Special Reports

Kiwis go cuckoo for Point’s dahlias

In New Zealand, gardeners are obsessed with dahlias grown in the trial garden at Point Defiance park.

“The New Zealanders are very familiar with our flowers. They import them. If you ask someone in Australia or New Zealand, they can tell you about our dahlias,” said Marilyn Walton, a member of the Washington State Dahlia Society, which maintains the trial garden.

New Zealanders know that if something grows well in Tacoma, it will do the same in New Zealand, which also has an ideal climate for dahlias.

Point Defiance’s dahlia garden, which was planted around 1958, gets tubers from growers around the world. The resulting plants are tested at the park to see if they’re disease-resistant and hardy in the local growing zone.

Tacoma resident Walton just returned from a trip to the New Zealand North Island National Dahlia Show with society member Les Connell, a Tacoma dahlia breeder and commercial grower.

“It was great,” Walton said. “It’s fun to go halfway around the world, on the other side of the hemisphere, and find people who are just as crazy about dahlias as we are. Their flowers over there are fabulous, too.”