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  • Dennis McNabb

Swan Island Dahlias: A Work of Heart

Business Feature

By Dennis McNabb, Contributing Writer

“A beautiful garden is a work of heart.”

It has become increasingly difficult over the past few years to find inspiration in the world, to find reasons to smile. We have sometimes felt overwhelmed, gotten caught up in the negatives, and neglected to appreciate the simpler pleasures in life. Quite literally, we have forgotten to stop and smell the flowers. In order to rectify that situation, though, we need look no further than our own backyards. Swan Island Dahlias, the largest and leading dahlia grower in the entire country, is located right here in Canby, and they want nothing more than to simply share the fruits of their labor with all of us and return that smile to our faces!

Established in 1927—with acreage in Portland and on Swan Island, hence the name—the farm was relocated to Canby in 1953. It was purchased by the Gitts family in 1963, and since then has doubled in size and scope. Still owned and operated by the Gitts family to this day, during the blooming season the farm boasts almost 50 acres of the most dazzling, varied, and unique dahlias you’ve ever seen. With 370+ varieties on display, and on average roughly 10 new varieties introduced every year, there’s always something new and exciting to be found.

Prior to the pandemic, the farm hosted a 6 day dahlia festival every summer, split between 2 weekends. Since then, they have adapted to our advantage. Now Swan Island Dahlias is open to the public for 2 full months, from August 1st to September 30th! It’s FREE to attend, FREE to park, and if the stunning, world-class assortment of gorgeous flowers isn’t enough to lure you in, then perhaps the adorable gift shop will. If not that, then the food (anywhere from 2 to 6 food trucks are on site at all times), the educational classes (art, health & beauty, floral arranging, dahlia care, and more), or the entertainment (live music every Saturday and Sunday from 12-4pm) certainly will! This is truly the hidden gem of the Willamette Valley. You don’t want to miss it!

Three generations have proudly run Swan Island Dahlias. I had the pleasure and privilege of speaking with Heather Gitts-Schloe, daughter of Nicholas and Linda Gitts (who currently run the farm) and granddaughter of Nick and Margaret Gitts, who initially purchased the farm back in 1963. Her passion and love for the farm was evident in every word she spoke. Some of us work to live, but clearly she and her whole family lives to work (on this farm)! The gratitude she expressed for being a part of something so sublime and so positive was inspiring, and her sincerest wish was only to share all of this with the community at large.

Swan Island Dahlias: A Work of Heart. Looking to find some beauty in this world again? Looking for some peace and tranquility; a place to enjoy the company of friends and family; to eat some delicious food, drink and live entertainment? Look no further than Swan Island Dahlias. Located at 995 NW 22nd Ave in Canby, and open 6 days a week from 9:00am - 5:30pm (closed Wednesdays) from August 1st through September 30th. Gift shop open year round!

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