The National Garden Bureau has proclaimed 2019 the Year of the Dahlia, and growers in Clackamas County appear to have taken that to heart. The American Dahlia Society has announced that its prestigious Derrill W. Hart medal has been bestowed upon a local Oregon City couple and two growers from Canby.
This honor is awarded to hybridizers of new introductions receiving the highest score in dahlia trial gardens throughout the United States and Canada, said Larry Smith, public relations director for the American Dahlia Society.
The overall winning dahlia, Hollyhill Tangelo, is an orange, semi-cactus variety developed by Oregon City residents Ted and Margaret Kennedy.
The couple "have become one of the most prolific hybridizers of dahlias in the world. They have introduced dozens of new varieties and have won the Derrill Hart award previously," Smith said.
Dancing Queen, a flashy pink variety hybridized by Nicholas Gitts, was named the top new Stellar-type dahlia.
"Nicholas is the owner of Canby's Swan Island Dahlias. Hybridizing has been going on in his family for many years, starting with his father, Nick Sr., and they have introduced dozens of new varieties over the years," Smith said.
Allen's Arctic Fox, a white, semi-cactus variety hybridized by Allen Manuel, was the top scorer among medium-size dahlias.
"Allen is a hobby grower who has been a very prolific hybridizer over the past few years. While he has won numerous hybridizer awards at American Dahlia Society-sponsored shows for his introductions, this is his first Derrill Hart award winner," Smith said.
"The Derrill Hart Award is a major accomplishment, as there are hundreds of new introductions released each year and competition is fierce. If a hybridizer starts 100 new plants from seed, an average of only two or three actually make it to the trial gardens, if that," Smith said.
"Of the hundreds of varieties entered in trial gardens, only six of the best receive Hart awards each year."
Varieties entered in the trial gardens are evaluated by American Dahlia Society-accredited senior judges who have worked for at least eight years to achieve that status.
"Blooms are judged based on form, color, substance, stem, foliage, bloom position and distinction," Smith said.
In order to pass with a score of 85 or better, a variety must have that "certain something" that makes it stand out.
"Hollyhill Tangelo meets that qualification, having scores averaging in the high 80s or better in more than three trial gardens around the USA," he said.
Smith, a Portland resident, said he noticed Hollyhill Tangelo immediately in the Canby Trial Garden, and said the dahlia is "bright, has consistently perfect form, and produces tons of blooms."
Dahlias will be the focus of three upcoming events.
1. Portland Dahlia Society will hold its annual sale at 7 p.m. Tuesday, April 9, in the Rose City Park United Methodist Church basement, 5830 N.E. Alameda St., Portland. You do not have to be a member to attend.
2. The organization will have a booth to sell tubers and plants at the Clackamas County Master Gardener Sale on May 4-5 at the Clackamas County Fairgrounds, 694 N.E. Fourth Ave., Canby.
3. The society's annual dahlia show will be held Aug. 24-25 at the Oaks Park Dance Pavilion, 7805 S.E. Oaks Park Way, Portland.
The Portland Dahlia Society meets at 7:30 p.m. on the second Tuesday of the month at Rose City Park United Methodist Church. All are welcome.
For more information on growing dahlias, visit portlanddahlia.com.
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