TRIALLING DAHLIAS WITH A PURPOSE
Let me stress the sole purpose of breeding new dahlias is to help the charities I support - it takes quite a bit of work to grow the plants I produce, but unfortunately I don't have the time or space to develop them further so naturally I search for an alternative way to make money from them. I am not asking anyone for anything, but a fair return. Like most people who breed dahlias I try to make sure each and every one is worthy the price people pay - not that I do the selling I have been leaving that to my one distributor Nick Gilbert. So you can realise my horror when I was told a number had produced nothing, but single or semi-double flowers last year. That is when I realised they would have to be trialled for a longer period, and by more than one individual - you see I can only fit in a certain number here at Little Wisley. Whether the splitting up of tubers encouraged less double blooms as Nick thought might happen, or was I wearing rose coloured glasses when I saw those first flowers? I'm sure I was not and although one excellent cultivar I called J.J. did carried single flowers in its second year here - a cutting I gave to a regular visitor to the garden did produced beautiful blooms equal if not better than those first seedling flowers. This business of making sure all was well before a sale had me worried I can tell you - that is when I emailed a well know American hybridist team. I'd grown their stuff before, and never had any doubt all their dahlias could stand up to any scrutiny that most professional dahlia growers could throw at them - here is what they divulged.
We don't really know what to tell you about the seedling business - we grow all our own and there's only two people we let trial our seedlings on a very limited basis & they are very trustworthy. They are not allowed to introduce them - we pick the ones that are introduced & do it all ourselves. Even the catalogue company doesn't get any of our seedlings until we introduce them. When we first started out we had an outfit in Canada doing our introducing & we got burned pretty badly by them so we left them & now do it all ourselves. We grow our seedlings for five years before introducing them - the ADS requirements are such that you can't put a seedling in the trial gardens or on the ADS bench at the shows until it is in it's third year then you are supposed to introduce it the following year. We grow ours & enter them on the horticulture bench at shows to see how they stack up against the competition. All of our seedlings are at least five years old before they are introduced- most are older that that- so we know they are stable. You can't know if a dahlia is stable until at least the third year - we have found that is the year that a lot of them break down, and go to centre too early - or try to go single.
Now five years is a very long time when you're eighty - I suppose it's a very long time when you're fifty come to that, but can I wait that long? I think I will have wait a little longer, or get a bad name for placing rubbish cultivars on my website for the unaware customer to buy? That is why I'm choosing several outlets that I know are trust worthy. It will work like this - I'll take cuttings from last years hopefuls, and give each trial person a mixed box of my seedlings which I'll make a note of - I'll tell them not to sell any material until they've had a suitable trial period Ė after which the first year revenue will be split equally between them, and my charities - is that fair I believe so? Should anyone decide it isnít I won't used them it will be up to them to decide. I'll do as many as I can - some of which will be made into pot tubers - when we know which ones are extra special - I'll give two pot tuber to each individual who had the original cultivars - that way they will have three tubers to propagate from the following year. I hope it works because then each cultivar should make enough cuttings in that second year to give me a return towards my charities - after all I'm not asking for anything for myself. If I am willing to trust them about the number of cuttings they sell they must realise all I want is a fair return. The people who trial them will get their deserts the following year, and we'll have solved the problem of a longer trial period. I'll place all of this years seedlings on this page for all to see, and also give a full report on each at the end of next year - that way everything is above board and kosher. The main thing is getting the right people to trial the seedlings. I emailed a good friend and national dahlia judge called Brian Madder's to see if he could help - he's the secretary of the New Forest Dahlia and Chrysanthemum Society, and lives ten minutes away. Unfortunately he has already given a pompon grower called Mr. Williams the space he has left on his allotment to trial his seedlings. So yet another attempt fails, but I am determined to find away for the charities I support to gain from the work I do. If a solution cannot be found the only way is to take on the job myself, and sell them when I'm sure they are worthy - after all growing pot tubers is one of the easiest things to do - I've done it before , and I'll do it again if I have to. For this season I'll use others to trial them this year, but if this doesn't bring in the revenue I want. I'll augment my charity income by selling some of the pot tuber I grow as well. In the main these will be well trialled ones, but anyone who knows I wouldn't sell anyone rubbish intentionally can of course try newer cultivars. I do believe the boys getting a business head at long last.
To conclude I feel this is a much better system than I've used before because the onus isn't on just one person - I'm sorry I didn't realise I was expecting to much of Nick Gilbert sooner.
Watch out for my 2011 charity trial dahlias in the next few weeks, and also any others that I know are stable and worth growing.
THE 2012 CHARITY DAHLIAS ON TRIAL
|Mrs. Levy.||Patricia Ann.||Celia.|
|Michael Horak.||Molly Dolly Daydream.||Spurs.|