Fred Tarlton (1910—2013)
How Fred Tarlton came to be one of Alberta’s best known and most respected lily hybridizers is almost as difficult to explain as it is to account for the superiority of one lily hybrid over another. The fact he was born in England in 1910, raised mainly in small-town Alberta and launched into a teaching career by the age of 20, does not point toward Tarlton’s interest in lilies or the patience, perseverance and talent he brought to the breeding of them.
Perhaps the answer lies in his thirst for knowledge, particularly in science and mathematics, his talent for observation and his quiet and open nature. As a young school teacher living in Rich Valley, Tarlton met Georges Bugnet, the garrulous French settler and scholar who had developed a passion for plant breeding. Tarlton went to Bugnet in search of French conversation and came away with a budding interest in the science of horticulture.
A few years later, while teaching in Stony Plain, just west of Edmonton, Tarlton began buying and growing lilies. In 1950 he joined the North American Lily Society and soon he was growing and showing his lilies and beginning the painstaking breeding experiments which led to his many registered Asiatics and martagons.
The Alberta Regional Lily Society, of which Tarlton was a founding member, paid tribute to him in 2000 for “hybridizing, collecting and growing the genus Lilium and for all the volunteer work [he contributed] for the betterment of the society.” Many of his hybrids were named and described in the tribute, including a pink cream bicolour Asiatic which was registered in 1980 and named Corianne for a granddaughter.
But it is the martagons for which Tarlton is especially known. They are sold across the country and continue to win prizes at bench shows: Attawa, Akimina, Charlene, Jay Dene, Moonyeen and Sarcee, since they were registered in 1988. Amelita was registered in 1993 and, in 1999, Tarlton’s friend and fellow lily hybridizer, Marvin Joslin, registered Tarlton’s Alberta Sunrise, Briana, Glynis and Trinity.
These accomplishments would justify the career of a professional horticulturist but the fact they result from the work of a talented and dedicated amateur makes them even more impressive.