It comes but once a year, the day the queens rule at the Halifax Public Gardens , and this year it came on a drizzly and cool day which did nothing to dampen the most successful Dahlia Day in its 5 year history.
Dahlias were referred to as the ‘Queens of the Garden’ in the Victorian era.
The day kicked off with members of the NS Dahlia Society setting up shop by the larger of the two dahlia beds, dispensing information on how to make our dahlias look like these… good luck! Displays were also set up inside Horticultural Hall where bud vases were filled with labelled dahlias illustrating the different classification types and naming examples of each.
There was also a special tribute set up honouring Joe LaPierre, plantsman, dahlia breeder and mentor to dahlia curator Amy Soosaar-Joseph.
Mr LaPierre passed away earlier this year, a day after his 93 birthday. He leaves behind his wonderful creations for future generations.
The highlight of the day is always Neville MacKay’s floral arranging demonstration which feature dahlias. It would be pretty exciting to have access to the beautiful varieties of plant material collected from the Gardens which are used as the supporting cast to the queens.
Among the offerings was a yellow Hemerocallis (Day lily) named after Mr. MacKay.
Neville kept us laughing with his humorous banter (often at his own expense) while he pondered what combinations of flowers, vases and foliage he would use to create his fabulous displays.
MC Tracy Melvin-Jessens, a gardener at the Public Gardens, expertly kept the ball rolling. I foresee a lot more public speaking engagements in her future.
He may sound light-hearted but you can see the concentration he puts into each of his creations.
Vana (aka Laurie) displayed each arrangement to the spectators before placing them on the display tables.
In spite the drizzly weather the place was packed with an enthralled audience.
The gardens were looking lovely in spite of and because of the grey weather.
But in the end Neville’s creations stole the show. He made all these in an hour!
Long before the show began, people lined up to buy the raffle tickets which would give you a chance to win one of Neville’s creations.
$480 dollars were raised on behalf of The Friends of the Public Gardens.
Yours truly finally broke her losing streak and with an embarrassing yelp when my number was chosen, hurried to the table to choose my beautiful arrangement.
I’m one of those people who never wins things.
This Dahlia Day was filled with special tributes and special moments.
At the end of Neville’s show Janet Murray presented the newly established Suellen Murray Educational Bursary to Amy Soosar-Joseph.
Jock and Janet encouraged friends and family to make bequests to The Friends of the Public Gardens in her memory of their daughter Suellen who loved the Gardens and walked through them every day on her way to work.
Janet shared a story of her daughter’s excitement when she spotted a blue heron at the Gardens a couple of years ago, and sent photos to all the family.
The Murray’s chose Amy Soosaar-Joseph as the first recipient of the Suellen Murray Educational Bursary, to allow her to travel to the American Dahlia Society Centennial show this September in Long Island, New York.
Amy has transformed the Dahlia beds during her 9 year stewardship and aims to raise those standards even higher.
She will be taking along show worthy blooms from the Gardens to enter them into competition. Though she has entered and won ribbons in several local competitions, she is very excited to do so at such a prestigious event.
Amy will also be attending lectures from experts in this field and of course flying the flag for NS and the Halifax Public Gardens.
Moments before Janet Murray stood to tell us about her daughter I went in search of a blue heron I had been told was at the pond. I managed to find her and photograph her in the middle of the pond with my telephoto lens.
When Janet mentioned Suellen’s excitement over the heron she’d seen two years ago, I broke out in goose bumps… She had come back on the day Suellen’s family came to honour her memory.
I don’t think so.
Thank you to all the volunteers, the gardeners, Neville MacKay, and the spectators for making Dahlia Day 2015 a huge success.
A special thanks to Suellen Murray’s family and friends for donating and setting up a Bursary with the help of The Friends of the Public Gardens, which will help raise the standard of Horticulture at the Public Gardens and beyond.
Thank you Suellen for sending us your blessing.
All copy and images copyright © Serena Graham-Dwyer, 2015. If you wish to use any part or whole of an image, in any manner, please contact us.