Frank Blackwell - Chrysanthemum Flower Grower and Accredited Judge, Australian Chrysanthemum Council

Frank Blackwell
'I was brought up to grow chrysanthemums, both my father and his father grew them.'

Frank, 67, has over 40 years experience growing chrysanthemums, specialising in chrysanthemum growing for exhibitions. His love and skill for flower growing has earned him the title of accredited judge for the Australian Chrysanthemum Council.

With a large acreage of about 850 square metres in his backyard, Frank has plenty of room to grow his chrysanthemums. He grows between 300 and 400 pots each year which usually produces hundreds of blooms to exhibit and for his family to use on Mother's Day.

From the Kokka Etsuzan to the Leons Pride species, growing the official flower for Mother's Day requires attention. Frank laughs as he explains that he plans his holidays around the time his flowers don't need much maintenance. It's certainly a responsibility, especially when you're growing flowers for the annual Western Australia Chrysanthemum Exhibition held in May, just in time for Mother's Day.


How did you get into chrysanthemum growing?

I was brought up to do it, both my father and his father grew them. My father started growing them in Western Australia when he came out from England. There's five of us in the family and four of us had a go at growing chrysanthemums.

What do you love about the chrysanthemum flower?

Chrysanthemums are special because they're the flower for Mother's Day. Mother Nature does a wonderful job with chrysanthemums as they bloom at the same time we celebrate. They even have 'mum' in the name.

How do you become a flower judge?

You have to be nominated by your state horticultural council or society. The actual judging accreditation in Western Australia is done through the Western Australian Horticultural Council. We do a judges accreditation course with the Australian Chrysanthemum Council and the Western Australian Horticultural Council to gain our accreditation. I've been judging chrysanthemums for 12 years now.

How do you judge a good flower?

We judge different types of chrysanthemums   from the big single blooms to lots of little blooms. The big blooms should be spherical and even, with all the petals fitting nicely into place. We judge according to form, substance and texture, colour, size and the flower's condition.

What is a typical year for a chrysanthemum grower?

We exhibit our chrysanthemums in early May. Then we cut our plants back down and keep the snails away. We prefer to grow our chrysanthemums from cuttings because while we can grow chrysanthemums from seed, we can't guarantee that the seeds are going to produce the cultivar we want.

The flower growing process involves growing the tip cuttings from plants until they develop roots. You then plant them into pots or the garden in mid November.

When we grow for exhibitions, we select the stems we want from the base of the main plant from December. The stems have lots of buds on them, but because we only want one bloom at the top, we take away the other buds so the nutrients that we feed the flower create one big beautiful flower.

What happens to the flowers once an exhibition is over?

After the show the flowers form part of a promotional scheme in the Belmont Forum Shopping Centre (where the show is held). Anybody can bid for the flowers at the auction   and of course they're very popular for Mother's Day.

What advice would you give someone considering a career in flower growing?

I used to think that I'd already learnt a fair bit about flowers when I was just 21. Now I'm 67, I begin to wonder, because as I keep growing flowers, I find out something else about chrysanthemums. But that's one of the attractions   you just keep learning.

How can someone get into flower growing for a career?

I advise people to complete the Floriculture stream of TAFE's Horticulture course. With this course you might begin as a flower grower but you can also take your career into landscape gardening.




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