The only dahlia trial garden in Canada will be located just south of Red Deer for hybridizers to grow new varieties of the flower starting this spring.
Members of the Alberta Dahlia and Gladiolus Society have been attending flower shows and judging courses to become certified judges of the American Dahlia Society to judge dahlias at the local trial garden.
Lorne McArthur, president of the Alberta Dahlia and Gladiolus Society, said Piper Creek Trial Garden will be the first dahlia trial garden on the Canadian prairies.
“When we started the club, that’s what we wanted to do. This is our fourth year as an organization.
“The big thing was to get certified judges to judge the quality,” McArthur said.
“Right here in Alberta we have a number of hybridizers who develop new varieties and they have trouble getting into trial gardens in the States. There’s only seven trial gardens in the States and they’re full.”
In the past there were trial gardens in Canada on the east and west coast.
Piper Creek Trial Garden will be located at McArthur’s home at Echo Glen Farm in Red Deer County, across from the City of Red Deer’s Waste Management Facility on 40th Avenue.
Growers must submit three tubers for the garden which have to be in their fourth growing season.
A maximum of about 30 varieties can be tested in the trial garden that will be about nine by 30 metres in size.
There’s room for about 100 plants.
Tubers from growers in New Jersey, Oregon, and Montana have already arrived.
Some tubers destined for the trial garden have already sprouted in McArthur’s greenhouse.
“It’s very exciting,” he said.
An open house for Piper Creek Trial Garden will be held on July 27 for everyone to see what’s blooming in world of dahlias.
Once the plants are in the ground, the public is welcome to check in regularly to watch their progress.
On Saturday, Alberta Dahlia and Gladiolus Society held its annual Dahlia Tuber, Gladiolus Corm and Mignon Dahlia Sale at Bower Mall Shopping Centre.
Members of the non-profit organization donated extra tubers and corms to sell to raise money to host Alberta Dahlia and Gladiolus Society’s 4th Annual Show to be held Aug. 24 and 25 at Bower Place Shopping Centre.
McArthur said people who purchased tubers and corms on the weekend will hopefully display their efforts at the August show.
McArthur, who has been growing dahlias and gladiolus for well over 50 years, said everyone wants the big dahlias blooms that can be 30 cm in diameter.
“They’re as easy to grow as the others. But they’re not as productive and when you grow a bigger flower you end up having to do a little more maintenance.
“For the average gardener, I think they’d want to go to more of a smaller dahlia.
“They’re earlier and they’re more profuse. A little less maintenance and much better show in your front yard or garden. They are significant.”
Dahlias have to be started inside in Alberta’s climate to reach their full potential and can’t be planted before the frost is gone, he said.
Gladiolus can also add a lot of colour to Alberta gardens, McArthur said.
“They are stately flower and they are in most cases really easy to grow.
“They are a flower that is very, very showy when they come. The only thing is they are later in the season.”
Gladiolus are planted early and can handle a bit of frost and still keep growing, he said.
For more information visit www.albertadahliaandgladsociety.com.