To enter Wendy Pickering Bedrosian’s North 40 garden plot, I must first negotiate the tangle of chicken wire fencing. She pulls aside the barrier, and I’m allowed to pass. “I make this a fortress agains the bunnies,” she says. The treasure Wendy is protecting: over 400 dahlia tubers that throw up thousands of gorgeous flowers every year.
Part hobby, part obsession, and part charitable endeavor, Wendy has been tending her 85ft. x 30 ft. Weston Road plot for over ten years. It started out innocently enough as a vegetable garden that she intended to work with her kids. Turns out the kids didn’t like gardening so, Henny Penny-like, she sighed and planted and harvested on her own. That’s the hobby part of the story. When she added a few dahlias about six years ago, she fell in love with the wide range of colors and varieties she could find. So the next year she put in a few more dahlias, then dozens more, then hundreds. That’s the obsession part of the story. “Now here we are and there are very few vegetables,” she shrugs.
The charitable part of the story is the best part. While the dahlias are in full bloom, which is mid-summer until the first frost, Wendy sells bouquets of at least a dozen stems of various sizes and color, along with some filler, for a minimum donation of $15. It should come as no surprise that a fancy florist would charge almost $100 for such bounty. Wendy harvests almost daily, and she makes sure every bloom is in peak condition. With names like Double Jill, Last Dance, Mojo, and Tailspin, there can be no disappointment in her choices. You will get gorgeous blooms. Full stop. Contact Wendy here to arrange for your own bouquet of dahlias, and for pickup details.
Last year, dahlia proceeds garnered more than $1,000 for two different charities. This year, Wendy is on track to $3,000 in donations, maybe more, since most people give more that the minimum donation, “which has been so generous,” she says.
Wendy switches the charity every week or two. This year she so far she’s donated to Wellesley ABC, and the Justice Health Initiative. Her most recent efforts are going to raise money for a young woman who suffered a spinal cord injury in a cycling accident last year. Those funds will go toward buying expensive adaptive equipment not covered by insurance.
She doesn’t have any specific fundraising goals. There’s no giant novelty thermometer outside her North 40 plot, tracking philanthropic progress. “Whatever it does, it does,” she says.
Once the frost hits, the work continues. Wendy digs up the dahlia tubers each year, and they overwinter in an unfinished part of her basement that stays cold enough for the dormancy period they require. Last year that chore took place around the third week of October. One year the party kept going until Nov. 7, but that’s unusual.
Wendy sources her tubers from a lot of small farms, and also has gotten involved in dahlia Facebook communities. “I’ve made dahlia friends from all over the country. We do a lot of trading, which is really a lot of fun. Some of them are really rare and hard to get. It’s like collecting anything.”
Which is to say, an obsession. Once the charitable part of the growing season has past, she’s back on the hunt, scouting around online for coveted varieties. There’s always room for one more tuber in her dahlia beds. And Wendy doesn’t play favorites. “They’re like children, you don’t have a favorite one,” she laughs.
If you love the idea of introducing a few beautiful “flower children” into your home while supporting a worthy cause, contact Wendy for details. The dahlia stems I picked up last week are still going strong and were, of course, well worth the nominal donation.
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