Dahlia Legacy Project

By the Federation of Northwest Dahlia Growers

Dahlia Legacy Profile


Bernie Wilson has been a dahlia grower, hybridizer and an ADS Senior Judge for decades. He has also mentored many dahlia growers seeking guidance and the opportunity to learn from his exemplary garden practices. Bernie has lived in the Pacific Northwest his entire life. His father was a carpenter who worked for the Great Northern Railway in the Buildings and Bridges department. Born in Everett, Washington in 1945, Bernie graduated in 1963 from Snohomish High School and two years later, he married his high school sweetheart Sandy. In 1972, the couple moved to Snohomish where Bernie’s aunt and uncle lived. Bernie and Sandy moved in next door to them, and it was here that they raised their two children, Tim and Barbara. Bernie worked for Weyerhauser as a pipefitter for 17 years. He went on to work for 25 years with the Snohomish Fire Department as a firefighter, EMT and Maintenance Coordinator. It wasn’t long before Bernie got to know his neighbor Pearl Kiehn, an avid dahlia grower who lived up the street from the Wilsons. 


Pearl gave Bernie his first dozen dahlia tubers.  He didn’t have a garden of his own at that time, so he planted the tubers next door in his aunt and uncle’s small vegetable garden. Pearl became his first mentor, teaching him everything she knew about dahlia growing. Pearl was a member of the Snohomish County Dahlia Society and encouraged Bernie to join the club. Being a part of a dahlia society allowed him to meet other accomplished dahlia growers who mentored him. Among those were Tony DeRooy, hybridizer of “Cascade” varieties; Dick Matthies of “Fidalgo” dahlias; and Gordie Leroux, originator of “Kenora” breeds. Among his favorite learning experiences were his visits to Gordie’s garden where he spent hours listening to a great dahlia expert while they enjoyed a cold can of beer. After joining the Snohomish County Dahlia Society, Bernie entered his first dahlia show in the early 1970s. He started hybridizing dahlias in the 1980s. The ADS Classification Guide currently lists 25 originations with the “Lakeview” prefix, named for the lake just behind his home in Snohomish. Bernie has definitely “paid it forward” when it comes to mentoring. He is known for helping countless new growers learn tips and best practices, including taking them through his garden, his cutting area and sharing tubers. One thing Bernie likes to do is to buy and share copies of “Dahlias: A Monthly Guide”, published by the Puget Sound Dahlia Association. He also enjoys chatting with visitors to his garden, answering their questions and just taking time with them. He has long been a part of the Snohomish County Dahlia Society annual show team, hauling equipment and materials needed to turn Floral Hall in Everett’s Forest Park into a stunning display of dahlias. He has also joined other members of Snohomish County DS to help plant and maintain the dahlia garden at the Great Northern Railway train depot.   


Bernie’s planting and gardening practices aren’t complicated. He learned early that one thing he can’t control is the weather – he learned to pay attention to it and make good growing decisions, such as when to plant and dig. Temperature and moisture are key factors in dahlia growth and development. Bernie plants tubers when the soil and weather are warm enough and he also takes cuttings from varieties in order to increase his stock. He also trades tubers and plants with other hybridizers and growers. He makes sure his soil is well-balanced and uses soakers to water his garden. He applies a foliar feed of Miracle-Gro 2-3 times a season. He tries to have blooms that are mature and ready to show by the time show season begins in August of each year. This is especially important in years that he is hoping to introduce new Lakeview varieties.

Bernie’s first hybridization was named Lakeview Coppertop, named for his daughter Barbara, a little redheaded girl. Bernie’s method of propagation primarily consists of letting natural pollinators do their work, rather than painting pollen or other methods of cross breeding. He does sometimes plant dahlias that he especially likes closer to each other, but dahlias don’t have to be right next to each other to have their pollen shared. At the end of the season, he collects only mature seed pods from successful varieties in his garden. He looks for pods that are darker in color and solid when you squeeze them. When growing seedlings, he always rogues out anything with an open center. Bernie prefers to plant only fully double dahlias. One exception to that is Lakeview Redeye, a very nice dark red collarette introduced in 2015. After two years, he decides which he will grow in subsequent years. New Lakeview varieties are not introduced until they have been grown for at least four years. Currently, Bernie’s favorite variety is Lakeview Hazy (B-LC O), a 2022 introduction named for his favorite IPA. Bernie often gets input for names from his wife Jan, who seems to have a knack for coming up with good ones.

