love geeks, whether they are into soil or worms, soldier flies, chickens, flowering ornamentals or bush tucker. Each and every one of these categories has a world within it. One of the things that strikes me is that a garden is a reflection of a person, and that is something I really enjoy."

Georgiadis' busy lifestyle means sometimes he falls a bit behind in tending his own patch of earth in Sydney.

"It means I can help give people solutions when time is an issue for them. I have a verge garden where everyone can come up and give a hand and benefit from the produce."

Gardening aside, to celebrate 25 years of facial hair, can he share his top beard-growing tips?

"Compost, eat plenty of kale, don't use harsh cleaners and comb it from time to time."

'I love geeks, whether they are into soil or worms, soldier flies, chickens, flowering ornamentals or bush tucker.'


The West Australian

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