A Dahlia ‘Superstar’: Chehalis Man Gets National Attention for Flower Gardening


In a recent announcement from the American Dahlia Society on 2022 winners of a “prestigious” award for new flower introductions, the society’s spokesperson declared there is a dahlia “superstar” living in Chehalis.

Wayne Lobaugh, 60, of Chehalis, works as a parks maintenance director for the City of Tumwater and serves as president of the Federation of Northwest Dahlia Growers. When he comes home from a day of groundskeeping, his hobby gets him right back in the dirt. For years, he and his daughter RaeAnn have toiled their way to dahlia mastery.

One of their creations, a pink ball-shaped bloom called “Newaukum Fun,” received the Lynn B. Dudley award for 2022. The distinction required earning top marks in three rounds of in-person judging. It is Lobaugh’s seventh American Dahlia Society medal.

“I’m a person that grows dahlias,” Lobaugh said. “I just happened, somehow, to wind up in this group that people think are superstars. … (The society) holds a national show in a different region of the country every year. This year was in D.C. and people will come up to me and say, ‘Oh, you’re Wayne Lobaugh.’ It’s weird.”

A lifelong gardener, Lobaugh planted dahlias for years before exploring the painstaking work of hybridizing flowers for different varieties. Traditionally grown from tubers, he began harvesting the flower’s seeds, which makes the bloom largely unpredictable.

“The dahlia is so genetically diverse,” Lobaugh said. “Like humans, they’re all different.”

While many dedicated breeders use Q-tips for cross-pollination, Lobaugh lives in dahlia central: Native pollinators do the work for him. Of the 60 nationwide dahlia hybridizers, Lobaugh said, about 30 live in Western Washington. The temperate climate, soil types and pollinators make the area ideal for the diverse flower.

In his Newaukum-area backyard, Lobaugh and his daughter have several different flower gardens, placed strategically based on wind direction to encourage cross-breeding. In his garage, dozens of dahlia ribbons line cupboards filled with seeds.

“We’ve won a lot more than this but the only ones we keep are the ones that we’ve originated the dahlias,” Lobaugh said, nonchalantly.

As their creator, Lobaugh is entitled to give his seeds catchy monikers, including “Newaukum Honey” (his favorite), “Misty Flame” and “Good Golly Miss Molly.” Counting down the 14 months until he turns 62, Lobaugh is eager for retirement, when he plans to make dahlias his full-time gig. 

Already, he sells seeds and tubers through a website, which he said was initially made to offset the cost of what he spends on the hobby. Though less ornate than the aquariums of tropical fish he keeps in the house, even Lobaugh’s living room walls are papered with dahlia prints.

And though the American Dahlia Society recognizes more than 20 official forms and endless colors of the flower, creating endless challenges for the aspiring award-winner, Lobaugh said the thing he loves most about the hobby isn’t even the gardening.

“It always goes back, for me, to the people. I mean, I like the flower. I used to really enjoy the flower, but now when I go out into the garden it looks like a lot of work,” he said, laughing. “I still enjoy the flower but by being involved with the dahlia organizations — the people are great. … I can travel around America and Canada and I can go to almost any state now and call somebody up and say, ‘Hey, this is Wayne’ to a dahlia person and go meet up with them.”

To browse Lobaugh’s stock of dahlia products or learn more from his green thumb tips, visit https://www.lobaughsdahlias.com.


Dahlias, whether by seed or tuber, can be planted right after Mother’s Day, according to Chehalis resident Wayne Lobaugh. When tomatoes go in the ground, dahlias can too, he said.

Grown from tubers, a gardener can tell exactly what they’ll see when the flower blooms. Seeds are unpredictable.

Lobaugh does not fence his dahlias, as deer typically stay away from them. He also does not use pesticides. In the Western Washington climate, he said, the flowers thrive on organic material such as lawn clipping compost.

Learn more at https://www.lobaughsdahlias.com/.