Alberta Dahlia and Glad Society Trial Garden Report November 2022
By Marilyn McArthur, President.
When smaller, well wrapped and addressed packages start arriving for Piper Creek Trial Garden our very thoughtful mailman knows Spring is here and he takes special care to bring these precious deliveries straight inside. Most of our entries do arrive from across the United States of America but each year our Canadian entries are increasing; 2022 saw a nice increase in Canadian entries. This is why we, in Central Alberta, worked so hard to establish this trial garden.
All the tubers are started in individual eight-inch pots in the greenhouse and are at least a foot or 2 feet tall when ready to go outside June 1 after the last frost here at Red Deer. Our May/June calendar jammed us into planting on the weekend (Saturday) of May 28, just a couple of days earlier than tradition! Of course, we got caught as it did freeze on May 30! All the blankets, sheets, tablecloths, and pillowcases were sought out to save the dahlias. The pillowcases worked the best as they could be placed over the stake and pulled down to cover the rather short plant. Cutting a hole in the top end of the pillowcase made it fit perfectly but, unfortunately it was the end of the pillowcase, not even good for a Halloween bag. All the trial garden dahlias were saved with little damage but our display garden, on the outer perimeters, took a hit. Members from throughout Alberta dug up their named varieties and nearly replaced them all. As a note, the frost-nipped dahlias were planted elsewhere and almost all came back.
A drip water system was installed in all the beds before they were planted. It was customized to suit our water source, a 300-gallon tank on a Ford half ton truck. The method saves water and time. Fertilizer is dry sprinkled on the soil and worked in before watering.
There is much excitement in the garden after the middle of July when plants start blooming. It is amazing the variety of forms and colors received each year. We can count on Allen Manuel and Nicholas Gitts to send us some spectacular “AA” and “A” s in amazing color combinations. “Allen’s Wild Rivers” produced a mass of wild dark pink into the garden while his “Moon Dancer” was just that, a beautiful lady in a yellow dress. “Grandpa’s Gift” will be flying off the shelves for Nicholas Gitts because everyone loved the wonderful red/orange combinations. It truly is a gift to the “AA” dahlia lovers. A precious pink collarette was received as a delicate beauty (CC’s Surprise), entered by a Canadian Hybridizer, Carolyn Cutt, who unfortunately passed away before she would know it’s results. Connie Young-Davis challenged us with a floriferous yellow cactus that bloomed and bloomed and bloomed! “Connie Marion”, perfect enough to be an exhibition dahlia would also make a wonderful dahlia for a front garden or a cutting garden. The plants were covered in yellow blossoms, all with remarkable stems, a designer’s delight.
We could mention more blooms, equally as great, but must add some other good things about Piper Creek Trial Garden. The attendance of public viewing has increased through the years and our club activities center around the Trial Garden Space. We have our judging sessions in the trial garden where we make the use of the blooms explaining form, color and size to enthusiastic new members. Our wonderfully attended flower show, the third weekend in August, is held in that same space in huge wedding party tents. People love truly outdoor activities in our short summer, and we have been blessed by wonderful sunny weather for our shows. Our dahlia and glad show added a quilt display which featured amazing flower quilts (all made by our members) and wowed the visitors. It was a nice added touch to an otherwise awesome event. The trial garden is a huge job and responsibility, and we would like to thank our older members who keep going and giving guidance and direction, and our younger members who keep stepping forward.