San Francisco’s official flower is serious business for the Dahlia Society of California, whose members donate time and expertise to maintain Golden Gate Park’s Dahlia Dell — the teardrop-shaped plot of dahlias located near the Conservatory of Flowers.
Members of the society, formed in 1917, keep the dell planted and watered, store tubers and prepare for the annual Show and Exhibition. Several have developed top-of-the-line cultivars.
Longtime member Lou Paradise manages a portion of the dell and creates dahlia hybrids. Paradise describes the dahlia as “eye candy” that comes in so many colors that a “bouquet of dahlias is like a rainbow.” He adds, “It gives me joy to see how people enjoy the blooms in the park.”
Erik and Gerda Juul also create hybrids and oversee part of the dell. For the couple, dahlias are a “hobby that went stark raving mad,” Gerda says.
Members, she adds, can experience an “ego trip” when seeing the flora they’ve produced.
The society’s free Show and Exhibition, featuring labeled and pedigreed dahlias from private gardens and the Dahlia Dell, takes place Aug. 16-17 at the Hall of Flowers, Ninth Avenue and Lincoln Way, Golden Gate Park. Hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday. For details, call (415) 994-2448.