Dahlia Legacy Project

By the Federation of Northwest Dahlia Growers

Dahlia Legacy Profile

Dahlia Legacy Project

Roger Walker Profile

Composed by Susan and Dick Ambrose – January 2023

Roger Walker’s mantra is “Beware of the Phil Traffs of the world.”  

Roger grew up on a farm in the Skagit flats.  Mostly they grew cut flowers — lots of tulips and daffodils.  They had several milk cows and some beef.  It was there he picked up his love for flowers.  After attending Central Washington University, he married Bev, his high school sweetheart in 1971.  On her birthday in 1973 the couple purchased their home in Bellevue.  It had plants growing in flower beds and they turned out to be dahlias.  He remembers Rothesay Reveler and Magnificat.  His flower-loving grandmother taught him how to dig and divide his tubers and he became a dahlia grower.  Then he attended the Puyallup fair and saw Les Connell’s display and bought more.

This is where Phil Traff comes in.  The year after attending the fair, he visited Puget Sound’s first show and Phil talked him into forking over $5.00 for the membership, saying he would be paid through the following year.  What a deal!  Then Phil began to apply intense pressure on Roger to exhibit.  Although Roger may not have exhibited in the second show, he certainly did by the third show.  Then Phil taught Roger that you didn’t just attend your home show, you also attended others in the area.  Roger remembers the fun times at the WSDS show held at PLU, the KCDS show at the Masonic Temple in downtown Bremerton, the GHDS that lasted five days, and the SCDS that were always constant in the same locations.

Roger became involved in establishing the Federation and worked to establish its bylaws.  Then Phil drafted him into working on Dahlias of Today.  (The first issue was pasted up in his Queen Anne high school classroom.) And he spent 20 years as secretary of PSDA and another 6 years as co-president (along with son Colin) of the organization.  Roger will never toot his own horn, but he is the reason Dahlias of Today still exists.  After Phil’s death, DOT was on shaky ground. But Roger stepped up and kept it alive.   He selected articles to stimulate interest, picked people who could write them, worked closely with Martin Kral to select the photos and gradually increased the size of the publication.  Then came the all color pictures and finally no advertising.  There were others who were listed as editors, but Roger was the real one.  He is gradually turning responsibility over to son Colin.

In addition to his PSDA duties, Roger began helping Harold Miller when he was seedling bench chair and eventually took over that responsibility.  He has kept that job ever since.

Back in the day, judging schools were taught by a guy who didn’t grow or show dahlias.  That didn’t make sense to Roger or to Phil either.  Somehow, they broke the iron grip and wrangled permission for Harold Miller to teach a judging class.  Roger took Harold’s classes, some of which were held at his home where he grew hundreds and maybe thousands of dahlias.  He progressed through the ranks and became a senior judge in 1984 and now teaches judging schools himself.

Roger began dabbling with seedlings in the late 1970s and introduced his first seedling Robert Walker in 1984.  That seedling made quite a splash, winning both the Dudley and Hart medals.  When Colin was a young kid and got interested in dahlias, he was profoundly influenced by Evie Gullickson who introduced him to open-centered dahlias and talked to him like an adult and was thrilled when his flowers beat hers.  She taught him exhibition tricks and gave him the focus the Walker family has today.

It has been a joy to see his son Colin take up the mantle of dahlia grower and the icing on the cake is seeing the love of dahlias pass on to Colin’s kids — Annie, Aria, and Asher.  With their interest in open-centered types, the Colin Walker family takes home a boatload of awards from each show.

Roger’s favorite parts of growing dahlias are the club activities, and being around others who have the same interests.  When he and Colin got interested in seedlings, dahlia growing entered a whole new realm.  Now Annie is enjoying seedlings, loves visiting the seedling patch and is trying her hand at hybridizing.  In 2022 Annie won the Stanley Johnson award for her introduction Lake Hills Creamsicle.

