Warrenton - To most people, Bonnie Moore is the Flower Lady. For more than 25 years, Moore and her husband, Sam, have been growing dahlias in their big front yard on Southeast Second Street, just a block from Warrenton City Hall.
In late summer, thousands of lovely blooms turn the Moores' 200-by-50 foot property into a flower lovers' paradise.
Mayonnaise jars filled with bouquets lovingly created by Moore, with help nowadays from her daughter, Vicky Nelson, line the shelves of a small white wooden stand near the driveway.
The stand was born of necessity, once the Moores started raising dahlias in earnest.
"I said, 'Sam, what are we going to do with all these flowers? They're stacked everywhere inside the house.'"
Some summers the stand has sold 15 or 16 bouquets a day.
"I like making the bouquets," Moore said. "That's not work to me."
The Moores have never advertised. They don't have to.
"We couldn't keep up sometimes," said Nelson. "We'd put the bouquets out by noon and by 1 o'clock they'd be gone."
Payment is on the honor system. Customers drop their $3 into a lock box.
"It's a hobby that pays for itself," Moore said. "The stand makes enough to buy bulbs and slug bait."
Moore has also occasionally provided flowers for weddings and funerals, and for a while she sold flowers to Hauke's Sentry Market in Astoria and to the Thriftway in Youngs Bay Plaza (both now out of business). More recently, she provided flowers for daughter Vicky's 35-year Warrenton High School class reunion.
Raising dahlias is hard work. Moore would put out slug bait in February. Around May 1, she and her husband would start planting - usually 3,000 to 4,000 bulbs, 30 per row, 5 to 6 inches deep.
"It took a week or two, depending on how much help we could recruit or bribe," she joked. "I was usually out there from 6:30 in the morning, till almost dark."
When the plants started coming up, she would put them in hills, like potatoes. She sprayed for ants and earwigs and took care of weeds.
This year the flower bed is much smaller than in years gone by, because 73-year-old Moore has developed a painful back ailment. But, with help from friends and family, especially daughter Vicky Nelson, who came back to Warrenton from Kansas to help her mother, the Moore dahlia tradition continues.
"Vicky has been our jack-of-all-trades," said Moore.
The Moores' dahlia extravaganza is a labor of love that began by accident on a hunting trip to eastern Oregon in the 1970s. That's when Bonnie and Sam saw a truck stopped in the middle of the road and stopped to help. The strangers they assisted turned out to be Nick and Margaret Gitts, owners of Swan Island Dahlia in Canby, one of largest dahlia growing businesses in the United States.
The Gitts showed the Moores their dahlia catalogue and asked them to come to the annual Canby Dahlia Show.
"They gave us a few dahlias and we planted them around the house," Moore remembers. "Each year we planted more, until finally they took up the whole front yard. We had about 3,500 bulbs. I lost count of how many varieties."
- Sandra Swain