Joyce and Eliot Sterling have been growing dahlias since 1963. When asked how they became interested in growing dahlias, Joyce said she couldn’t remember since it was so long ago. But, she said Harry Dixon, a founding member of RIDS, taught her a lot about growing and exhibiting.
The Sterlings joined ADS and the Connecticut Dahlia Society in 1972 and RIDS in 1976. They grow more than 300 plants per year. Each year the number varies because many of the dahlias they grow are seedlings.
Joyce’s favorite dahlias are those designated AOT (All Other Types), and this is the area in which she concentrates her efforts at hybridizing new introductions. Her first introduction was Marshall Schalk, a single white dahlia. Named for a geologist friend, Joyce says he was more excited about having a dahlia named for him than he was of the many scientific awards he had received. Joyce precedes most of her other introductions with the name ‘Bay State’ so everyone will know she is from Massachusetts.
One of her proudest accomplishments is receiving the Evie Gullickson Medal in 2005 for Bay State Angel. This medal is awarded each year to the cultivar that has the highest Seedling Bench Evaluation score for an AOT dahlia in the United States and Canada.
Joyce is an ADS accredited Senior Dahlia Judge who is currently teaching the newest group of RIDS members the ins and outs of how to be an ADS dahlia judge. Joyce served as Chair of Judges/Evaluations from 1997 to 2002, President of RIDS from 1997 to 1999, was the founder and chairman of the Washington County Fair’s Dahlia Show from 1997 to 2002, and currently serves as Evaluation Chair.
Joyce is interested in all aspects of growing and exhibiting dahlias and has shown dahlias since 1972 at RIDS, Washington County, Connecticut, Long Island, New Jersey, Provincetown and ADS National shows, as well as the Topsfield Fair in Massachusetts.
She is a member of AAAS, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, Section G – Biology. In this organization, she is listed as a “volunteer for the American Dahlia Society with a special interest in development of new varieties.” She has introduced 13 varieties so far.
And what about Eliot you ask? A very quiet and affable man, Eliot has just celebrated 55 years at General Electric in Lynn, Massachusetts, as an engineer working on jet engines. He is an ADS accredited Dahlia Judge and is very supportive of Joyce’s hybridizing efforts.