FACED WITH HAIRY TIME ALL ROUND

His fa­cial hair is al­most as fa­mous as his gar­den­ing skills, but be­yond the ran­dom com­ments about his beard, Costa Ge­or­giadis has had to deal with the in­evitable com­par­isons with pre­de­ces­sor Peter Cun­dall

The Gold Coast Bulletin - Play Magazine - - TV - HOLLY BYRNES

It’s one of the most vex­ing ques­tions con­fronting

Gar­den­ing Aus­tralia host Costa Ge­or­giadis, with his an­swer long po­lar­is­ing ABC au­di­ences.

Not cli­mate change, or the min­ing of prime agri­cul­tural land, but the “habi­tat” he’s been nur­tur­ing for close to 24 years now: whether to man­scape his mag­nif­i­cent beard.

“As has been said,” Ge­or­giadis says, “I don’t have a beard, a beard has me.”

And like his phi­los­o­phy on the nat­u­ral world around him, he’s not into tam­ing the beast but al­low­ing it to flour­ish “like wild na­ture play gar­dens”.

“I’m not a fan of the hedged look, or prun­ing,” he ex­plains.

“When you have a species you need to let it ex­press it­self and my va­ri­ety is what it is.

“I just don’t see my­self with clip­pers and blades, cre­at­ing shapes.

“Topiary, fa­cial topiary is not my go.”

All jokes side, the for­mer SBS pre­sen­ter ad­mits he was shocked by the “bru­tal” per­sonal at­tacks he re­ceived from some view­ers of the ABC pro­gram, the in­stant he took over as host from peren­nial favourite Peter Cun­dall. “When I first started with

Gar­den­ing Aus­tralia it was pretty full-on be­cause it was change and any change is dif­fi­cult to deal with, let alone in a more con­ser­va­tive en­vi­ron­ment where you had this un­kempt feral ... how can our ABC al­low this?” he re­calls.

The beard was the big­gest is­sue: “I know some peo­ple can’t get over it and con­stantly come up and say, ‘please, can’t you just trim it? Can’t you just this, can’t you just that?’ It’s kind of funny. When you move into a public space, sud­denly (the beard) be­comes public as well. I mean, I don’t walk up to peo­ple and say ‘get a nose job’ or ‘geez, you’re pork­ing up a bit there, got a bit of a win­ter coat on, I think you should go and get a per­sonal trainer’. But for those peo­ple who have a prob­lem with it, I don’t have a prob­lem with that and peo­ple can say what they like.”

The crit­i­cism was am­pli­fied by the in­evitable com­par­i­son of the two men – Cun­dall, the cardi­ganed, fa­therly fig­ure who fin­ished ev­ery episode with his cheeky sign-off “that’s your bloomin’ lot for this week;” and Ge­or­giadis, a younger, gre­gar­i­ous Greek-Aus­tralian with the look of a Tas­ma­nian devil and the energy of a thou­sand so­lar pan­els. Ex­pect­ing re­sis­tance to the chang­ing of the guard four years ago, Ge­or­giadis ar­gues the tran­si­tion was not about “a ba­ton change” but grow­ing a new au­di­ence.

“I feel what Peter did was sec­ond to none … he is a leg­end, an icon in his own right. Now, I’ve come on board be­cause we needed to start a new di­a­logue for this au­di­ence and the au­di­ence we want to grow. There’s a younger crowd look­ing for some­thing dif­fer­ent and what we need to do is tell sto­ries with a new an­gle, a new edge. Same stuff but with dif­fer­ent sto­ry­telling and that to me is the most ex­cit­ing part,” he says.

From his first ma­jor pro­ject on the show – es­tab­lish­ing a com­mu­nity gar­den in the verge area along the street where he lives in Bondi – to this week’s spring spe­cial, Ge­or­giadis has be­come an en­thu­si­as­tic ad­vo­cate for what is hot in hor­ti­cul­ture to­day.

He says the rise of re­al­ity TV cook­ing shows is nur­tur­ing a new-found in­ter­est in kitchen gar­dens and the pad­dock-to-plate ap­proach to food pro­duc­tion.

Gar­den­ing Aus­tralia airs 6.30pm, Satur­day on ABC.

I DON’T HAVE A BEARD, A BEARD HAS ME. I'M NOT A FAN OF THE HEDGED LOOK, OR PRUN­ING. FA­CIAL TOPIARY IS NOT MY GO.

En­thu­si­as­tic Gar­den­ing Aus­tralia host Costa Ge­or­giadis with his very im­pres­sive crop of fa­cial hair.

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