Article submitted by Marilyn McArthur and published in the American Dahlia Society publication “Dahlias Today”.
Piper Creek Trial Garden was the center of The Alberta Dahlia and Gladiola Society’s activities this summer (2020). Covid-19 encouraged outdoor activities and our beautiful setting was thoroughly enjoyed.
Planting began in April in the greenhouse to get them started before transplanting. We are still getting tubers sent to us later than we would like. We really need them here by April 7th to give us time to get them started before transplanting them to the Trial Garden (June 1). We can get frost as early as Sept 1 and therefore if the tubers arrive late, they might not be blooming in time to get judged. That gives us a 90 day frost free growing period.
Tubers have to be packed well and wrapped in newspaper for shipping but cannot contain any soil. They have to have a “Do Not Freeze” label on the package as we in Alberta are still experiencing wintery weather at that time of year. The quality of tubers has been excellent and all have had obvious eyes.
We had many new Society members this year (almost doubled) and they turned out to help plant entrees in the garden June 5. Each plant has an 8” collar in the ground to assist with holding water and fertilizer. Once a week work bees were well attended, members coming from as far away as 100 miles. The work mainly consisted of tying, weeding and pruning. Later in the summer they helped with dead heading, pruning and started their judging classes. Ken Jensen, our ADS representative encouraged the new members to learn the forms and judging basics. We had a touch of frost Sept. 3 but the plants continued to bloom until October 3rd killing frost. Our new members had several sessions digging and shared their methods of preparing and storing tubers for winter.
The long weekend in August is our special celebration at the Trial Garden It is a two day event with judging classes, flower arranging classes and a mini show. It was held outdoors with canopies and the weather was perfect. People brought their own chairs and gardening tools and everyone was encouraged to wear masks. The flower arranging course was very popular with just enough tables to keep everyone 6 feet apart. The high light of the weekend was a beautifully prepared brisket cooked by Darrell Hatt. Dinner was served by two servers wearing face shields and gloves as spelled out by local Heath guidelines.
August was busy with visitors. The dahlia blooms were outstanding and it was great to have many forms represented. We had some excellent water lilies and they were a big hit with the public. Another year of fabulous results in the trial garden, the flowers were all extremely well received by the public and numerous small groups came to see them especially due to Covid.