PERFECT BUNCH-Lorne McArthur has turned his hobby of growing flowers into a passion towards growing dahlias and gladiolus

Unveiling the wonders of flower power

Society to present charms of dahlias and gladiolus at Bower mall

Reams of colourful, beautiful flowers will be on display during the first annual Dahlia and Gladiolus Show Aug. 28-29 at the Bower Place mall.

It’s all about introducing the wonders of the flowers to local folks, says Lorne McArthur, the show’s chair and an avid grower of the flowers on his acreage ‘Echoglen’ just south of Red Deer. He’s also vice president of the Alberta Dahlia & Gladiolus Society, which is presenting the show. Membership currently runs at about 45.

“This organization is made up of people from basically all of Alberta. It goes from Lethbridge to Peace River. And the people who will be showing flowers at our show are from all over as well.”

As for his own interest in flowers, it really stems from a love for the wonders of nature in general.

“We’ve always had a garden, and we’ve always tried to improve and excel in growing vegetables and flowers. We’ve also turned our passion towards growing dahlias and gladioluses,” he explains. McArthur, whose working years were spent with the province’s department of agriculture, and his wife Marilyn have lived on the picturesque stretch of land for about 40 years now. There wasn’t much there when the family first arrived.

Lorne said the property was essentially an agricultural ‘stubble’ field. Today, parts of it are gently hilly and it’s beautifully landscaped with towering trees and intricate flower gardens.

Another fascinating aspect of his work is ‘hybridizing’ dahlias to come up with all kinds of exciting new varieties. “From there we select the ones that we think are good enough quality and carry them into the next year’s program.

“It’s the world of being outside and nature,” he adds of what is appealing about gardening. “And it’s always rewarding to come out in the morning and walk into the flower beds and see what’s been born. That’s my ultimate thing – to find these new ones.”

And although he’s a fan of pretty much any flower, dahlias and gladiolus are particularly striking in his opinion. “Really, any flower is enjoyable whether it’s a rose, a snap dragon or a petunia. They’re all beautiful.

“But a gladiolus is a stately flower, and they are also a whole bouquet in one spike. They’re gorgeous,” he says.

“Same thing with the dahlias. Colours can go from sheer white to black.” He does acknowledge, however that dahlias require quite a bit of maintenance compared to the hardier gladiolus.

Meanwhile, staging times for the coming show will be Aug. 27 from 6 to 12 p.m. and Aug. 28 from 7 to 11 a.m. Judging of exhibits begins Saturday at 11 a.m. and the show is open to the public until 4 p.m. on Sunday.

For Lorne, showcasing these types of flowers provides plenty of personal satisfaction. He’s been exhibiting flowers for decades now, and this coming show in Red Deer marks a special opportunity to connect with local flower enthusiasts.

He said there are 18 types of dahlias. Essentially there is only one type of gladiolus, but it comes in five sizes.

“The mission statement of the organization is to increase awareness of what dahlias and gladiolus are, and to help improve the quality of what people grow to also help them to be more aware of how good they can be.”

Wayne Roberts, president of the Alberta Dahlia & Gladiolus Society, is also gearing up for the show and enthusiastic about connecting with prospective flower enthusiasts.

“We’re excited about it because we’re going to show off what we can do in Central Alberta,” he said. “We’ll also have people coming from as far south as High River and as far north as Westlock, and should have 10 to 12 serious growers there.

“We should be looking at 400 to 500 dahlia flowers and 400 to 500 gladioluses which will be on display in different aspects including as singles and multiples, baskets and vases.”

Folks from the Society will be onhand to chat with onlookers and answer questions.

For Roberts, the mystique of nature as reflected in growing flowers is what keeps him devoted to the activity. Ultimately, it’s a never-ending journey of discovery, he says.

“The variety is just absolutely astounding, as are the multiple colours and what you can do with them as well. I’m into hybridizing as well, so it’s like Christmas in August for me because you never know what’s going to come up in the gardens.”

For more information about the Alberta Dahlia & Gladiolus Society, call Wayne Roberts at 403-347-7482.

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