When Costa Georgiadis starred as ‘Costa the Garden Gnome’ in Get Grubby TV on ABC Kids he was a big hit.
After all he’s larger than life to adults too. When he makes public appearances at Flower Festivals or to gardening communities, Costa is a magnet to plant lovers of all ages.
So it comes as no surprise that ABC has launched Gardening Australia Junior, a 20 x 11 min series to inspire the next generation of junior green thumbs. In fact filming for the new series was halted numerous times because fans wanted to meet the hirsute host.
Joining him in the latest ABC Kids project are Gardening Australia co-hosts Clarence Slockee, Tammy Huynh and Hannah Moloney. The question perhaps isn’t why we have a kids’ gardening series, but why it’s taken so long?
“It’s sort of something that we’ve had on the grill for a long time,” Costa tells TV Tonight.
“It’s always been something that I wanted from day one. But it’s just a case of getting the ducks to line up with budgets, ideas and things colliding. And finally it’s got wings. We’re all really excited about it.
“I think the timing is right. Families and communities have become closer to their local environments during COVID. I think that’s helped push that consciousness around being in nature and understanding that nature’s not this place out somewhere. We are nature and all our decisions every day, are based around nature. When we start to think like that, then our chance to connect with it sort of seems more logical. I think that’s why this is going to go well, because families are more receptive to it.”
Fittingly, there’s a large swag of junior presenters following an open ABC call-out: Molly Moriarty, Reagan Swao, Matilda Eshman, Marcus Donovan, Luca Lambert, Kiki Wales, Jett Laveta-Iliev, Zsofia Borzak-Bell, Nell Brooks, Enzo Carroll (son of actor Luke Carroll) and Frida Vikstrom (daughter of Hannah Moloney).
“By having the children presenters leads it gives us that chance to sort of illustrate to children that, they can be what they see. They can’t be what they can’t see. So by having all of the different students, or youth presenting, it just is logical,” he explains
“The kids can then see stories coming out of a kid’s mouth.”
Filming took place around Australia, including Tasmania and Western Australia with episode themes including
Smelly Grass Tea, Leafy Art, Magic Seed Pots, Dino Garden, Super Worms, and Flower Tea Party.
“Each episode has a theme and then within that theme, there’s tasks and activities, as a call to action,” he continues.
“There’s Top Tips, there’s Just a Minute where they get a random interview who speaks for a minute about their garden.
“We have little bumper segments in every episode, or every couple of episodes, where people have sent in a video or photo saying ‘These are the carrots that I grew!’
“Seeing kids do that stuff, you know, that’s where the power centre is for me.”
Some already have television experience on commercials, movies, Play School, Faraway Downs, We Interrupt This Broadcast while many are making their television debut. Yet Georgiadis admits for some of the new talent it takes time to find their broadcast feet.
“The series really started to find its place, the further and deeper we got into filming. It’s like anything, they had to have a starting point and I think, yes, you can see that a little bit. But as it goes on, you see the children grow in confidence,” he observes.
“It’s like anything. You’ve got a lot of people with a lot of vested interests, and everyone’s sort of going ‘Try this, do that.’ That’s kind of the way of the world. But it’s got to build its personality and I reckon it didn’t take long.
“The idea is not about me leading it, it’s about them leading it, and them asking and me just dropping in some markers here and there.”
Hopefully the series encourages children, up to primary school age, to become active in their own family gardens.
“Do it with Nanna and Pop, get your parents together, do it with your brothers and sisters. I think that that’s the engine room of it. We’ve got you for 10 minutes, here’s your activities, get out there and get captured by nature’s intelligence and all the activities.Whether it’s building a bug hotel or a butterfly cafe, or whether it’s doing the compost or making a rainbow veggie garden or a pizza herb garden,” he suggests.
“It’s turning familiarity into action through curiosity, and fun.”
Gardening Australia Junior screens 7:05pm Fridays on ABC Kids.