Wayne Lobaugh is the Chehalis star you’ve never heard of

Wayne Lobaugh is the Chehalis star you’ve never heard of

TACOMA, Wash. – At Tacoma Point Defiance Garden, home to the nation’s largest dahlia trial garden, judges examine, measure and color-code potential medal winners sent in from across the country.

“I always tell people it’s like a dog show,” said Brad Freeman, president of the American Dahlia Society. “There’s emphasis in showing dogs. We judge on shape, color, stem, foliage, material — things like that.”

Winning a medal is a big deal. It takes a score of 85 out of 100 in three different demo parks to get one. Wayne Lobo of Chehalis seems to collect medals the same way most of us collect spare change.

I lost count at 150.

“It’s not about being good, it’s about being really crazy,” Lobo said.

Lobaugh specializes in open-center dahlias. He has a website that he uses to sell seeds and tubers. RaeAnn’s Gemini is named after his daughter. Lo Clara was named after his granddaughter, and both Lo Redeye have won multiple awards.

Credit: King TV

Some of Wayne Lobaugh’s winners. From top left, Gemini for RaeAnn, Lo Clara, and Lo Redeye

After his latest win, the American Dahlia Society declared Lobo a Dahlia Star.

“Everyone who knew Wayne knew he was a big star,” Freeman said. “He’s a great guy and we enjoy calling him a friend.”

Lobo says he doesn’t take the “star” title seriously.

“We have a guy at the American Dahlia Society in charge of publicity,” Lobo shrugged. “He is new to this position. In a press release, he described everyone who won a medal last year as a star.”

Lobo says the secret to his success is planting a few dahlias close together and hoping the breeze and bees will pollinate them.

“We never get what we’re looking for,” LeBaugh said. “We got a surprise and we like it.”

“So it’s an inexact science,” we asked.

“I would say there’s no science at all. It’s all luck.”

Luck starts with the long, sunny summer days that are perfect for dahlias. Planted after Mother’s Day, dahlias bloom from late summer until the first freeze. Lobaugh will use fertilizer and slug bait, but not pesticides.

“Pesticides to me are a no-brainer,” LeBaugh said.

This is for the bees that work sometimes also Closely with dahlia growers.

“I get stung three times a year on average,” Lobo said with a smile. “Our garden at home only has a twinkle over the top because of all the bees flying around.”

That means that even when Lobaugh spends his Saturday morning judging someone else’s dahlias, his next string of stars is about to blossom at home.

The 2023 National Dahlia Show will be held this weekend in Portland. The 2024 expo will be in Wenatchee and will be chaired by Lobo.

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