After farewelling John Dengate from the Department of Environment and Climate Change I'm home watching Australia through the eyes of Monty Don.
First to John. According to him, tonight, he started out working for National Parks, telling farmers all about native animals. He spent some time at the Australian Museum, at National Parks and then the Environment Protection Authority. For the last five years he's been with us in the Department of Environment and Conservation and now Department of Environment and Climate Change.
A few years back our voices used to grace the 702AM breakfast show. He was on first, and more regularly, just before the 6.30 am news. I would be on every second week, just after the news and the police report. While I prepared meticulously for my interviews John was able to swing into any topic thrown at him, as he always does.
I've learnt a lot from John and his approach to media interviews - whether it's good news stories or handling those tricky problems that come our way from time to time. As everyone there tonight said, John is a bright, funny and talented individual. We'll miss him a lot.
Now to Monty. He seemed to be after the spirit of Australia. Curiously, I was away in England while he was filming in Sydney, in 2006. I did suggest to his producer that they visit Alice Springs Desert Park, which they did. This may have been a mistake! I fed Monty's desire for a fair dinkum garden...
Although I think the Desert Park is a fantastic 'garden' I get a little tetchy when visitors to the Royal Botanic Gardens in Sydney are looking for red dirt, scrubby banksias and a grass or gum tree. What Monty didn't notice in his visit to Sydney were the hundreds of subtropical trees from New South Wales and Queensland. The Red Cedar, Paperbark, Flindersia, Waterhousia and Kauri, to name a few. We only saw them as unidentified habitat for the Grey-headed Flying-fox - a fascinating animal but one that is unfortunately killing the Australian (and other) trees in the Royal Botanic Gardens.
That aside, Mr Don is fixated with comparing and contrasting gardens with exotic (to us) and Australian trees. What's the problem? Obviously we can enjoy and celebrate plants from around the world (see Interesting and Durable for a few essential caveats to that statement, but as my friend Alistair Hay points out I shouldn't exclude plants that like water). My favourite part of the Royal Botanic Gardens is the Palm Grove, with it's mix of palms from all over the world, tall trees mostly from Australia and nearby islands, and the Clivea borders. In the rain, this subtroical collection is unforgettable.