What's in a name?
The name ‘Diggers’ was dreamt up by Penny’s sister, Henny Hiscock, and combines the grass-roots concept of a gardener digging the soil with significant moments in history.
In 1649, Gerrard Winstanley (pictured) led an English agrarian group known as the ‘Diggers’, who grew vegetables on common land in Surrey until dispersed by force. They believed land should be made available to the very poor to help combat the unprecedented height of food prices.
During the Australian gold rush in the 1850s, the ‘Diggers’ united to oppose unfair taxes at the Eureka Stockade. To be called a Digger was to describe a subversive mate who shared the common cause. During WWI, Australian troops also became known as ‘Diggers’ and embodied the qualities of endurance, courage, ingenuity, good humour and mateship.
40 years of helping Australian gardeners
A four-page advertisement in the July 1978 issue of Your Garden magazine is hugely successful, offering two free packets of seed with $5 per year memberships. The Diggers Club begins with a mail-order catalogue and a staff of four, with Clive and Penny Blazey despatching seeds from a tin shed in Albert Park.
Who wants a commonplace garden? Diggers initiates a revival in cottage gardening.
Roses, potted perennials and bulbs are added to the mail-order catalogue.
Clive and Penny Blazey purchase the 31/2 acre historic 1860s property of Heronswood in Dromana, and Diggers evolves from a seed merchant to advanced gardener.
The vegetable parterre is created at Heronswood, inspiring gardeners to create beautiful vegie gardens featuring three seasonal sowings a year of vegetables and companion plants.
Heronswood and The Diggers Club get our first national recognition when they feature our cottage garden in a Vogue Living article titled ‘Seeds of Success’
Heronswood features in the inaugural Victorian Open Garden Scheme.
We pioneer the promotion of drought-tolerant plants to suit Australian conditions
Trials, research, promotion and seed production of heirloom vegetables begins at Heritage Farm, Seymour.
The first tomato taste test is held at Heronswood following a trial of 112 varieties, which leads to the beginning of the heirloom seed movement and partnership with Seed Savers Exchange in USA. Annual Heirloom taste tests are a regular feature at Diggers to this day.
The first Diggers book Guide to Gardening Success is published. In the years since, Diggers has published a further seven books, selling well over 200,000 copies
The Garden of St Erth in Blackwood is purchased from the Garnett family, ensuring their legacy and establishing a Diggers ‘garden in the goldfields’ to feature cool-climate selections.
Monsanto introduces suicide seeds which fires up members from our first editorial transitioning the catalogue to the Diggers ‘magazine’ and our focus on big picture stories connected to gardening. Our mail-order catalogue expands to five magazines per year.
Vegetable Garden is
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trials comparing yield,
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The mini plot which is established at Heronswood, shows gardeners how to grow enough vegetables for a year in a small space. Australian Heat and Cold Zone maps are launched. These maps are continually reviewed and refined and provide vital information to gardeners around Australia.
The Diggers Safe Seed Pledge is created. This features in every Heirloom Seed Annual and can be seen painted on the wall in the Heronswood shop
Diggers plant selections focus on drought-tolerance and 70% of our list are one-drip plants.
The Diggers range introduces heirloom fruit, subtropicals such as avocados, the best tasting strawberries, cane berries and garlic. The Australian Fruit and Vegetable Garden book becomes a best-selling Australian title.
The Diggers Preservation Garden opens at a 20-acre property in Dromana, housing our production nursery, seed trials and head office. We work to combat climate change through gardening.
The Diggers education program begins. Workshops, masterclasses and special events are regularly held at Diggers locations and major centres around Australia.
Bunnings begins distributing Diggers heirloom vegetable seedlings.
Our third retail store opens in the Adelaide Botanic Garden. The Blazey family gift ownership of The Diggers Club, Heronswood, The Diggers Preservation Garden and The Garden of St Erth to The Diggers Foundation.
In 2012, we received a Food Legend award from the Melbourne Food and Wine Festival. Diggers has received several awards for its work in seed preservation, including a Sustainability award (2014) from The Age, and the Silver Gum award (2017) from the Australian Institute of Horticulture. Heronswood and St Erth gardens receive Australian Organic Certification
Our fourth retail shop opens at Cloudehill in Olinda. Fire destroys the thatched roof cottage at Heronswood, taking with it 20,000 garden slides and a great deal of Diggers history. Following a record-breaking heatwave of four days over 40°C, our summer border thrived. Clive’s seventh book is published
A Diggers seed shop opens at Heritage Nursery in Canberra. By 2018, we’ve published over 210 issues of our magazine!
The 1860s drop-slab cottage is restored and opens as Gallery Heronswood – an introduction to the world of flowers, pollination and seeds. Australian heirloom seeds are featured with the re-introduction of Frank’s Pea (1853 origin), a gift from a Diggers member.