Grow BIG or Go Home...
…said one Atlantic Giant Pumpkin grower to another. “If you ain’t bursting them you’re nursing them” said another.
What do big pumpkins and dahlias have in common? More than you may think, beyond the joy & frustration of growing and showing. Both dahlia growers and giant pumpkin growers are admittedly a bit, if not a lot CRAZY. And on the horticultural side of things, both growers are known to use science and technology to reach their lofty goals. Consider the soil testing, fertilizer, plant grooming, trying to cool when hot and heat when cold. And don’t forget the pricy mycorrhizal inoculant. But in competition they differ greatly.
A giant pumpkin that may bring the competitor well over $10,000 in prize money will have his fruit quickly inspected for no cracks or holes and then hoisted onto a calibrated & certified scale and it’s done. The scale tells the tale – winner or loser. While on the seedling bench, in the same amount of time, we have barely begun to fill out the top of the form. When it comes to the largest, size matters. With the dahlia it will be the tale of the tape. Simple enough?
We grow dahlias and pumpkins in San Jose, California. We grow various different types of both. Many of you who attended last year’s National Show in Santa Clara may have seen our 828 pounder growing in our garden. Annually we compete at four dahlia shows and four pumpkin weigh-offs. Our competition results are fairly mediocre compared to the luminaries in both categories, but we have grown pumpkins and dahlias long enough & well enough that our appetite to do better is insatiable. We have won “Best in Show” with our dahlias, and have won thousands of dollars with our pumpkins, but that is not what this Bulletin article is about.
Several years ago I was looking through an old copy of the Guinness Book of World Records, looking up an old record for giant pumpkins, when I thought to look up the record for the “largest dahlia”. To the credit of the Guinness people they had a listing for the dahlia – something around 40 feet!! Obviously this record was for plant height, not flower size. Guinness had nothing listed for flower size. This travesty put me on a path to have “largest dahlia”, based on flower diameter as measured by dahlia judges. With the help of many people we did this in Northern California shows for two years. The rules for measuring flower size and quality changed several times. Should the flower depth be factored? What about substance, color and form? I have always maintained that we have the rest of the show for quality – let’s just go for BIG, meaning diameter, and establish a true record for size. Much like the pumpkin people, keep it simple. If it is a sound pumpkin, weigh it. If the dahlia is a flower on a stem, measure it!
Giant pumpkin growers have garnered world-wide attention for years. As they approach the 2000 pound mark, watch out!! Dahlias will never generate the same publicity but wouldn’t it be nice to have a true record for the “largest dahlia”?
If you would like to see the largest dahlia crowned at the international level, please have show managers & judges adhere to the following requirements and send the results to me for consolidation and printing in the December or March Bulletin and posted on www.dahlia.org. A photo of the entry & exhibitor would be appreciated, especially if the flower is over 17 ½ inches in diameter.
By Ken Masurat, John E. Stowell Dahlia Society, San Jose, California