Dahlia Legacy Project

By the Federation of Northwest Dahlia Growers

Dahlia Legacy Profile


Mike and Sally Paulus have been dahlia growers for over 40 years.  Mike was born in Alexandria, Minnesota on October 5, 1936 and Sally was born in Toledo, Washington on July 5, 1936. They met while students at the University of Puget Sound and graduated with degrees in Geology and Education. They were married on January 30, 1959. Mike and Sally currently live in Gig Harbor, Washington on Goodrich Drive.  Mike was a Geologist and retired in 1999. Sally was a Washington State educator for 33 years.

They began their dahlia adventure after visiting Sally’s mother.  Sally’s mother first grew dahlias because they did not have fragrance.  They were visiting her mother in the hospital when they saw signs for the Seattle Dahlia Show, visited and were amazed. The show was held at the Lake Forest Park Mall.   Shortly after, they started attending meetings.   They did not show in the beginning because of work requirements, but they went to every meeting to learn how to grow.   Their first judging instructors were Wayne and Eleanor Shantz. Wayne took them through the Guide to Judging Dahlias and Eleanor taught them arrangements.

Mike and Sally joined their first dahlia club over 40 years ago in Seattle, Washington. In 1998 when they moved to Gig Harbor they became part of the Kitsap County Dahlia Society. They have been members of the Wenatchee Dahlia Society for the past seven years too.

Mike and Sally have their own favorite reason for attending dahlia club meetings.  Sally likes going to dahlia functions to be with other “Dahlia People”.  Mike thinks monthly meetings are always interesting and you always learn something new – so many experts on all subjects.   “Dahlia People” are the reason they were attracted to clubs.  

Mike and Sally have a number of people they admire in the dahlia world.  For Sally, Twyla Ball was enthusiastic and encouraged Sally to show and also get into judging. Dick Williams, Tom Ball and Bill Bonneywell mentored Mike. When Mike was laid up with a five way bypass, all of the wonderful people in the Seattle Club stepped up to plant, harvest, tend and maintain his gardens. While in the Seattle Club, they became Senior Judges. Mike in 2012 and Sally in 2013.

For first time dahlia growers and showers, Sally and Mike’s advice is to not be intimidated by the experience of others, but to learn from them. Also, all dahlias are different and sometimes we pick the right or wrong ones to show.

Growing Experience

Like all of us, the Paulus Team made and makes mistakes. The first dahlias they grew were given to them by Sally’s mother and Sally planted them upside down, too deep in bad soil on Mercer Island and they didn’t grow. Today they grow 150 stakes (3 holes/tubers per stake) plus a small seedling garden. When they first moved to Gig Harbor in 1998 they grew 600+ plants with the help of Steve Lamb and others from KCDS.

Their favorite flowers are different.  Sally likes the SKIPLEY varieties and Mike likes his fairly new GOODRICH ELIZABETH.  Like most hybridizers, Mike increases his stock through tuber division, trading with friends, cuttings, growing from seed and buying the new ones they just “have to have”. They always plan on planting the GOODRICH and SKIPLEY varieties ALLOWAY CANDY and CAMANO SITKA.

Mike just plants and grows the dahlias now. His neighbor tills the plot by tractor the first week in May. Mike does the layout and sets stakes 21 inches apart with a template, digs 3 holes per stake, puts in his nutrient secret sauce of five ingredients and places a single tuber in each hole. The tubers are about 4 to 5 inches deep. He covers the tubers with a shallow layer of soil and then fills further as the sprouts break the surface. All watering is done by drip irrigation.

Fertilizing is a secret!  First “Secret Sauce” is used, then liquid when needed. It varies with the weather.  They always top at the recommended stages per bloom size including side buds at the top blooms. Mike walks his patch every day, giving his plants the attention and encouragement they deserve.  He usually carries with him his favorite tool, the “Hula Hoe”, to get at the weeds. They can hardly wait for the blooms to appear and the garden to be full of flowers.


Mike has been hybridizing for a number of years.  They have introduced 9 varieties all under the GOODRICH name. GOODRICH ANGELA (CO W/w) was their first successful seedling. They are named after family and friends: Angela, Andy, Elizabeth, Junia, Kay, Piper, Sally and Sam. Their favorites are GOODRICH SAM and ANGELA.

Mike does not pay attention to favorite seed parents.  He has been successful with open pollination and likes the wide variation that he gets from the process.  As Sally says, “It is fun to see what God gives us”.

Dahlia Showing

The Paulus Team has been showing dahlias for over 35 years.  The Seattle Club got them started and encouraged their development. Their choice for show day is simply what looks best the day before and will be ready. Their most successful flowers have been their favorites; GOODRICH: ELIZABETH, CAMANO SITKA, SLIPLEY varieties and LULU ISLAND ART.

Their show season begins with repainting cans at the beginning of the season. Their routine continues by choosing varieties on Thursday night, cutting early Friday morning, and staging in the cool garage after hydrating for hours.  Mike does the staging and Sally does the labeling.  All the flowers are supported by stakes and the cans are surrounded by Styrofoam with holes so the cans don’t rock. Traveling Secrets?  Drive carefully, avoiding quick turns, fast stops and rough roads. 

Mike and Sally have shown flowers at the National Shows in Vancouver BC – 1996, Northwest Treasures SeaTac – 2004, Snohomish – 2009 (Best Triple Anemone – ALPEN PEARL) and Northwest Treasures in Tacoma, WA. – 2014. 

Mike and Sally are a great part of the NW Dahlia world.

Seattle: We first met Sally & Mike in 1991 when we were both invited to a dahlia meeting of some kind at Doris Hansen’s house (Doris was a member for at least 50 years (she died at 92 just two years ago).  We found we had mutual friends and bonded right away.  We will always be friends.

Wenatchee: We have had the good fortune to have had Mike and Sally as paying members and judges for our shows for 7 years. We are most grateful for their participation in judging and showing with us.

Hall of Fame

Not Currently in Federtion Hall of Fame



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