Dawson’s as we know it had it’s humble beginnings in 1903, when a partnership was formed between George Russell Dawson and Edward James Harrison. Dawson and Harrison, established their first production nursery in Belmont and plants were originally delivered by horse and cart to businesses and residences around Perth.
Ten years later, Dawson and Harrison, were looking to expand their enterprise and in 1914, purchased the land on which the present Forrestfield Garden Centre stands. The firm’s original Forrestfield block was of 100 acres, much of which has since been developed for housing.
Nursery and orchard planting began in earnest at Forrestfield. In the early years Dawson’s were also a significant fruit producer, with the firm supplying about 25-30 tons, a year, of Satsuma plums for jam making. Extensive cut flower crops were also grown at Forrestfield and the flowers sold through Dawson’s city flower shop and Interflora franchise. Nursery stock production was very different then with most trees, shrubs and roses being grown in the ground and sold as bare rooted plants or lifted and wrapped in sacking. Plants were also grown in terracotta pots or steel tins (there being no plastic pots).
One of the difficulties faced by Dawson’s in the early days was the lack of reliable roads servicing the Forrestfield site. This made the journey into Perth a slow and difficult one. As much of the land was prone to winter flooding, winter journeys were particularly arduous, as Bill Dawson recalled “We had to go through a series of swamps there and the water would come up to the footboards of the car, but it was always alright”.
In the early years, Dawson and Harrison, had a series of stores in the city, the first of which was situated in Central Arcade, opposite the GPO, in what is now Forrest Place. In those days shopping was very centralised, with most people visiting the C.B.D for their major shopping needs.
During the second world war, Dawson’s joined the war effort, by growing extensive vegetable crops for vegetable seed production. To encourage gardeners to grow more vegetables to supplement war time diets, Bill Dawson, wrote “My Victory Garden”, a comprehensive manual for home vegetable production.
George Dawson’s sons, Bill and George, made lasting contributions to WA and Australian horticulture. George Dawson, helped establish the Nurserymen’s Association of WA, serving as the first Secretary and later as National President of the Association.