Dahlia Legacy Project

By the Federation of Northwest Dahlia Growers

Dahlia Legacy Profile

BERNIE WILSON

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. 

MENTORSHIP

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.   

METHODS & PROPAGATION

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

Not currently in Federeation Hall of Fame

Originations

CultivarSizeFormColorColor DescriptionOriginator AbbreviationCountryYear
LAKEVIEW ANGELBSCLBWH2/PK22WIB-US14
LAKEVIEW BLUSHBBIDLBPK4/YL2WIB-US15
LAKEVIEW CURLEYBLCLBDP21/YL3WIB-US7
LAKEVIEW FIREBBLCRRD22WIB-US19
LAKEVIEW GERTIEBBLCDBDP17/WH3WIB-US13
LAKEVIEW GLOWBBICYYL11WIB-US10
LAKEVIEW HANNAHBSCPKPK11WIB-US8
LAKEVIEW HAZYBLCOROR4WIB-US22
LAKEVIEW ILLUSIONBICPRPR24WIB-US7
LAKEVIEW JOYBALLV11WIB-US20
LAKEVIEW KABOOMBLCPKPK15WIB-US22
LAKEVIEW KARRAHMBLBPK/YWIB-US4
LAKEVIEW LEMON DROPBBIDYYL9WIB-US11
LAKEVIEW LUCKYBBFDBRBR2WIB-US13
LAKEVIEW MOONGLOWBBFDYYL12WIB-US12
LAKEVIEW PEACH FUZZBBLCLBPK4/YL11WIB-US7
LAKEVIEW PREMIERBBFDLLV1WIB-US1
LAKEVIEW RAZZALBBLCFLYL24/RD23WIB-US22
LAKEVIEW RED FUZNXLB07*
LAKEVIEW REDEYECODRDR3/db/dr3/wh1WIB-US15
LAKEVIEW RIPPLEBIDVWIB-US16
LAKEVIEW RUTHBBFDDPDP10WIB-US7
LAKEVIEW STORMBBIDDBOR18/DP15WIB-US19
LAKEVIEW THUNDERBLCPRPR26WIB-US19
LAKEVIEW TONYASCDRDR24WIB-US17

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