Interview with New Zealand Grower - Ashley Booth
National Chrysanthemum Society has a number of growers who have
produced show blooms of quality.
the aim of the Society is: “To promote the cultivation of the
chrysanthemum ...”, what better way to do this than gather the
knowledge and wisdom of these growers and shape it for the
enlightenment of others?
that each grower would respond to the same questions meant preparing
questionnaire. Initially, some selected North Island growers have
agreed to participate in this exercise and we take pleasure in
publishing the first under the heading – ‘Feature Growers’.
downloaded from the Internet are fine for general directions but if the
smaller street names are illegible you’re in trouble, and indeed I was,
trying to find Ashley Booth in unfamiliar Hamilton. After fifteen minutes
of frustration and mis-direction, a sense of proximity prevailed and
Kensington Place was reached.
was found in his shed out the back. This is a relatively small timber and
iron-roofed affair lit by a small window. After ducking under one of two
grape vines that wrap its exterior, on entering the gloom within, the
first sensory response is the smell of garden sprays, but as the eye
adjusts, the ordered clutter of chrysanthemum growing paraphernalia
prevailed revealing Ashley seated beside his work bench pondering the
sheet of questions previously posted.
prompted you to grow chrysanthemums and when did you start?
started’ is easy”, said Ashley, “1959”.
first lived in Wanganui with lots of garden space, had seen chrysanthemums
and had an aunt who grew them, so he bought some young plants, shoved them
in and waited ... no results! The man in the nearby BP station suggested
joining the local Chrysanthemum Club, which he did and secured his first
‘Large’ plants at a demonstration
day. This time, success! Growing continued after a move to Masterton, and
then subsequently in Hamilton.
do you see as your level of success?
New Zealand level”, supported by the hard evidence of having won the
twelve vase Large Exhibition class 20 times, and been Champion of
Champions over 18 times. Ashley emphasised that success has also to be
seen in actively promoting growing and helping other growers, which has
extended to management at both local level with the Waikato Chrysanthemum
Society and at National level where he has been for many years on the
Management Committee including being its chairman.
is a Life Member of the NZNCS, and the Waikato Chrysanthemum Society.
Ashley was pivotal in the production of the first ‘Stopping Chart’ in
New Zealand. Firstly in Wanganui, then in Masterton, and further developed
with other growers in Hamilton. He is also convenor of the National
Classification Committee. Ashley was awarded the Queen’s Service medal
in 2006 for his contributions to Chrysanthemum growing in New
you grow on your own or with a partner?
an own grower.” Mrs Booth is supportive especially at show times but has
no ‘hands on’ role.
are your growing routines?
started growing in beds, successfully making up my own mix of soil,
compost sand and fertiliser, then shifted to pots. In Hamilton, I use
Daltons mix (bark-based with 9 month, slow release fertiliser), bought in
bulk.” It is more expensive but saves a lot of hard work and time, and
there is no time spent weeding as the pot mix is weed free.”
May-June old plants are cut back to about 20cms, and the new ground shoots
low to ground level.
should be about 8cms long, cut or snapped off just below a leaf node.
These are taken from the ground shoots only. “Avoid taking cuttings from
long shoots - let shoots start in June - July, so you can take cuttings in
late August through to September.” (Look at the Waikato ‘Stopping
Guide’.) Cuttings need to be clear of aphids, gall midge, chrysanthemum
rust, and white rust. Strike these in pumice sand or cutting mix with base
heat in bright shade. Use a general purpose fungicide to combat losses
through ‘rot’. After four weeks, well rooted plants are on hand for
potting. In a good location, base heat may not be required.
plants are placed in 15cm pots filled with Daltons mix and grown on for
about 4 weeks. The next shift is straight into final ‘pots’ which are
PB 28 and PB 40 (black plastic bags of Daltons pot mix) . No additional
fertiliser is added. If buckets are used, the smaller volume might need
extra feeding. These pots are set out in beds which are covered in
the second or third week of January, a medium handful of 5: 5:5 garden
fertiliser is added to the top of the existing mix, then more mix is added
on top of this again. Compost could be used to ‘top up’. Care needs to
be taken not to over feed cultivars liable to dampen off at
cultivars are normally stopped twice, once in December and again in
January. Many of the Large Exhibition are only stopped once – this
varies according to type and locality. For the keen exhibitor, some
cultivars can be stopped the first time, and then let go to a ‘natural
break’ as the second stop. This gives options for selecting the bud on
the right date. Again, some cultivars of Large Exhibition seem to produce
a better flower that way.” Reference should be made to the Stopping
Guide, or your own or others’ records.
little as possible!”
aphids - Confidor (especially for the Black Melon Aphid);
fungus - Captan (or Alto for White Rust);
caterpillars - Pyrethrum or Carbaryl;
mites - Omite applied early in the New Year.
is difficult to get - Verdex which contains abamectin, also sold as Avid,
is available and very effective - D O.]
