I thought of this visit as I was about to post a notice about the upcoming Colorado Dahlia Show happening this weekend at Paulino Gardens. It's amazing how one's garden oriented mind can wander and remember.
First, a short background on Point Defiance Park. With over 700 acres, the views surrounding the peninsula of Puget Sound, the Olympic Mountains and Gig Harbor rival any of the well-known natural attractions. Early explorers saw this peninsula as a model fortress, a place that could "bid defiance to any attack" while American Indians embraced the forest and sandy beaches for hunting and living. In 1888, this never used military reservation was authorized by President Grover Cleveland to be a public park. It was officially signed over to the City of Tacoma in 1905 by President Theodore Roosevelt.
Over the decades Tacoma park commissioners and planners replaced roaming buffalo with picnic, camping, boating and fishing areas. Sights came and went - horse trails, an amusement park, and an indoor swimming pool (natatorium) that used Puget Sound salt water heated to eighty degrees. Today there are formal gardens including a Japanese, Fuchsia, Rose, Rhododendron, Herb, Iris, Native and Dahlia garden.
There's also Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium, beaches, marina, hiking trails, and the must visit spectacular cliffs overlooking the Tacoma Narrows to view bald eagles feeding on salmon as they brave the swift tidal currents.
The day we visited Point Defiance Park was picture perfect - sunny, no wind and comfortable short sleeve weather. I clearly remember three activities that day - the glorious waterfront views from the peninsula, the well-designed dahlia garden and a delicious, relaxing lunch with my parents and sister at a restaurant overlooking one of the harbors. The name of the eating establishment has escaped me, so I need to go back and find that place plus a visit to the rest of the park.
Here's what their website says about the Dahlia Garden -
"Dahlia Trial Garden One of the largest official trial gardens in the U.S. and Canada, the Dahlia Trial Garden is maintained in cooperation with the Washington Dahlia Society. The garden is comprised of plants grown from tubers sent by dahlia growers from throughout America, Canada, England, New Zealand and Australia. Each year, the dahlias are scored by official judges of the American Dahlia Society. Dahlias receiving between 85 and 100 points are included in the annual classification book. They are then named and become available to the general public. Blooms begin in July, but August is the best time to view the garden in full bloom, when plants reach heights higher than 6 feet."
I recall so many varieties, colors and sizes that I cannot even begin to describe them with the beautiful adjectives they deserve. They were healthy and happy growing in large blocks of raised beds. There were rows and rows of them - all very well labeled. I know I took photos that day but they must be on an old hard drive in our storage area - retrieving them sounds like a great winter project.
For Christmas that year I sent both my Mom and sister (plus a copy for me) a dahlia book so we could learn more information and grow our own tubers the following spring. And we sure did!
So that's why I'm writing this blog today. Go see for yourself the many dahlia types you can grow in your own back yard. This weekend, September 10th and 11th Paulino Gardens in Denver is hosting the Colorado Dahlia Society September Flower Show. Stop by this free event to admire the entries and winners, plus take notes of varieties you want to grow next summer. Experts from their group will be on hand to answer questions.
Read more about growing dahlias on these links:
Articles on Growing Dahlias from the Colorado Dahlia Society
Planting Dahlia Tubers