Looking back, he thinks PSDA has done a lot to promote dahlias.  The shows have moved as venues have come and gone, but he thinks the Sky Nursery location is probably the best.  The publications Dahlias A Monthly Guide and Dahlias of Today are noteworthy and are read by dahlia growers across the country.  The club in the person of Phil Traff, Roger Walker, Elsie and Bill Dungan, Lou and Patti Eckhoff were among the signers of the bylaws of the the Federation.

Phil Traff’s influence on Roger is profound and turned Roger into the power behind the throne.  He has quietly exuded influence throughout the Federation development.  He should have the name “Father and Grandfather of the Federation.”

Hall of Fame – Nomination


The Puget Sound Dahlia Association would like to nominate Roger Walker for the Federation Hall of Fame.

With his trademark baseball cap firmly in place, Roger Walker looks like another Seattle Mariners fan in the crowd. But this unassuming, competent, no-nonsense guy wears lots of dahlia hats that many people do not notice.  Roger got his start growing dahlias shortly after he and his wife, Bev, bought their first – and current – house in Bellevue in the early 1970s.  A few dahlias grew their first Spring in the house, and being a consummate lifelong learner, Roger needed to know more about the plants. 

He attended a Puget Sound Dahlia Association show and made his first mistake: asking Phil Traff about dahlias.  Over the course of a few years, the Walkers’ yard was slowly taken over by dahlias.  The final holdout – a bed of spinach in the back yard – saw its last planting in the late 1980s.  Around the same time, their yard was featured in an article about dahlias in Sunset Magazine, with an image of the bed of CEFN GLOW that once grew in the front yard playing prominently in the article.

In addition to serving as Secretary of the Puget Sound Dahlia Association from the late 1970s or early 1980s until his retirement from the Board in 1997, Roger also served as Vice-President of the Federation of Northwest Dahlia Growers.  He is a charter member of the Federation of Northwest Dahlia Growers, and a signer of the original governing documents.

Another dahlia hat worn by Roger has been as seedling bench evaluation chair for the American Dahlia Society. He has the unenviable task of collecting all the bench evaluations from each show, working them into the format to be published in the ADS Bulletin, determining the Lynn Dudley medal winners and doing it in time to be published in the December issue. It was mainly for this daunting task that the American Dahlia Society awarded him its prestigious gold medal at its 43rd annual show held in Everett, Washington in August, 2009.

When Phil Traff implemented his dream of a nationally (and internationally) recognized publication which became Dahlias of Today, he recognized the talents of Roger as being key to the success of the publication. That trust was not misplaced.   Upon Phil’s death, Roger assumed the reins of the publication and carried on Phil’s vision, and under his tutelage it has grown from its original 36 pages to the present 100 pages. Originally all the photos were in black and white, but technology made it feasible for the editors to decide to have all the photos in color. Even though the masthead lists Roger as last in the list of editors, that is only a fluke of alphabetization.

Roger, together with Martin Kral, was the one who thought of the quality articles, asked the authors to contribute, dealt with the printers, made decisions on the photos, and contributed many articles himself. It was also Roger, in his capacity as an officer of Puget Sound Dahlia Association, who made sure the treasury had enough funds to cover the printing of Dahlias of Today.

Those of us who have known Roger for many dahlia years have been aware of his devotion to wife Bev, his pride in sons Robert and Colin, and his dedication to the teaching profession for thirty years. When he retired from teaching almost ten years ago, this indefatigable man easily made the transition to working in another field, this time for Group Health Cooperative, coordinating training and higher education for nurses.

But because Roger is so good at compartmentalizing, these family matters were a background to dahlia growers for his love of dahlias. Little did we realize that with the birth of granddaughters Annie and Aria, he would turn into the quivering mass of Jell-O that Grandpa Roger has become. These tiny little girls have completely won his heart and (I think) supplanted dahlias as his first love.

Who woulda thunk it?

Contributions by Susan Ambrose, Martin Kral, and Colin Walker – For the PSDA


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