Staking and Covering
cultivars need support. Staking can also help to develop evenly. “It
is vital to keep the stalk straight after selecting the bud and maintain
flower development evenly on the upright stalk.”
are selected on the basis of straightness of stem and bloom to stem, along
with the other factors of form, freshness, size and colour. Cardboard or
foam collars are often put under singles or anemone centred and some
fantasies from a couple of weeks
picking, up until arriving at the show. This keeps the guard petals from
Getting the Bloom to the Show
has their own particular way of solving this problem. I have several
systems involving metal ‘tubes’ spaced along strips on timber the size
being matched to the car. There’s nothing wrong with lining an oversized
bucket with ‘foam’ padding, then spiralling
padding (inwards) along with the blooms until filled – this works well
with Decs and Anemones.” Most large exhibition need to be supported
tight up the stem with an attached wire.
leaving for the venue, plan which blooms go in each entry.” “Do
a final check at the show and take out any damaged or bad petals, and any
End of Season
plants are culled. The remaining plants are then cut down and stock is
sprayed if necessary. Plants are kept in their ‘bags’ in open shade.
If Wintered under cover, there is a risk of Western Flower Thrip which was
very bad a few years ago.”
range grown from Classification List Sections?
grow many cultivars, about 160 plants in total, but the emphasis is on
Large Exhibition - with Medium Exhibition, and Exhibition Incurved. I also
have Intermediate Decs, and a few Singles, Anemone Centred and Fantasies -
I don’t grow Reflex Decs, but have a range of Intermediate Decs.”
are your preferred cultivars?
a few!” The Dukes (Duke of Kent),
Bill Bye, Primrose and Jessie Habgood,
Woolman, Bill Fitton, Pamela Vestry, Ivor Mace, Silver Gigantic,
Kitcheners, Connie Mayhew, Pat Brophy, Primrose Supreme, Kay Woolman,
Oporto, Seaton’s Flirt, Dorridge Snowball, Yellow John Hughes,
Pontardulais, and Stockton, The Armguards, Jan Wardle, Promenade, the
Resilients, and Star Prize, Alexis and sports, Glad Eye, Bendigo, Old
Bill, Wind Chimes, and Stoakes Shannon, Edith Mechen, Carillion, and
Vibrant as a late cut flower (June/July) for the house.
you experiment with growing techniques and if so,
in what ways
has been essential to keep all detailed records to help with improving
growing techniques and performance. I have done this for 48 years and
still refer back to earlier years - there’s too much to commit to
Woolman - by restricting the size of the pot and fertiliser application;
along with a very early stop, then a natural break for the second stop;
using natural second breaks on Mark Woolman, Bill Bye, Yellow Phil
Houghton and others.
what has succeeded?
cuttings are looking as though they’re coming too early, I take the
cuttings at the right stage, put them in named plastic bags and keep them
in the fridge from 7 to 21 days before they are due to go into the
striking mix. I have done this with the Dukes, Bill Bye, Connie Mayhew,
Kay Woolman, Yellow John Hughes, and Bendigo.”
mixes - variations on the UK mixes; using bricks to provide good drainage
under the pots.”
black plastic bags PB 40’s and 28’s with Daltons pot mix each year to
prevent build up of pests and diseases (as can happen in permanent beds).
of fans to keep air movement during humid and wet conditions.” (Inside
the chrysanthemum ‘house’).
plants outside to avoid Western Flower Thrip.
under-covers of light cloth below the roof and just above the flower-head
to reduce damping.
of Nova roof instead of plastic on frames.
of white plastic on top half of side frames to avoid pinking off due to
what has failed?
pea metal under pots and on top of bricks;
varying amount of soil and pot mix to prevent over-feeding of Mark
Woolmans – no difference!;
not found any benefits from folia or liquid ground feeding.”
you explain what has maintained your interest in growing?
thoroughly enjoy the challenge – used to work doing things with plants
in Agriculture, so growing chrysanthemums runs parallel to this; plus
involvement with other growers around New Zealand; I like the competitive
nature of the activity; ... and the opportunity to contribute at both
local and national levels.”
are the further challenges that you see as a grower?
to achieve a higher proportion of top flowers!
up the quality as age starts to catch up with me and try to hand on my
knowledge to others to carry on.”
there any books/publications/web sites that you would recommend to
in New Zealand, compiled by the late Henry Angelini of Pahiatua, for the
NZ National Chrysanthemum Society, and published in 1973.
NZNCS Newsletters and Year Books.
publications from the Society dealing with many aspects of growing and
showing chrysanthemums. (Some are still available from NZNCS.)
National Chrysanthemum Society of Great Britain have many excellent
I departed, with concise instructions on how to return to the main road
north, I sensed that Ashley was quietly relieved that ‘question time’
had finished and he could return to the serious matter of keeping the
blooms straight on their stalks – he’s not one to trumpet his success
but a knowing hand is very evident in his well-organised growing
Editor, NCS New Zealand
with permission from National Chrysanthemum Society, New Zealand.