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Novice Growers Preparing for First National Dahlia Show

Jan 14, 2021
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Local dahlia growers Joe and Catherine Wilson of Invercargill are preparing for their first ever national show – the South Island National Dahlia Show which takes place at the Southland Indoor Bowls Stadium at 50 Onslow Street in Invercargill over the weekend of 20 and 21 February.

The couple have only been involved in growing dahlias for two years and got involved after being encouraged by two couples they met while playing Indoor Bowls. “Stephen and Christine Langley were primarily responsible but Walter and Kit Jack also encouraged us,” says Catherine.

They will enter the novice section but what sets the Wilson’s apart is that they grow in pots or tubs rather than the garden. “We have a small property and the clay level is high with minimal soil so we grow in plastic tubs,” explains Joe. “We started with two pots at the front door with just one variety. We now have forty- seven varieties. Not too many grow in pots but it shows that you don’t need a big property or a large garden.” Joe has borrowed some techniques from his Mum and Dad’s era for growing in buckets. “I drill ten or twelve holes, put in some broken field tiles, a layer of weed matting, then lawn clippings, topsoil and some of Walter Jack’s secret manure,” he says. “The tubers don’t like getting their feet wet. They don’t mind being damp but not too wet so pots are good for drainage.”

The couple work together on their blooms after Joe filled in one of their first entry forms as C & J Wilson as a joke. One of those early shows was in Bluff where they won a prize although Joe laughs as he recalls that Stephen Langley offered to bring his pots back to town for him. “On that occasion they were concrete pots and it took a bit for him to carry them uphill to his vehicle,” he laughs.

Joe & Catherine Wilson tend their dahlia’s grown in buckets at their home, Photo: Supplied

The couple are learning all the time and say the Southland Dahlia Circle are helpful. “They are a simple plant to grow but every variety has their own single needs,” says Joe, although one art he is yet to master is getting flowers vased up for showing.”

Neither were serious gardeners before being talked into showing dahlias. “We would potter and we like a nice garden but that was about it,” says Catherine. Ironically Catherine’s late father grew dahlia’s and had over 800. “It was one of those things, your parent’s passion becomes the kid’s nightmare, but things have now gone full circle.” It is obvious from talking to the couple they clearly enjoy their dahlia’s.

Both the Jack’s and the Langley’s have encouraged the couple to have a go at the Nationals. “We will give it a crack,” says Joe.

Both are on the National Show committee, Joe responsible for Health & Safety while Catherine runs the Southland Dahlia Circle facebook page with Stephen.

The show, which also celebrates the 40 th Anniversary of the Southland Dahlia Circle, will feature between 500-600 vases of dahlias which equates to over 1000 blooms and the public can come and enjoy the quality of the exhibits on Saturday 20 February between 12pm and 5pm and then on the following day, Sunday 21 February, from 9am until 4pm.

It will be the first national Dahlia Show in Invercargill since 1985.

There will also be a number of garden related stalls for the public to peruse.

Entry to the show will be a gold coin donation while admission for children is free.

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