Peter Cundall announces retirement after 50 years of gardening talkback
Peter Cundall first started doing talkback radio about gardening in the late 1960s. (Angela Ross: ABC News)
Saturday mornings will never be the same again for avid gardeners around the world, with Australian gardening guru and media personality, Peter Cundall, announcing his retirement from the radio airwaves.
- The former Gardening Australia host first started taking questions from listeners in the late 1960s
- It was believed to be the first gardening talkback in the world
- Cundall signed off from radio with the lines “remember, old gardeners never die, they just gradually turn into compost!”
After 50 years of answering questions every week about sickly lemon trees, eradicating oxalis and the benefits of converting “useless” lawn into a potato patch, 91-year old Cundall pulled the pin on his radio career.
“I was only thinking the other day, when I first started the talkback in the late 1960s, the people who were then just born, babies that were born on that day, are now 50 years old, and probably got children and grandchildren of their own, and I’ve been broadcasting, non-stop, almost 52 weeks a year ever since,” he said.
“And this is the last program, right, I’m leaving, I’m doing other things.”
Cundall said when travelled to Europe on a Churchill Fellowship in 1974, he was told that his gardening program was ground-breaking.
“That vey first broadcast in Launceston in 1968, believe it or not, was the very first gardening talkback in the world, because it was the first time that anyone had ever tried it,” he said.
Cundall paid tribute to his legions of fans, who listened on radios and digital streams and called in from around the world.
“All those years, as far as I’m concerned, it’s been the most marvellous privilege and such an honour to be able to be in this program.”
Cundall also commended his long-time broadcast partner and host of the ABC Radio Hobart Saturday Breakfast program, Chris Wisbey, describing him as “one of the most kind, decent and amazing bloke(s) to work with.”
“So for me, all I’m saying is goodbye everybody, I will be back very briefly sometime in the new year, and have a talk with Chris, but from now on, that’s the end of my amazing 50 years of radio talkback.”
Eschewing his popular sign-off of “that’s your bloomin’ lot”, Cundall ended the program with:
“Remember, old gardeners never die, they just gradually turn into compost!”
A lifetime love of gardening
Cundall was born in Manchester, in the UK on April 1, 1927, and described his family as “the poorest of the poor”, but despite that said his childhood was “extraordinarily happy”.
He began vegetable gardening as a child, and had a love of “messing about in the dirt”. Cundall left school at the age of 12 working to support his family before being conscripted to the British Army towards the end of World War II.
It was his military experience that eventually helped him migrate to Australia.
Cundall saw an ad in a newspaper looking for volunteers to join the Australian Army to fight in the Korean war.
“It was beautiful [Korea] but I came across this terrible smell. And then I came across the first body and then another body and they were all rotting in the ground,” said Cundall.
After his war service, Cundall moved to Tasmania and started a landscaping and gardening business in Launceston, where his career in radio and TV began.
Cundall enthusiastically hosted the national television program Gardening Australia for years.
He is also known for his passionate environmental activism, protesting against the Franklin Dam in the 70s and 80s and the proposed Tamar Valley pulp mill in 2009.