Delightful dahlias

Bursts of colour in shades of yellow, dark wine red and white dipped in mauve adorn Wayne and Sheila Roberts’ yard in Oriole Park in Red Deer.

Wayne Roberts with one his Dahlias at the front of his house

Wayne Roberts with one his Dahlias at the front of his house

Bursts of colour in shades of yellow, dark wine red and white dipped in mauve adorn Wayne and Sheila Roberts’ yard in Oriole Park in Red Deer.

Dahlia plants — some with flowers as large in diameter as a plate, others just a little bigger than a toonie — offer explosions of colour more vibrant than a fireworks show in both his front and backyard.

A gardener for 25 years, Roberts was first encouraged to start growing dahlias by his friend Lorne McArthur.

It was something Roberts took to right away, having grown up helping his own grandfather Owen Roberts grow both gladiolus and roses.

Now much of Roberts yard showcases dahlias, but he also has a variety of lilies, marigolds and other flowers.

He and McArthur also have a property outside of Red Deer and between them they grow around 70 varieties of dahlia and 100 kinds of gladiolus.

Roberts’ favourites are the Spartacus, a big round dark reddish dahlia, and the Edna C, a large yellow dahlia.

He also likes the Lady Lucille, a type of gladiolus that is white with dark red.

He works with the dahlias to hybridize them, making unique varieties — two of which have been recognized by the American Dahlia Society.

Roberts varieties include the Alberta Sunset, a mix of three colours, and Alberta Velvet a deep red colour.

A gardener has to reproduce the plant for four years and then have two judges examine it and give it a score of at least 85 out of 100 for it to be registered.

A number of Roberts’ plants will be on display at the Bower Place Shopping Centre on August 28 and 29th, when the Alberta Dahlia and Gladiolus Society will have its first annual Dahlia and Gladiolus Show.

Roberts is the president of the recently formed society, which has members from High River to Westlock and many points in between.

There will be 60 tables of flowers on display, with judges travelling from the United States to judge them.

Roberts, 63, hopes that they can show people the beauty of the dahlias and gladiolus and encourage them to try growing them as well.

Dahlias are a tuber, meaning they grow from a root that looks a little like a potato. Each fall the tubers must be dug up and stored and replanted the next year. Roberts said he thinks the added work turns many people off of growing dahlias.

Roberts, who is retired after working 34 years for Telus, spends around 40 hours a week on his gardening, often getting up as early as 6 a.m. in the morning.

He finds the work relaxing and enjoys producing flowers that no one else has produced before.

“I find that very rewarding.”

However, he said dahlias are at their peak in the last summer into the fall, when other plants are going downhill.

“It’s like Christmas in August for us because that is when they start to come out,” Roberts said.

For more information on the Alberta Dahlia and Gladiolus Society or the event at Bower Place Shopping Centre contact Roberts at 403-347-7482.

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