After nearly 60 years of gardening, Dick Westfall isn’t slowing down any time soon.
Westfall, who turned 86 in July, is President of the Greater Columbus Dahlia Society, which will host the 54th Annual Dahlia Show in Marysville this weekend.
The show will feature several hundred dahlias grown by exhibitors throughout Ohio and the surrounding states, with Westfall as one of the top competitors.
Growing dahlias is no small task, especially for Westfall, who currently has a garden of about 150 dahlia plants in his backyard.
It’s a craft he’s mastered since he began growing dahlias in 1961.
“I used to grow a lot of things, but now you’ll see I don’t grow much else,” he said.
Each dahlia plant in his garden is labeled by species and organized in precise rows. Each row is separated by wooden planks that Westfall walks along to make sure he doesn’t compact the soil too much.
Westfall said he takes special care to prop the dahlias up by wooden stakes that support their weight. Plenty of the blooms also sit underneath umbrellas he’s fastened above them to protect their colors from fading in the sun.
Others flowers are within a greenhouse that he built himself, surrounded by mesh that prevents bugs from feeding on the plants.
Yards of garden hose snake through each patch of his garden, pricked with holes that allow water to flow to the plants – a homemade “drip irrigation” system that prevents too much water from evaporating.
Taking this much care is nearly a year-round endeavor for Westfall, who said he plants for the season in March and tends his flowers until the first frost of the season – usually in late October or early November, in Ohio.
“But the big work comes at showtime,” he said of harvesting his flowers.
Even when he’s not busy growing, he’s still working behind the scenes for the Greater Columbus Dahlia Society.
This marks the fifth year the event will take place in Marysville, a change that Westfall said he had to negotiate for.
In exchange for moving the show to Marysville, Westfall told fellow organization members he would coordinate sponsorships. He said he now spends every spring and summer looking for businesses to sponsor the event.
“I was amazed at how easy it was,” Westfall said. “Of course, I laid it on kind of thick.”
He said his objective is to make the event a community gathering.
Westfall said local Boy Scouts troops help with setting up and Master Gardeners help with tear down. After the event, they distribute the flowers to nursing homes throughout the area.
Although he and his wife have traveled to dahlia shows everywhere from St. Louis to Toronto, he said his local show impresses him every year.
“I won’t say our members are better than other growers out there, but I’m convinced we have some of the best,” he said.
The 54th Annual Dahlia Show will take place at the Marysville Family YMCA, 1150 Charles Lane, from 1-5 p.m. on Saturday and 1-4 p.m. on Sunday. The event is open to the public and there is no admission fee.
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