by Sandra Simpson & Garfield Andrew
In 2018 the New Zealand Dahlia Society celebrates its 80th anniversary with a national show in Blenheim from February 17-18 and has chosen as its 2018 Dahlia of the Year Tauranga Jubilee.
To help celebrate the anniversary, a couple of South Island growers have made sure there has been a stock of Tauranga Jubilee – which, for reasons no one’s quite sure of, has dropped in popularity over the years and isn’t widely available – for NZ Dahlia Society members to plant.
Back in February 1998 – the society’s 60th birthday – the national show was hosted by the Bay of Plenty Dahlia Circle (no longer in existence) and held in Tauranga. An unnamed seedling bred by Elaine Fenton of the South Island was put into competition and won its class.
The flower went to the top table and was named Tauranga Jubilee by the well-known dahlia grower from Britain, Dave Reid, who was visiting the show.
Mrs Fenton’s success in hybridising began when she obtained seed from Cyril Higgo, a fimbriated dahlia specialist in South Africa. She later honoured Mr Higgo by naming what has become one of the most recognisable large fimbriated dahlias in New Zealand in his honour. Three of her other dahlias are still grown and exhibited by members of the Dahlia Society – Kaka Beacon, Kaka Copper Queen and Kaka Lindy Lou.
Mrs Fenton served the national society for many years, including on the national management committee and as South Island secretary. She is a long-standing member of Christchurch and Districts Dahlia Club and in 2001 received the prestigious National Dahlia Society of New Zealand silver lapel badge.
Now living in aged care in Christchurch, Mrs Fenton still grows a few dahlias.