Piper Creek Trial Garden

The Following article was submitted by Lorne McArthur to introduce the Trial Garden

Trial Gardens are the instrument by which all seed growers use to develop new varieties of seeds to feed the world and beautify our yards. Governments and Departments of Agriculture around the world sponsor seedlings for food trial gardens. Seed companies employ the best geneticists to breed new varieties of plants. The American Dahlia Society, celebrating its 100th Anniversary in 2015, employs the same method.

Members of the ADGS have accepted the challenge of a trial garden for dahlias. The time spent caring for, growing, judging the seedlings, and record keeping will be the result of hours of volunteer work. Alberta Dahlia growers have spent a lot of time and money attending shows and participating in judging courses to become senior certified judges who are members of the much larger American Dahlia Society (ADS). An application for a trial garden has to be submitted to the ADS and once approved, the garden will have a 2 year probation period. This probationary period is standard for all trial gardens.

ADGS members have been growing seedlings for many years. Because of waiting lists, there is a challenge for members to get their seedlings into the US Trial Gardens. Trial Gardens in Canada have come and gone on both the West and East Coasts. Trial gardens have never been on the prairies until now. Our extreme climate in Alberta makes dahlia growing a challenge. We are a hardy bunch of enthusiastic growers, with a goal to grow successful gardens.

We will accommodate hybridizers from across Canada and the US. All growers can submit tubers in their 4th growing season. Originators shall submit 3 tubers of a cultivar along with a picture. Cultivars in Alberta will be started indoors and transplanted after the danger of frost. Directors and volunteers will manage the trial garden. The gardens will be cared for in the same manner as all dahlia gardens. Senior judges will judge the dahlias according to the rules in the ADS Classification Handbook of Dahlias. Three senior judges will judge each entry.

The City of Red Deer has been very supportive and recognizes the endeavors of the ADGS. The garden is open for public viewing during the growing season.

The Piper Creek Trial Garden is located in Red Deer County, at the home of Lorne and Marilyn McArthur. The land location is Range Road 273#3714. Our local people know this location as 40th Ave, south of 19th St., near the City Landfill site. The mailing address is:
Lorne McArthur, RR#3, Red Deer, AB T4N 5E3.

Map to McArthurs

The purpose of our trial garden is to:

  1. Expose different dahlias to our climate.
  2. Increase access for Dahlia Trial entries.
  3. Create more dahlia interest in Canada.
  4. Interest more Canadian growers in hybridizing, with easier access to a Trial Garden.

We have succeeded in achieving our goals! Growers from many different states and provinces have trusted us with their seedlings. Many more Canadian gardeners understand the value of growing good quality dahlias. More Canadians are hybridizing. People are interested in the procedure of saving seeds. Our Canadian hybridizers have much easier access to a trial garden now that we are here.

Piper Creek Trial Garden by Year

We have the only Trial Garden in Canada... How awesome is that!

In order to continue with the Trial Garden we, as a club, have to have at least three senior judges and, in order to have a continuation of judges, we have to have a robust judging program.  Ken Jensen has done an awesome job of maintaining a steady stream of judge candidates, accredited judges, and senior judges through his program.  Not everyone is interested in becoming a judge but it is a benefit even to the hobby grower to know the forms and what constitutes a show bloom.  

Whether you just love growing and looking at dahlias, want to try your hand at hybridizing or work your way into judging,  our club will be there to help you every step of the way.   Many of our members have been growing and showing dahlias and glads for decades. In the summer  we have courses on judging, arranging and showing.  If you come to the trial garden for some of the work bee days you will learn hands-on how to prune and stake the dahlias and well as ask any questions you have.