AS THE WILDFLOWER WHISPERER AND EXPERT IN WA WILDFLOWERS, HOW DID YOU GET STARTED AND WHAT'S IT ABOUT?
My grandmother, Eileen Croxford was a florist who admired the beauty and shapes of wildflowers whilst my mother, Hazel Dempster has spent most of her life conserving WA natives through propagation. After growing up around such dedicated, amateur botanists, I quickly learned the importance of connecting to Country through our native flora.
I realised I have a story to share about adding the magic back into our gardens. After years of working on landscapes for local governments, industry and developers, it became very clear to me what worked for WA native landscapes. Home gardens are simply a smaller version of these larger landscapes.
Every home garden I design is filled with all year round colour using new methods featuring WA wildflowers, all specially selected to suit home gardeners and their lifestyles.
Growing up in Albany watching her mother, Eileen Croxford regularly arrange wildflowers meant that from an early age, Hazel would begin observing all of the joy colour and love those WA wildflowers were bringing to Australians.
Up until around the 1970’s, native wildflowers were primarily grown from seeds. As botanical research was still developing, the natural propagation methods of Australian flora was simply waiting to be unlocked!
After watching her mother collect flowers off her property in Albany, Hazel became curious about how to grow the different varieties available and how to make them accessible for local green thumbs.
Hazel began experimenting growing wildflowers from cuttings (rather than just relying on seeds) and quickly found success in her new methods. Suddenly, species not before found in a nursery were once again being grown locally!
With her new-found methods, Hazel set up the Manjimup Wildflower Society and from there created her own backyard nursery selling exclusively grown natives at affordable prices.
Later the family moved to Perth where Hazel worked for Waldecks and the Wildflower Nursery setting up displays and enticing people to plant more native wildflowers within their garden. Hazel connected thousands of Western Australian gardeners to native flora thanks to her 20+ years working in the retail nursery industry. Over her time in Perth she also continued to volunteer at the Landsdale Wildflower Society for over 10 years.
Although Hazel has now formally retired, she continues to work hard in bringing unique WA wildflowers into the commercial nursery market through her consulting with Western Wildflower Gardens. Her expertise helps inform the growing programs and development of WA wildflowers in our affiliated nursery.
She’s all about encouraging the idea that anyone can do it. To grow natives in your garden or even have a crack at propagating - doesn’t mean you have to be an expert. She simply wants eager green-thumbs to have a go!
A fascination with the wildflowers that grew around her house, near the airport in Albany, led florist Eileen Croxford to teach herself the botanical specifications of much of the south coast regional flora.
She organised the opening of a new Albany Wildflower Society Branch and developed a regional herbarium. Although she had not been formally trained, the rigour of her method of collecting and recording gave the collection a scientific integrity that led to a partnership with the State Herbarium, now coordinated by the Department of Conservation and Land Management (CALM), where more than 7,500 of her collections are now housed.
“I have always had a garden and I had a little business called the Garden Florist over the telephone. When I shifted to the Albany airport in 1961 I had to have a garden there, is I thought I will have a wildflower garden because I can remember the airport before it really was a proper airport and it was just a field of flowers - it was so beautiful. So I used to go over to the back of the airport, very carefully remove little plants and plant them in the beds. They all died, so I decided I had to do it properly: I had to really learn about these flowers so I could grow them, and I started pressing flowers.
Dr John Beard came to the airport one day, and I said to John, “Will you help me with these names?” He helped me a bit and said, “Eileen you must not stop doing this - there are no plans in this government to do any research into the Albany region until 1995. Because you are so interested in wildflowers, how about you convene a meeting to form an Albany branch of the West Australian Wildflower Society”
Well, I did this, not expecting very many people, and nearly 40 people turned up and we went from there. That was 1963”