the start of local exhibitions and competitions. With mountains of enthusiasm, encouragement and a friendly push from the late Trixie, Grace and Cliff Rushton, Linda started down the path of National Exhibitions. As the competitions developed, so did the camaraderie and friendships, and the shows became one of the annual must-dos.
Marrying the ruggedly handsome Robert (that's me), they lived for a few years in Whangaparaoa using a small paddock in Waitoki to grow "just a few" dahlias and veges. For 3 years the vege garden got smaller and the dahlia numbers increased. Local pressure to come and see the display saw the first open days start.
Eventually moving to their own 9ha block in Dairy Flat (left), the "hobby" developed to the point where Linda gave up her fulltime nursery work and worked in the garden while still maintaining some off-season horticultural contracting.
Now in the 2018 season Dahlia Haven has developed into a gardening icon with Auckland's Northern Motorway on the front fence and the flight path of Dairy Flat Aerodrome above. Few would have missed
the 8-metre-high sign mown into the paddock, let
alone more than 12,000 display plants.
Grown for the first 22 years primarily for Mail Order tuber sales, the
flowers are now also sold to florists through the Auckland Flower
markets and are keenly sought for their brightness,
colour, variety and forms. Over the last 10 years or
so gardeners and florists have seen a revival of this
once forgotten flower. New varieties come online every
year and the long flowering season - December to
April/May in Auckland - provides colour all the way
from Summer to Early Autumn, a feat other
flowers can only aspire too.
"Grandma only used to grow orange Dahlias" is
a common comment from our Open Day visitors, and
when you come and see for yourself you too will be
as amazed and captivated by the variety of colours
as Linda was over 30 years ago.
Linda's Mother when she was a child in England (probably about 250 BC) with a bunch of Dahlias. She regularly cycled (probably a penny farthing bike too!) down to the village to buy them with her pocket money.
Dahlia Haven - 2013 by Wendy Whifield
Linda ( circa 1996) with some freshly cut Dahlias
Where it all began...
It appears that Robert too, also has a past that includes Dahlias. In this rarely seen photo of him, shown with his (late) Mum, Dad and younger brother, it appears Robert (crouched centre) is studiously observing the growing habits of a dark orange decorative variety at their family home in Glen Eden about 1964.
His two older brothers (not shown) had obviously either been misbehaving and were cut from the photo or they just wern't that photogenic.....