Interview with Teena Crawford
We get inspirational tips and chat with Horticulturalist, Teena Crawford about her journey in the Horticulture industry.
What drew you to horticulture initially?
I started working in horticulture when I was not much more than 5. My family (parents and grandparents) had a nursery specialising in Azaleas. They sold mostly wholesale but also retail. The nursery was out the back door. It was ‘mono-cropping’ so the work was very seasonal. As on a farm, ‘all hands-on deck’ during the busy periods.
As a young girl, with my siblings, we were deployed to label (cardboard labels with string) and clean thousands of five-inch pots of Azaleas ready for despatch.
I must have been small as we used to sit comfortably on the label tins (old metal gun ammunition boxes the size of a shoe box). Other jobs included stripping flowers off growing crops and collecting up leftover pots, empty the plants and soil and stacking for reuse.
What pathway did you take to get there?
At high school I was aiming to be an actuary or statistician but during work experience in an office realised plants were my thing!
I enrolled in Burnley College which was still under the Department of Agriculture for three years. The curriculum was very different to today. We started university in late January and finished mid-December. There were more than 30 contact hours per week for lectures and tutorials etc plus we all had a plot to attend to for growing vegetables and flowers -this was assessed as part of the course.
After graduating I went to work full-time for my family’s business, Huntingdale Nursery.
What obstacles have you encountered along the way?
In the 1980’s there were very few females in the industry who held senior positions. The industry was very ‘male dominated’!
Having children, presented other challenges as there was no such thing as maternity leave etc.
Horticulture can be physically demanding. As a female I was generally not as strong as my male colleagues.
Who were your mentors?
There have been many mentors but there are a couple particularly notable:
Rick Eckersley. My boss (owner of Smith and Gordon nursery with his brother Ross) taught me a huge amount about garden design, style and life.
Barry Teese, a dear friend, and customer taught me about business, informally, over many conversations, meetings, and nursery visits.
Greg Moore, an inspirational lecturer, from my university days at Burnley. He taught me about the wonders of Natural World and inspired me to learn every day of my horticultural career. I am still learning every day, even after decades in the industry.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
Still learning more about plants, gardens and the environment.
What is your favourite plant?
I cannot answer this question. I have many favourites. My favourites vary depending on how I feel, and what I see. I am particularly fond of fragrance in the garden but believe some of the best plants stimulate all your senses- sight, smell, hear, touch and taste!
I love Australian flora. If I was left on this earth with only one plant, it would be a gum tree!
If I had to name my favourite it would be Luculia grandiflora. Amazing evergreen foliage, colouring in Autumn in response to the shortening days and cold mornings, and bearing large heads of fragrant white flowers from Summer to late Autumn. Picks beautifully to enjoy in a vase indoors too.
What are your 3 most worthwhile tips?
Always have an open mind to learn.
Grasp all opportunities.
Take time to ‘smell the roses’ (take time to enjoy plants and gardens)
What are your 3 loves about the industry we work in?
Plants. The diversity of plants is truly amazing.
We are truly in the environment business, helping to make a ‘greener’ world for all.