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Last updated 13/12/2009

My Chrysanthemum Story by Doris Joyce 

Here goes with my story.....

Looking for a challenge
I am well in my 70's and always been a gardener. I did the usual things that everyone does - keep the garden nice, grow tomato's, beans etc. but like a lot of mature people I became bored with doing the same thing every year and I needed something challenging to do. My Father used to grow Chrysanthemums when I was a small child and I could still remember the beautiful blooms he handled with so much love and care. He used to show them but I have never seen any pictures of anything he grew. 

I always used to buy my blooms from the florist and would pay around £1.50 for each bloom. I thought if my Father could do it why can't I?

I asked the N.C.S. for help
I started to look around the garden centres for cuttings but could never find any so I rang the National Chrysanthemum Society and asked if they could help me find some. They put me in touch with Frank Charlton who told me I had left it too late to buy cuttings (it was about April) but he would send me what he had.

Another request for assistance
When the cuttings came I hadn't a clue what to do with them. Did they still require heat, or could I put them straight into a pot, anyway I just got some multi purpose compost and put them straight into a large pot. I thought they are large plants so they need large pots. As I said I hadn't a clue about growing them so I decided to put a message on the N.C.S. message board on the 13th May 2008 asking if anyone could help me.

My request answered 
I received a reply back from Ivor Mace who said he would give me any help I needed. I had no idea who this man was I had never been interested in Chrysanths until now so names meant nothing to me. I accepted his generous offer and told him about myself.  My age, the area where I lived and what I cuttings I had bought. His first thing he did was to find out for me where my local Chrysanthemum Society was in Doncaster and contacted the secretary Barry Hogg there for me who invited me to go along to the next meeting which was in June.

Ivor Mace

As you can imagine there were so many questions I needed answering to know more about Chrysanthemums. I did obtain books to read and looked information up on the internet but half the words I was reading was like studying a foreign language to me. I didn't know what a lateral was or the difference between an incurve and intermediate. I didn't even know there were early varieties and late ones.

Endless questions
At first I didn't like keep emailing Ivor Mace. At this time Ivor was still working and every time I sent an email I would remember something else I should have asked  before and felt  very guilty every time I sent another message sometimes there were as many as 8 or 9 at a time. Ivor soon put my mind at rest and told me to ask whatever I wanted at any time. He started to teach me how the plant system worked with watering so that I wouldn't over water the cuttings I had bought. He was starting from the very bottom with me and he knew it. I can't tell anyone how much patience he has when he is teaching someone .The months went by and as I had purchased my cutting very late and put them into the wrong pots to start with the plants grew and flowered but as you can imagine were just blooms to put in my vase.

At least Ivor had got me through the feeding stage and I felt as if he had dragged me to this point but at least I had something to put in a vase. I continued to attend the monthly meetings at Doncaster and then the question came what were STOOLS. To me a stool was to sit on. The questions Ivor Mace had to answer were unbelievable. I wanted to know so much and I was so desperate to learn more and more. He never once complained but always put me at ease by saying "ask what you want and I will help".

Barry Hogg

I wanted to learn even more
I studied anything I could to try and understand how and what these plants need to make a good bloom although it is a hard subject to understand, and by this time I had looked on the internet and found a lot of names and who they were. Names like Ivor Mace, Paul Barlow, John Peace just to name a few, and I saw the pictures on Paul’s web site of the shows and the size and perfection of these lovely blooms. I wanted to learn more than ever how to grow blooms like these.

Ivor on hand yet again
The time had arrived for taking cuttings and I had been practicing rooting my own plants but without any success, I realised once again I was over watering the cuttings and they were just rotting. Once again Ivor was bombarded with questions.

The new season came and Ivor very generously sent me new cuttings which he himself had rooted. Now the teaching really started. I learned how to mix my own compost and what size pots to start them off in, how long to leave them before they needed re-potting and step by step I was taught every week what the next stage I my plants should be at.

Ivor asked me to send pictures at regular intervals so that he could keep a check on how they were doing and he in turn sent me pictures of his so that I could compare and if I needed to do anything different he would advise me what to do. What a challenge he had taken on with me! I wanted to show my blooms but more than that I wanted to WIN.

My first show at Markham Grange
The first show came up and it was at Markham Grange at Doncaster. I entered my very first show and was very nervous I didn't know I had to dress every bloom let alone know how to do it. Ivor Mace had explained to me how to make my transporter to carry the blooms to the show and Barry Hogg had given me a demonstration at the meeting, but dressing a flower had never occurred to me. I thought they grew like that. 

Me and my winning vases at Markham Grange

I didn't know what to do and Ivor lived hundreds of miles from me and I had practiced on a Billy Bell I had and had bruised all the petals. When I got to the show I was surprised how helpful everyone was. Barry Hogg showed me how to place the blooms into the vase and how to dress each bloom. I met John and Allyson Peace who were more than willing to give me little tips on how to do things. I felt more relaxed knowing everyone was so helpful and I was not alone. I won a first prize and a second prize but also won the best in show for the novice section.

Rotherham – ambitions achieved!
The following week I entered The Rotherham Show 2009 and I am pleased to say I didn't need any help. I won 2 first prizes with my blooms. I had achieved what I set out to do.

My thanks to Ivor
I would like to thank everybody who helped me, in particular Ivor Mace for all his patience and sharing the knowledge he has acquired over all the years and for making me a winner in just one year - he is a brilliant teacher. 

I would like to let others know who fancy growing Chrysanthemums but are afraid to have a go - JUST GO FOR IT! There are lots of people who will help you.
My Regards, 

For the concluding part of my Chrysanthemum Story 2009 click here => Part two

The Lord Mayor of Rotherham presented the trophies to the winners 
but I had my picture taken with him anyway!

 My blooms in 2009








 Novice Class


 Blooms at Rotherham Show



Chatting with John Peace at Markham Grange - bringing chrysanthemums to life!
© Copyright 2002 Paul Barlow.