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Gardening guru Peter Cundall dies aged 94


Gardening guru Peter Cundall signed off in 2008 after spending 39 years sharing his passion on television, and has died at his adopted home of Tasmania aged 94.

The long-time host of ABC Television program Gardening Australia, Cundall was a self-taught gardener who helped countless Australians design and grow their gardens.

His family said he passed away peacefully on Sunday after a short illness.

“While he was loved by many, as per Peter’s wishes, there will be a private cremation and no memorial services will be held,” a family statement said.

His family requested that no images of Cundall be published with the announcement of his death.

Cundall was born to an impoverished family in Manchester, England, on 1 April 1927 and left school aged 12.

His love of horticulture started early and he learned pruning techniques, propagation, planting and heated greenhouse management.

Cundall also taught himself paving techniques, mainly using second-hand materials wheeled from derelict buildings in an old pram.

After working as a milk boy and a tram conductor, Cundall joined the British Army near the end of World War ll and was stationed across Europe and in the Middle East.

He arrived in Australia as a member of the Australian Army in 1950, but was promptly posted to Japan during the Korean War, where he continued to learn his craft.

The tireless green finger embraced the opportunity to study Japanese garden design and rock garden construction.

On his return home he began his own garden design and construction business in Tasmania, specialising in large landscaping projects.

Cundall began his long media career in 1967, launching one of the world’s first gardening talkback programs for a Launceston radio station and writing articles for newspapers and magazines.

His association with the ABC began in 1969, when he launched a weekly television program first called It’s Growing, then Landscape, before settling on its long-time title of Gardening Australia.

Cundall was awarded a Churchill Fellowship in 1974, which he used to study garden design and organic gardening around the world, and how gardening programs were made for differing climatic conditions.

Cundall’s passion for gardening saw him named a Member (AM) of the Order of Australia in the 2007 Australia Day honours.

After he retired from Gardening Australia in 2008, he told AAP he maintained his robust good health through his life was a direct result of his love of the outdoors.

“I put it down to physical work, doing things in the garden, not sitting on your backside, growing healthy food and eating healthy food,” he said.

The father of six lived in Tasmania’s Tamar Valley and was also recognised for his services to the environment, particularly the protection of wilderness areas in the island state.

In 2006, Cundall was named the Australian Humanist of the Year while in 2005 he was named Tasmanian Senior Australian of the Year.

Politically active throughout his career, Cundall protested against Australia’s participation in the Iraq war in 2003 and was arrested in November 2009 for failing to comply with police directions while protesting against a proposed pulp mill near his home, for which he was found guilty and ordered to pay court costs of $47.

Outside court, Cundall expressed his disappointment at being found guilty.

“We didn’t feel that we broke the law. We didn’t feel that we did anything wrong,” he said, flanked by supporters.

In 2011 Cundall was one of a group of eminent Australians who signed an open letter calling for a carbon tax in Australia to combat climate change.

His many fans will remember him for his trademark sign-off which now seems even more poignant: “… and that’s your bloomin’ lot!” 


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