Due to extreme weather conditions and power outages, The Garden of St Erth & Cloudehill gardens are closed until further notice. We apologise for any inconvenience this may cause.

Due to extreme weather conditions and power outages, The Garden of St Erth & Cloudehill gardens are closed until further notice. We apologise for any inconvenience this may cause.

Two hundred years of hard gardening experience

Clive Blazey talks with Will Ashburner and Frank Broersen

One of Frank Broersen’s tulip fields

We have known each other for half our working lives, so we have lots to talk about over lunch at the Piggery Cafe in the Dandenongs.

Frank Broersen should rightly be called “Mr. Tulip” because he is the tulip grower for most of Australia’s production, even though Tesselaar’s is foremost in the minds of gardeners because of their massively popular Tulip Festival.

Both families are Dutch, and the Dutch dominated the Dandenongs because of its soil, high rainfall and cooler summers that are perfect for the growing of flowers.

Frank started growing tulips at age 7, and he still drives the tractor 62 years later, defying ‘the Almighty’ because he says “all his friends who retired ... died”. That, and the knowledge of a Borneo man who lived to 146, is what drives him on.

With tulips growing in the front garden for all to see, Frank started selling the flowers to passersby for 2 cents per flower. Frank's Dad was too busy to help, but when he came home, Frank proudly handed him $40.

The next year, 6 acres was planted out with tulips, and with the family dressed in Dutch clogs and clothes, the idea for a Tulip Festival was born.

Imported flowers ruin domestic growers:

Over lunch it is revealed that the cut flower industry is having its toughest year because of a flood of imports, and it’s not the growers that have the power to open the market, its the usual culprit — the two supermarkets!

They have cunning ways to screw the suppliers; for example ­— after the first shipment of perishables (fruit or cheese), the second shipment is kept in the warehouse where it deteriorates so the retail price is halved to effect a sale, and that creates the new buy price.

In the 60 years that Frank has been growing tulips there has been a collapse of mail-order nurseries. Gone are Blue Dandenongs, Lakes Nursery and Broersen’s mail order. Norgate’s perennials have ceased, and New Gippsland seeds have slowed down. So aside from The Diggers Club, that leaves Tesselaar, Garden Express and Hancock’s in mail-order.

Hancock’s bulbs in good hands

Will Ashburner with his wife Christine and their children operate the specialist mail-order business of Hancock’s Bulbs at Menzies Creek in the Dandenongs.

Will had plenty of growing experience, having been a Burnley graduate then nursery manager for Little Acre Nursery, before becoming general manager at Diggers where he honed his marketing and business skills and met Frank Broersen to help us with our tulip selections.

The Ashburner’s are the 4th owners of this 100-year-old business that originated in Ballarat. Will grows over 1,000 varieties of daffodils and is continuing the practise of Australian breeders who created new varieties for Australian conditions, such as Alister Clark who bred the rare pink ‘Mabel Taylor’ which helped the gene pool move towards reddish hues.

Call in to chat with Christine or Will at any of the Garden Shows where Hancock’s display and offer their mail-order catalogue. To pick up flowers or to see their spring display (August 25- September 30) drive to 2 Jackson’s Hill Road, Menzies Creek, about 1 hour from Melbourne’s CBD and 20 minutes from Cloudehill in Olinda.


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Stephen Forbes (a Diggers Director) shares his experience as the former Director of the Botanic Gardens of South Australia

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Clive Blazey introduces this secluded getaway, not far from Daylesford and Ballarat

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Owner and garden creator Jeremy Francis takes us through the four seasons at Cloudehill

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Andrew Carrick tells the story of re-establishing lilies in the Adelaide Botanic Gardens

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Julie Willis creates Heronswood’s summer perennial border and explains its subtleties.

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Landscape designer Keith Edwards explains how he designs

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Georgina Reid wonders why we don’t value the natural world

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Stephen Forbes explains the importance of what we can’t see in our gardens

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Clive Blazey introduces the wonders of Singapore's Gardens by the Bay

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Marcelle Swanson visits inner-city fruit grower and author Louis Glowinski

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Clive Blazey discovers a garden where citrus, dates, mangoes, peaches and apples thrive

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Andrew Laidlaw describes how the first Global Garden of Peace is taking shape in Gaza

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Clive Blazey visits the 'world's most romantic garden', the inspirational Ninfa in Italy

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Tommy Garnett, our finest garden writer, describes the redemption of Sissinghurst

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Ines Balint shares a special garden connection and love of food with her family in Serbia

The grandfather of citriculture

Marcelle Swanson talks to world-renowned citrus expert Ian Tolley about his life's opus ‘Commonsense Citrus’

Three up and coming gardeners

Tony Fawcett explains why an outstanding gardener should be on every farmer’s list of go-to gurus

Tim Entwisle's Top 10 Favourite Plants

The Director of Melbourne's Botanic Gardens shares his botany of desire!

Vegie gardening from Alaska to the Sunshine Coast

Kevin Redd doesn’t follow the rules, choosing to experiment with the vegies he loves, no matter what his climate.

Warrior for environmental change

Marcelle Swanson asks Joost Bakker about his philosophies for a sustainable future

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Clive explains how our waste is a symptom of an unsustainable lifestyle

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Lisa Remato visits the inspiring RHS garden at Wisley

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Clive Blazey

Clive is the founder of The Diggers Club, a pioneer in the rescue of heirloom vegetable and fruit varieties and author of seven books on flower, vegetable and fruit gardening.

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