Working With Winners

Who would have thought that Auntie’s long-running, bargain-basement gardening show would outlive and outperform the ‘Burke’s Backyard’ tv show and thrive as the ‘Sydney in Bloom’ expo folded?

Drought has so far claimed over 11,000 jobs in horticulture in NSW alone. A water state of emergency has been declared in SE Qld. Petrol prices and interest rates are rising and discretionary spending by consumers is declining.

Is there a drought, or is it just a drought of leadership?

Who can you trust?

Auntie – still laying golden eggs
The ABC has made some successful choices in its public-private partnerships. The results are its information-based ‘products’ like:

* ‘Gardening Australia Magazine’ (FPC Living);
* ‘Gardening Australia Expos’ in Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne (Expertise Events);

All boosted by ever-rising TV audiences, readers, listeners – and especially its rising number of viewers of Australia’s ONLY national television gardening show.

A show that inspires through sound, safe, affordable, practical gardening information.

Limp rhubarb ‘Expo’-sed
Sinbloom (Sydney in Bloom) withered in the manicured hands of commercial tv. All those stretch-limo chauffeured arrivals, white teeth and buffed bods just proved that landscape style is no substitute for gardening substance. Sinbloom was as much practical use as a limp stem of rhubarb.

Ask it, spank it
I love debate and creative tension.

I’m looking forward to Elwyn Swane making good her personal warning to me (Sydney, yesterday) that she’s going to give me a public spanking for my “too comfortable relationship” with WWF-Australia and their weed policy.

Go on Elwyn spank me good – thanks to my neo-Nazi English schooling I enjoy public beatings and humiliation as much as my other school mates. I look forward to your opinion piece in next month’s Australian Horticulture. We’ll all benefit. Without doubt there can be no debate, and without debate horticulture will be as useless as the Liberal-National-Labor Coalition in Canberra.

I admire and respect Elwyn, the antipodean equivalent of my Great Aunt Vera Coleby. While being warned I was on bended knee, kissing Elwyn’s hand, next to The Ask It Solve stage.
Spank me good! – ahem – I digress…

Breaking the cycle of reinfection
Commercial gardening junkies pour scorn on Auntie, finding safe havens even in otherwise respected industry publications like ‘Australian Horticulture’ (Aust Hort is the horticultural industry magazine).

Reading back one little column in Aust Hort called ‘Cutting Edge’ reveals its authors’ own mildewed state of thinking.

Sad and slightly snide comments – sugar-coated as professional opinion – about Auntie’s evolving expo successes have just focussed on that columns’ own disease-prone limitations.

Dear Helen, organic propagators know when fungi attack cuttings you break the cycle of reinfection by sealing infected material in a plastic bag and you put it in the garbage, not on the compost heap. How prompt you are really determines how far the disease spreads.

Let’s hope ‘Landscape Outlook’ (the landscape industry’s magazine) thrives. It’s witty, thought-provoking, informative, professional and from the heart. No mould there…

Three wheels on my wagon
But Auntie’s still rolling along…

Crippling annual federal government cutbacks to ABC funding – our only national television network – have left ABC with unfilled vacancies and increased workloads, yet the loyalty and professionalism they display continues inspire an army of volunteers and fans.

Volunteers came to Homebush from country Australia to help stage last weekend’s Gardening Australia Expo for free. And fans flew over from every state and territory to see the team explain how easy it is to garden well and without poisons.

Four wheels on their wagon
Permaculture North – a Sydney-based community organisation – launched its mobile classroom to take the message Australia-wide about how we can thrive and survive in the 21st century.

Brats, tanks and thanks
Last weekend I told anyone who would listen that gardeners are powerful and politicians and bureaucrats are followers not leaders. I implored them to treat politicians like spoiled brats – you use the stick and the carrot to manage them. Politicians can only behave like spoiled brats for as long as we parents tolerate our unruly progeny.

Without horticulture and agriculture there would be no society. The phony war on terror and the oil wars will not make Australia more secure. National security depends on full bellies, self-sufficiency in food, fertile, healthy soil, rainwater tanks, recycled sewage, solar panels, organic food and well paid Australian-run, Australian-owned farms.

My sincere thanks go to the ABC, to Expertise Events and those volunteers who brought and inspired the friendliest and most passionate gardening mob ever to Homebush last weekend: a public-commercial partnership we can trust.

We really should do the ACT, but next comes Melbourne!

Jerry Coleby-Williams
28th August 2006