The Courier-Mail

Costa is all for growing an audience – and the beard too

- HOLLY BYRNES NATIONAL TV WRITER GARDENING AUSTRALIA, ABC, SATURDAY, 6.30PM

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 tells Switched On, “I don’t have a beard, a beard has me.”

“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 when he took over as host from Peter Cundall four years ago.

“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.”

The criticism was amplified by the inevitable comparison of the two men – Cundall, the cardiganed, fatherly figure who finished every episode with his 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.

“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,” Georgiadis says. “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.”

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