Clive and Penny Blazey, founders of The Diggers Club, gifted ownership of their highly successful family owned business, along with their privately-owned properties Heronswood, The Garden of St Erth and the Diggers Preservation Garden to the Diggers Foundation in 2011.
“We established the Foundation to ensure that the work we’ve done for over 40 years in preserving historic gardens and houses as well as the best garden traditions through education will continue forever,” Clive Blazey said.
“The public’s support has ensured that Diggers has succeeded and grown into Australia’s largest gardening club. The launch of the Diggers Foundation has transitioned the private family-owned business into a not-for-profit garden charity somewhat like the National Trust, but firmly anchored in gardening, education and heritage buildings,” Clive explains.
The Blazeys have long admired the work of the Royal Horticultural Society in the UK and hope that over time the Foundation will grow to be a ‘down under’ version of the RHS. The Royal Horticultural Society is over 200 years old and manages the world’s largest horticultural library and iconic garden events Chelsea and Hampton Court Flower Shows. The Society also runs plant trials and provides garden education at their four historic gardens across England.
Clive Blazey’s visit to the Seed Savers Exchange in Iowa, USA in 1990 was also profoundly influential in crystalising the Diggers’ vision to pioneer the rescue of heirloom seeds in Australia. Diane Ott Whealey and Kent Whealy, founders of Seeds Savers in 1975, established their not-for-profit organisation that aims to conserve and promote America’s culturally diverse but endangered garden and food crop heritage for future generations. As the first Australian company to conduct trials of heirloom varieties of vegetables, Diggers has played an integral role in preserving traditional, open pollinated varieties of flowers, fruit and vegetables that would otherwise be lost forever.
“We wanted to ensure that the things that we’ve championed such as supporting the use of heirloom seeds and sustainable gardening methods and a strong voice against genetically modified and hybridised plants and seeds would continue,” Blazey stated. “We also wanted to make certain that our two organically certified gardens, Heronswood and St Erth, of approximately 2 hectares each would remain intact and always be open to the public. The only way to achieve this was to bequeath the properties and garden business to the Foundation, to be owned by a not-for-profit garden charity,” Blazey explained.
The Diggers Club was established by the Blazeys in 1978 with a view to supplying unusual plants and heirloom seeds by mail order to passionate gardeners around Australia. In 1983 Clive and Penny with their young family moved to the beautiful historic property Heronswood on the Mornington Peninsula to create gardens as a living catalogue of Diggers plants and ideas.
The Diggers Club has grown with membership Australia-wide, teaches gardening masterclasses, runs workshops, publishes books as well as selling plants, seeds and bulbs from their 4 garden shops and via mail order. The gardens supply organic produce to the onsite restaurants and has been the stunning location for Melbourne Food and Wine Festival events, visiting international guest speakers and food industry luminaries such as Stephanie Alexander, Maggie Beer and Rita Erlich.
Clive has received numerous awards and commendations starting from his early involvement with the Australian Open Garden Scheme, Harvest Picnic Foundation, has been inducted as a Legend of the Melbourne Food and Wine Festival and the recipient of the Jaguar Award for Excellence in association with Gourmet Traveller magazine.