Arlington’s Lisa Welty names all of the new dahlias she grows after her grandmother. Her name was Minabell Becker and she, too, loved to garden at the family homestead in Freeland.
You can see Welty’s blooms, including three “Minabell” seedings, at the Snohomish County Dahlia Society’s 112th annual show, set for Aug. 21 and 22 at Floral Hall in Everett’s Forest Park.
The two-day event, co-sponsored by the Everett Parks Department, features colorful displays of up to 2,000 blooms.
Last year’s show was a photo-based and online-only contest because of the coronavirus. More than 100 dahlia devotees and wannabes submitted photographs of their best blooms.
“We were able to not break our streak,” said Alli Richards, club president. “We made it through all the wars, the Spanish flu — all that stuff. So it was very important to the members … that we make sure we did not break our streak.”
The winners for the 111th annual photos-only show were Alli Richards, Best Single Bloom and Best of Show; Dick Ambrose, Best Artistic Impression; Harvey Tatel, Best Animals and People; Joe Mismas, Best Garden or Show; and Sheila Smith, Best Multiple Bloom.
An award-winning grower, Welty joined the Snohomish County Dahlia Society in 2012. Her husband, Dan, who is from Everett, told her about the 112-year-old club after she added dahlias to their garden. She serves as the club’s treasurer and co-chairs the show with Steve Santose.
She entered just one flower in that contest — and won a blue ribbon for it. After 11 years in the club, Welty now takes up to 30 blooms to shows.
In 2019, she won Best Triple with the small yellow incurved cactus dahlia “Lakeview Glow” at the Puget Sound Dahlia Association Show in Redmond and Best Open Center at the North Central Washington Dahlia Society Show in Wenatchee with “Kelsey Valentine,” a red collarette dahlia.
“I knew that dahlias come in different colors and different sizes but I had no idea that it was huge,” Welty said. “It just kind of sucked me right in. I like the colors and the shapes, but there’s a particular way to grow them and I like to grow things that are cared for in a way that makes them be what they are.”
Lisa and Dan Welty have lived in their Arlington home for 20 years. Their 1-acre garden features two greenhouses, a pond, a bog garden and a dahlia farm. They also keep honeybees and mason bees to help pollinate their landscape.
Lisa grows about 450 dahlias in her farm, many of them blooms originated by fellow Snohomish County club members.
Their son, Dustin Welty, built the beds and fence for Lisa’s dahlia farm. Their daughter, Danika Reynoso, also grows and shows dahlias.
If you’re growing dahlias to show them, you can’t just plant the seeds or tubers and let them grow on their own. If you do that, you’ll get a mess of blooms — maybe five flowers to a stem, some short, others tall. None of them perfect.
You have to disbud and disbranch your plants to get one bloom that is anywhere close to perfection.
“If you grow for show, you get a long straight stem with perfect leaves and you get a nice, full-sized bloom,” Welty said. “If you don’t pick off the blooms, it doesn’t even qualify for the show.”
Snohomish County Dahlia Society members take dahlias very seriously — but that doesn’t mean it’s hard.
“Dahlias are actually easier to grow than people have been led to believe,” Richards said. “Joining a local club likes ours will really help you get some inside information, tips and tricks that you can try specific to your growing conditions. Overall, it’s just a great community to belong to. Everyone is so generous with their knowledge, with their dahlias, it’s just really fun.”
Richards, of Everett, who is the lead patient service representative for the Everett Clinic at the Providence Regional Cancer Partnership, has been a Snohomish County Dahlia Society member for 11 years. She was inspired by her grandmother Johanna Kadyk’s dahlias in Marysville to grow her own. Richards’ garden has about 75 of the plants.
Judges score a bloom based on its desirable and undesirable characteristics. They look at the quality of color, form, substance, bloom position, foliage and stem. Each dahlia type and size has specific criteria to meet to earn a set number of points. A perfect score is 100 points.
Just one of Welty’s three seedlings that she plans to bring to this year’s Snohomish County Dahlia Society show has an (unofficial) name so far. The yellow and red orchid will be named “Minabell Star,” after her grandmother and its star shape, which she hopes will make it into the classification book.
Seedlings may be entered to become new dahlias under the rules of the American Dahlia Society. If the hybrids score 85 points or above, then the originator gets to name the flower and have it added to the national society’s classification book.
The best of the three divisions compete for the Best of Show in the single bloom and triple bloom classes, as well as in five bloom, in baskets and in artistic arrangements. There are 135 available awards at the show.
Welty’s favorite to grow are yellow pompon, ball and stellar dahlias from large to giant sizes — she’s not a fan of the flowers with open centers.
Welty doesn’t yet know which blooms she’ll take to the show next weekend. She’ll cut the best blooms from her garden on Friday.
“I will take everything that is show-able,” she said. “I am pretty judgmental on my flowers. I don’t take anything that isn’t pretty darn close to perfect.”
Sara Bruestle: 425-339-3046; email@example.com; @sarabruestle.
If you go
The Snohomish County Dahlia Society Show is 1 to 6 p.m. Aug. 21 and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Aug. 22 at Floral Hall in Forest Park, 802 E. Mukilteo Blvd., Everett.
Catch the colorful display of up to 2,000 dahlias as single blooms, triple blooms, five blooms, in baskets and in artistic arrangements. Prizes are awarded to winning entries. Free admission. For more, go to www.scdahlias.org or call 360-659-8687.
The website has tips, such as on planting, disbudding, cutting, digging and dividing dahlias, including numerous how-to photos.
The club has a tuber sale in April in Everett.
Want to join the club?
Snohomish County Dahlia Society meetings are 7 p.m. on the second Thursday of the month at Legion Hall, 145 Alverson Blvd., Everett. If you’re playing it safe, you can join each meeting virtually via Zoom.
Each meeting includes a seasonal program on plant culture, refreshments and a door prize drawing. Many of the top Northwest Dahlia growers attend these meetings and are more than happy to share their know-how with others.