He usually grows about 220 dahlia plants and around 100 seedling plants. He has entered dahlia shows in various Pacific NW locations, including Shoreline (PSDA), Seattle (Seattle DS), Wenatchee (North Central Washington DS), as well as ADS National Dahlia Shows in Portland, Tacoma, Everett and Spokane. On show days, Bernie cuts in the early morning the day before the show, and stages in the afternoon. He usually enters just about 20 entries per show. His favorite sections to enter are triples and 5-blooms. In 2023, Bernie was particularly successful with 9-bloom entries of Hazy, Razzal and Kaboom. He has introduced some of the most successful cultivars to come out of the Pacific Northwest.  He won the Stanley Johnson award for his excellent Lakeview Glow (BB-IC Y) in 2012, which continues to be among the top winners in the country. He will be adding his newest introduction, Lakeview Lady, (B-FD BR) in 2024.  Bernie has been an active member of the Federation of NW Dahlia Growers since it was established and has been a member and supporter of the North Central Washington Dahlia Society for decades. He judges at local dahlia shows, as well as National Shows that are held locally. He often judges seedlings on the ADS Seedling Bench and in ADS Trial Gardens. Bernie’s reach extends far beyond what he has accomplished in his own garden – it has impacted the growth and development of countless growers across the state of Washington who have benefited from his generosity and mentorship.

Hall of Fame – Nomination


The North Central Washington Dahlia Society would like to nominate Bernie Wilson to the Federation of NW Dahlia Growers Hall of Fame. Bernie has been an integral part of the Pacific Northwest dahlia culture since he entered his first dahlia show in 1970. His home club is the Snohomish County Dahlia Society (SCDS), but he has also been a very influential member and long- time part of the NCWDS dahlia scene. He has been a member of the Federation of NW Dahlia Growers and the American Dahlia Society for decades. Although he didn’t actually join NCWDS until around 2007 or 2008, he has supported the Wenatchee area as a judge and exhibitor over a 40-year period. One of his mentors was Tony DeRooy (SCDS member, founder of Pacific NW Dahlia Conference and Wenatchee/NCW clubs) during the early 1970s and 1980s. Bernie started hybridizing dahlias in the 1990s, with his first introduction coming in 2001 with Lakeview Premier. To date, he has introduced at least 25 varieties, including Lakeview Glow, Stanley Johnson Award winner in 2012.
Bernie has been generous with his time and his resources throughout his tenure in his dahlia societies as well as the Federation of NW Dahlia Growers. Bernie never fails to donate tubers and cuttings to the Jack Crawford Tuber Auction as well as to any local club who asks for it. The NCWDS credits Bernie for influencing our ability to raise money by suggesting we institute our Members Only Tuber Auction many years ago. He has donated tubers and time to our club activities, even though he has to drive almost 130 miles to get to Wenatchee. Bernie puts his money where his mouth is, and never suggests things that he isn’t willing to do himself. He has never missed the opportunity to represent the Federation as a Senior Judge at our Wenatchee area dahlia shows and he has never missed our tuber auction. We are fairly certain that without the support that Bernie has provided to the NCW club, this region would have never been selected to host the 57th ADS National Show.
Besides Bernie’s reliability with his own clubs – he has long been a foundational part of Snohomish County DS activities – he has been a fixture as a team leader and senior judge in Whatcom County, Skagit County, PSDA and other clubs across the NW. He usually grows about 220 dahlia plants and around 100 seedling plants. He has also judged at ADS National shows hosted by the Federation, in 2014 and the ADS National Show in 2009. He regularly participates as a judge at the Tacoma Trial Garden at Pt. Defiance. Bernie has participated as a member of dahlia culture panels at Federation workshops over the years, always willing to share his experience and successes, even his failures, with other dahlia growers. He has long been a part of the Snohomish County Dahlia Society annual show team, hauling equipment and materials needed to turn Floral Hall in Everett’s Forest Park into a stunning display of dahlias. He has also joined other members of Snohomish County DS to help plant and maintain the dahlia garden at the Great Northern Railway train depot. He has also been one of those people who help put up chairs after Federation Workshops. You can always count on Bernie to help wherever he can.
Besides the formal appearances Bernie regularly makes as a judge and panel member, he has mentored many new dahlia growers. He shares not only his expertise and experience but he also is extremely generous with his cuttings and tubers, at times giving away so many of his top cultivars that he doesn’t save enough for himself. Many Federation members, as well as those of us in Wenatchee are better growers today because of Bernie’s steady and gentle hand in our dahlia educations. He is one of the most unselfish growers in the Federation and at the same time, one of the most humble. He isn’t comfortable with the limelight and avoids political positions, yet his leadership has been felt throughout the Federation ever since he has been a part of it.
Bernie has raised the bar when it comes to challenging other exhibitors to compete at a higher level, specifically in the realm of 5-bloom and most recently 9-bloom entries. He has inspired a number of growers to try to snatch those rosettes from him in recent shows, but that is a difficult task to accomplish.
Bernie’s reach extends far beyond what he has accomplished in his own garden or in his own primary club. It has impacted the growth and development of countless growers across the state of Washington who have benefited from his skill, kindness and mentorship. If anyone has earned the honor of being inducted into the Federation Hall of Fame, it is Bernie Wilson.

