He faced a tough challenge when taking over the hot seat on Gardening Australia in 2012 – four years after much-loved host Peter Cundall hung up the reins – but Costa Georgiadis has now revealed his predecessor will be “proud” with how the show has progressed since.
Loved for his energetic appearances, huge passion for the outdoors and of course his signature bushy beard, Costa, 55, has managed to overcome initial backlash and win over viewers in recent years – so much so he’s now nominated for the 2019 Gold Logie.
And he’s ensured, while putting his own stamp on the program, he’s honoured Peter’s reputation and work throughout.
Peter, 92, presented his last show in 2008 before continuing to host a weekly radio show until December last year, when he finally announced his full retirement from the limelight.
Speaking in an exclusive chat with Starts at 60, Costa has now revealed he’s kept in touch with the Aussie great over the years and he’s doing well.
“I speak to Peter whenever I go down to Hobart and over the last few years when I’ve been there I’ve sat in on the Saturday morning radio with him,” he revealed.
While Costa said he’s only seen Peter a handful of times during that period, he added: “He’s doing well. He’s only just retired from the radio in his nineties! He just retired last December and up until then he was doing it every Saturday.
“That is a massive commitment and I know what that’s about. I do regular radio and having to go in on time… you can’t just go, ‘Oh I want go in today’, or ‘I didn’t make it, bad luck’. The level of his discipline and commitment and passion… to still be doing it over 90 years old – it is testament to his resolute discipline and heart really. He’s got a heart as big as it gets.”
Costa faced backlash from many viewers when he first took over the hosting role on Gardening Australia, with many still missing Peter’s face on screen – despite him having not appeared for four years by then.
However, he said he dealt with it at the time by focusing on how he hoped to offer something new to the program, to better fit with modern times.
“My approach was, ‘Okay, Peter is a legend, he’s untouchable in his own right’, and I didn’t want to dapple around in that,” Costa explained. “I wanted to say, ‘Wow, let the awe remain but Peter did what he did at that period of time, I need to do what we need to do at this period of time’.
“We need to connect and engage and keep growing the show, we can’t live off where it’s been. When you look at how the show was produced and what it was doing back then, that was relative to then. We now produce a very different show, not in terms of message per se, but in terms of the production and the nature of how it’s put together.”
He joked: “It was like Peter was gone and because I stuck out, they kind of associated me as, ‘Oh my god, look what we’ve got now’!”
Costa has focused ever since on building connections between family, particularly children and their elders, in the hopes of keeping gardening as popular as it was years ago – through all generations.
“Peter and the early presenters started something,” he said. “We just want to make sure that we do it justice but at the same time not hang on to some ideal, we need to get people in 2019 connected… I know I can say that Peter is proud that we are feeding and nursing that show to what it needs, out of today’s fertilisers. We’ve got to feed it what we can today.”
Costa himself was inspired to get into gardening by his grandparents – particularly one of his grandads – and it’s something he insisted he’ll forever be thankful for.
“I was fortunate enough to have it embedded in my life from a young age. The thing I like to share is the importance of remembering that children’s eyes are on us all the time. What we say to them and what we do with them develops their pathways,” he said.
He added: “The connection that I see as one of the most valuable is that between our children and our elders. The garden and the outdoors, and plants and horticulture, all of those spaces are literally stages where grandparents and elders and parents can really engage with kids.
“It doesn’t require going far or signing up for a million and one lessons, the lessons and opportunities are there. Grandparents and aunts and uncles can take kids to Botanic Gardens for walks and to learn things.”
The star is now nominated for a Gold Logie for his long-running career on screen and he insisted he sees it as recognition of the hard work his entire team have put in.
“I think it’s absolutely brilliant for the show to get this recognition because it recognises everything that we do, in terms of the people, we don’t have a show without all the people that come on it,” he added.
Now in their 30th birthday year, Gardening Australia has been nominated for three TV Week Logie awards: Most Popular Lifestyle program, as well as Costa for Most Popular Presenter and The Gold Logie.
Logie voting opens again on Monday, June 24 until 7.30pm on Sunday, June 30. Visit the Gardening Australia website for details or the official TV Week Logies site here to cast your vote.