Costa Georgiadis is a Greek-Australian landscape architect best known for his gardening program on SBS, Costa’s Garden Odyssey. In the lead up to his appearance at Our Living Coast’Sustainable Living Festival, FOCUS chats to Costa about sustainability and his love for plants and people.
Have you always had a green thumb?
I tend to think that there is no such thing as a green thumb. Anyone can grow things; they just need to have a crack and observe what happens … what works, what doesn’t. Then you talk to people, observe what others do, ask questions and then emulate success, and you will be successful yourself. I see it that nature wants to help you when you work with her. Where did your love of plants begin? It began from the moment I could crawl … on my godfather’s farm and in my grandfather’s backyard. Just being on the farm and being in the garden, I was like a little sponge from day one. And it is this observational power of children that draws me to sharing and working with them. Children are downloading and shaping their lives from our actions every second of the day. We are role models in everything we do, and teaching them about growing their health really fuels me. Most people would know you from the SBS series, ‘Costa’s Garden Odyssey’.
What is the concept behind the show?
The concept behind the show was to shed light on the food we eat, how it is grown, who are the wonderful people growing it and tending the soil, the importance of soil and how it supports all life. Gardening the soil and the soul is the one line that would sum up why the show was created. As my grandmother used to say …”Health and happiness; that’s the main thing”. Well, you can’t have happiness without health, and our health comes from the soil that grows our food, our fuel. I love the connections between true health and how simple life can be.
Your background is as a landscape architect, so where do you draw inspiration from when designing a garden?
Inspiration is all around me. Just being alive is generally taken for granted … of course, until sickness rattles us to re-prioritise what we do. So for me, I can find inspiration at any point of my day, looking at the cracks in the pavement where a plant is defying the odds to survive, or absorbing the taste of a home grown tomato that explodes in my mouth like a flavour paradise. It’s not about trends and the style of the moment for me. It’s all about truth and finding what is appropriate to that space and those people and their needs. I may design it, but I do not live in it day to day, so the process requires the next level of integration. Of course, there is nature’s scale of permanence that needs to be respected in terms of climate and rainfall and sunshine etc. but there has to be consideration of the ‘soul’ side too. We need to consider the inner landscape as much as the physical landscape too, and that level of design makes the garden side of things even more inspiring.
These days there is a lot of talk about sustainable lifestyles. What are your thoughts about the balance between your two passions, people and plants?
I think that sustainable lifestyles are about accepting the reality that we live in a closed system. By that, I mean that everything we do, everything we use, comes from a finite planet. Growth can not be the altar to which we worship, because it can not go on and on forever. So for me, the balance is all about putting health of self and health of environment first. When all our decisions on a day to day basis ask, “Is this good for me and my health, or me and the planet’s health?”… then it starts to challenge the mainstream assault of ‘consume and accumulate, because that will make you happy’.
How do you think we can work to achieve a healthy balance between people and the environment?
I think the simplest way to start is by assessing your waste on a daily basis. Carry a bag with you and collect everything you throw out, and you will begin to understand where the accumulation dream is slowly choking our environment, which is our home. Separating rubbish into its resource components is a powerful way to begin to connect to the footprint that our lifestyle has become accustomed to. Changing this and creating accountability is not as difficult as it seems. We just need to start in our own patch and watch it grow from there.
How will you be involved in Our Living Coast Sustainable Living Festival being held on the Coffs Coast?
I’m looking forward to coming up to the Coffs Coast for the week and getting involved with the community across lots of events. From working with local schools, to running workshops on how to grow your health in the garden by building soil are just some of the ways that I will be meeting and working with the Coffs locals. And I can’t wait to get up there and have some fun. It’s got to be fun for me …. when it is fun, then the info and the techniques are easy to replicate and share.
In what ways do you think people will benefit from attending the festival?
I’ll be sharing simple, practical, take home information that will help you to get growing your health in your own backyard, street verge, community garden or even just in a few pots. Feeding the soil to fuel your soul with mineral dense, chemical free produce. That’s just the start … The Coffs Coast has a sub-tropical climate. How can people living here make the most of their gardens in this climate?
Ahh! you Coffs Coasters have such a climate. You can grow almost anything almost year round. Compared to some of the climates I work in, you are able to live in and grow in and with your gardens on a level that you probably take for granted.
Oh yeah, I think I will rattle the fact that you have an awesome climate to play with … Thanks Costa.