Federation of Northwest Dahlia Growers
Hall of Fame Nomination
June 17, 2024
Bernie Wilson, home club SCDS

Snohomish County Dahlia Society is nominating Bernie Wilson of Lakeview Dahlias for the 2024 Federation of Northwest Dahlia Growers Hall of Fame. Bernie has been a longtime member of SCDS and the Federation of Northwest Dahlia Growers. He is also a participant in the Dahlia Legacy Project. His profile details his numerous dahlia accomplishments and history.
Bernie offers his support by being ever present and ready to help wherever needed. Not being one who enjoys the spotlight, hasn’t held officer positions but has risen to become an outstanding ADS senior judge, exhibitor, hybridizer, and mentor to new and seasoned dahlia growers alike.
As an exhibitor Bernie has achieved many awards and is considered an expert at multiple bloom entries. He is a true competitor but also is a great sport and is always excited for a newer exhibitor to best him. At one of the NCWDS shows in the mall, a novice’s entry managed to beat his bloom for the section. What stood out for that novice exhibitor was how gracious he was, and he even offered tips for improved staging. A bond formed at that moment that continues to grow. This is just one summarized personal story about Bernie’s impact on members of the FNWDG, SCDS, and NCWDS. He has touched many dahlia growers’ hearts and sparked their passion to exhibit, hybridize, and try those multi-bloom entries.
Regarding hybridizing, Bernie has introduced dozens of show quality dahlias that portray the exacting standards the ADS and FNWDG aim to exemplify. In 2012, his introduction, Lakeview Glow won the Stanley Johnson Medal. Then in 2013 the Federation celebrated the stunning bloom as its flower of the year.
Bernie has mentored individuals as well as clubs. He is always there for feedback regarding how our club is doing. His wisdom and calm nature have helped many a club president over the years. He’s always willing to share his dahlia knowledge at club meetings as well as Federation workshops. He is ever supportive of the NCWDS and has helped that club flourish into the successful club it is today.
Because of these reasons, SCDS believes Bernie Wilson to be a true advocate of the dahlia, SCDS, NCWDS, and the FNWDG. With his big heart, vast dahlia knowledge, and continuing support for growers, exhibitors, and hybridizers, Bernie has earned the honor of being a Hall of Fame inductee.


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