Dahlia trail leads to Jantzen Beach show
Portland is a dahlia destination for growers, hobbyists
For one colorful, heady weekend, the Rose City will become the dahlia city, as growers and enthusiasts flock to Portland for the 46th Annual American Dahlia Society National Show, on Saturday and Sunday, Sept. 1 and 2, at the Red Lion Hotel on the River-Janzten Beach.
The event is significant, says Larry Smith, the vice president of the Portland Dahlia Society, because this is the first time since the 1960s the show has been in Portland, and because it will draw visitors from around the country and the world.
We even have people coming from Australia and the U.K., and they will set a higher bar to bring our dahlias up to. We will see the very, very best blooms, says Laura Oldenkamp, a Clackamas County resident, who is the tour organizer for the national show.
The Pacific Northwest is a kind of dahlia mecca, partly because of optimum growing conditions, Smith says, while Oldenkamp adds that the proximity of two sites in Canby has a lot to do with it as well.
Swan Island Dahlias is the largest dahlia farm in the Western Hemisphere, she says, adding that the Canby business will be celebrating its annual dahlia festival during the national show, and will be one of the stops on the tours she is setting up.
Another stop will be the Canby Trial Garden, where growers can send in hybridized dahlia tubers to see how each variety will develop, before it is given a name.
Other tour sites include The Oregon Garden, in Silverton, three private Portland-area dahlia gardens and Hollyhill Dahlias in Oregon City.
People will see exquisite flowers, and will come away saying, Wow, that was amazing, Oldenkamp adds.
The theme for this years national show is Follow the Oregon Trail of Dahlias, and up to 10,000 individual blooms will be on display, along with 85 floral arrangements built around the theme, Smith says. The event is also a major competition for dahlia growers, who can work their way up a judging ladder, with the ultimate goal of having their floral contribution named Best Bloom, he notes.
Organizers expect more than 500 registrants for the show, and hope that at least 1,000 members of the public will attend.
The show is free, and on Saturday at 4 p.m., presenter Deborah Dietz will teach a workshop called Dahlia 101 How to Grow Dahlias.
So what is it about dahlias that generates so much excitement and loyalty?
For Smith, there is some nostalgia involved, as he recalls helping his grandparents deadhead 100 dahlia plants along their semi-circular driveway.
He estimates that he has about 175 plants in his Southeast Portland yard.
Dahlias are the plants that keep on giving, Smith says. You can have flowers from late June through the first frost, all on the same plant.
Oldenkamps license plate holder says it all: Celebrate diversity grow dahlias.
There is immense diversity they come in so many colors, so many forms and so many sizes, with blossoms from two to 12 inches. There is something out there for everybody.