EXCLUSIVE: Graham Ross & his wife: ‘We’re still so in love!’

Australia’s gardening guru talks family and retirement.
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On a recent weekend planting sweet peas with his 4-year-old grandson Cooper, famed garden guru Graham Ross was reminded of where it all began, sowing the same seeds with his dad 70 years ago at their humble home in Sydney’s south.

It’s a passion that’s never waned, turning Graham into a household name and inspiring him and wife, Sandra, to build a blossoming media and gardening tourism empire.

WATCH BELOW: Graham’s favourite winter plants

Perfect match

Without Sandra by his side, Graham’s career may have not been anywhere near as remarkable – and vice versa.

The couple worked alongside each other on Better Homes and Gardens and have been presenting their successful Garden Clinic show on 2GB for over 40 years together.

The show almost never made it to air though after management at the radio station refused to pay Sandra for the first six months because they feared it would be a disaster.

“We doubled the numbers in six months,” Graham says. “I think you have to have respect for both people – that’s the reason our marriage has survived in an industry where we are working together totally dependent on each other.”

So, what’s the secret to their happy 53-year union?

“We’ve always respected each other’s opinions,” Graham adds.

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Graham and Sandra celebrate their 53rd wedding anniversary this year. (Credit: New Idea)

First love

Gardening has been in Graham’s life ever since that first memory of planting sweet peas as a preschooler. He even started his career at just 11, working in a local garden centre.

“Sandra and I still work seven days a week,” Graham says, explaining that they begun to build their media empire in 1980 after he was offered a job as a reporter in the newsroom at Channel 7.

“I was a man possessed wanting to do everything. We started our tour company, started our garden club, and started publishing our gardening magazines, all of which are still running and still going nuts,” he says.

Family business

As the pair hit the age when many think of retirement, they are still working harder than ever with son Kent overseeing Ross Garden Tours, which has taken 90,000 people all around Australia and overseas, and their media commitments.

When they occasionally have a day off, they enjoy their beautiful, large garden in northern Sydney, where they enlist the help of Cooper, son of Kent, and daughter Linda’s two children, Melaleuca, 14, and Flinders, 10, when they visit from the NSW North Coast.

“I hope I’ve made gardening cool again,” Graham says.

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Graham is happiest in the garden with Sandra, son Kent, daughter-in-law Katharina and little Cooper. (Credit: New Idea)

Community spirit

Away from the garden, Graham has always strived to make his community better by being a people’s champion and giving talks and presentations to educate the young and the old about the benefits of being in the great outdoors.

He has a special connection with teenagers because he’s helped thousands get into the industry through the Australian Gardening Council which he set up in 2015 to encourage high school students to get into gardening and horticulture.

We can all thank Graham for gardening centres being kept open during the strict lockdowns caused by the pandemic after he successfully argued that the eight million Aussies who garden needed it for their mental health and wellbeing.

“They might be housewives, plumbers, doctors, lawyers, all sorts of people … and I get into their heads,” he says, explaining that he asked the minister for agriculture to include garden centres in the list of essential services on his 2GB radio show.

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Graham shares his passion for the outdoors with the next generation of his family. (Credit: New Idea)

Fresh take

While he appears to be onto a winning formula, Graham doesn’t live by the “if it isn’t broke, don’t fix it” mantra.

“I always, always try and remain relevant to the audience, and I think that’s really critical,” he says.

“Some of the people in the television gardening game haven’t reinvented themselves – but I think occasionally you have to refresh yourself. You have to appeal to all sorts of people at different times.”

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