Dahlia Legacy Project

By the Federation of Northwest Dahlia Growers

Dahlia Legacy Profile

By:Pat Looney

Date: February 2023

     The Northwest Dahlia Legacy Project is committed to gathering and protecting the invaluable knowledge of our NW Dahlia Leaders and ensuring its accessibility to future generations.  Jim Lamson is one of those leaders. His legacy is in his steady growing and selling of dahlias for over 60 years. First with his father and later on his own with BJ Dahlias. Jim has grown dahlias in humid Washington to the high desert of Oregon.

     Jim grew up on a farm in Selah, Washington where he “first sunk his hands in the soil and learned the cycle of planting seeds and harvesting the results.”  The family’s love of dahlias started with a Kellogg’s box top. Jim’s dad sent in the box tops, plus $1.00 for postage and received back the dahlias which began years of growing, sharing and selling dahlias.

     From ads placed in Bulletin of the American Dahlia Society dating back to the 1950’s to the current internet website DahliaAddict.com Jim’s listings reveal past, present, and the future of dahlias. Reading some of the ads not only brings a smile to the face, but also reveals the chronological order of the dahlia contributions of Jim Lamson.

Growing dahlias since 1950’s; Please send stamp for price list; Send 40 cents for catalog; Ad in 1986: “1200 varieties Many Cream of the Crop and Oldies but Goodies”  2006-2007 Catalog Available Excellent Tubers @ reasonable prices.  Specializing in AA and A varieties. BJ Dahlias does like big dahlias. Blooms 12-13 inches in diameter and 5to 6 blooms per plant.

      BJ Dahlias joins the internet.  Jim’s son manages the website. According to Amanda Windsor, “DahliaAddict has had many kind and wonderful supporters and Jim was one of the very earliest. Thanks, Jim!”

Jim takes hundreds of cuttings each year. When asked for his secrets he stated, “be patient when waking up tubers, use Craft Exacta Knife and above all label correctly.” He uses Clonex rooting compound prior to transferring cutting to 3-inch peat pots. He also sprays cuttings with Stop Wilt. When planted outside, the pots are placed close together, almost touching.  He thinks this helps the plants as they grow.  Each year he has wonderful tubers.

He has five requirements, when deciding which seedlings get a chance for another year. Jim culls heavily.  First, anything that is not a full flower is gone. Open centers GONE.  Second, to remain it must have a strong stem.  If it has a weak stem, GONE.  Third, Jim considers the depth of the flower.  If it is shallow, it is gone. Fourth, Petal count- the more petals the better. If it has limited petal count, GONE. Finally, the dahlia must be attractive which includes the factors of form, color and size. (AA’s are his favorite.) If it is not attractive, GONE.

For those dahlias that meet those criteria, Jim also considers current competition. “No sense breeding a flower that won’t win competitions.”  Perhaps that is why Jim’s BJ Dahlias stands the test of time and flourishes.

His watering system is another reason dahlias flourish. A series of Melnor Pulsating Sprinklers water his fields. This ground watering system allows for the plants to be cleaned from the bottom up and from the top down. This watering system helps keep the leaves free of dust. Dust attracts spider mites.  All watering is done early in the morning to avoid heat stress on the dahlias. Dahlias need lots of water.

Jim’s years of experience in growing and selling dahlias has netted some key points of which he shares readily. Growing from seed, taking cuttings, planting, digging, and storing tubers are all in his wheelhouse. He plants over 500 seedlings each year. His way might seem simple to those who use expensive seed trays, grow lights, humidity domes, temperature controls and so forth.  Jim puts seeds in a moist soil filled flat, covers it with a clear dome, waiting until sprouts are about one inch. He then removes the dome and when sprouts are approximately two inches tall, he transplants them into 3-inch peat pots where they will remain until planted outside.

Digging the tubers for Jim is a one-man job. It is a remarkable task that he completes each year.  He begins early September and finishes just prior to the first frost. First, he cuts down stocks to approximately 6 inches above ground level. allowing for a few days to harden. He feels this is the time that the tubers add to their nutrition, making them store better and produce excellent dahlias the following year. When digging he uses a tine-fork to not damage the tubers.  Tubers are marked and stored in his climate-controlled shed. He has experience with refrigeration and keeps a consistent temperature of 45 degrees.

     In addition to preparing and caring for his own dahlias, Jim is quick to work with other dahlia lovers-either veteran or newbies. Jim obtains tubers by trading with other growers and hybridizers, generally purchasing a few premiere tubers each year. This keeps his over 2,500 varieties on the cutting edge. He is a mastermind at taking cuttings and growing them to successful tuber sales.

     That ability connected Jim with another blooming mastermind, Steve Meggos. Jim considers Steve Meggos a brother. BJ Dahlias has grown and made possible for dahlia lovers to have access to tubers such as Vassio Meggos (2005), Harvey Koop (2010), Steve Meggos (2012), Harry Meggos (2011).  As far as this coming year Jim thinks there are 3 or 4 that will be released depending on how they perform. Remember he culls heavily.

     In 2023, Jim released: JL Josephine, JL Otis, JL Ruby Red, JL Grandma B., & JL Kenny. For Steve Meggos, Jim released Wendy Joy and in 2024 Nancy Meggos, and Nikitas Meggos.

     Jim Lamson loves growing dahlias, shares his passionate knowledge with any who ask, but his eyes light up when mentions giving dahlias to others. Mennonite ladies come weekly to procure beautiful flowers for services. This Christmas they came to Jim’s and sang carols to him. Dahlias are a priceless gift. 

     Jim Lamson is a gift to the world of dahlias.

BJ Dahlias Garden Tour


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