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
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.