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.
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.
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.
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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