Fred Tarl­ton (1910—2013)

Alberta Gardener Magazine - - News -

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.

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