‘Duet’ is Pittsburgh’s famous dahlia, bred by the late Fred Scott

‘Duet’ is Pittsburgh’s famous dahlia, bred by the late Fred Scott
‘Duet’ was the creation of Fred Scott from Pleasant Hills, Pa. It was introduced in 1955 and is still one of the most popular dahlias on the market. Photo by Amy Krut

I ran across some of the late Fred Scott’s gardening containers in my garage the other day. He used them for his precious dahlias. They were a gift from his friend and mine, Dan Cummings who passed away himself in 2018. I only knew Scott through my friendship with Cummings, who was a devoted dahlia grower too. Cummings also introduced me to the 3945 tomato, found on the battlefield during WWII. That story is here.

Fred Scott of Pleasant Hills, is the man who gave us ‘Duet,’ one of the most popular dahlias ever released.

Depending on the soil, its flowers are either red or deep maroon, but what really distinguishes it are the white tips on each petal.

He loved experimenting with dahlias. While selecting varieties, a new variation appeared in 1952. It did well in several competitions and was introduced to the market three years later.

In his work life, Scott was an explosives expert for the U.S. Bureau of Mines. But every fall his free time was spent digging up hundreds of tubers and storing them in wooden boxes in the basement. Early each spring, the cellar floor was covered with vermiculite and mounds of roots ready for the garden. Planting could take entire days.

‘Duet’ is a true beauty. Photo by Amy Krut

“He would put on his old clothes and go straight to the garden, end up spending all his time down there. Mom would call him for dinner, he’d come and eat and then go back down,” his daughter Barb Coryea told me.

And then there were the shows. Preparation and an eye for beauty were Scott’s trademark. The stems of only the most perfect flowers were cut at an angle underwater.

My friend Dan Cummings met Scott in the 1990’s, and the two quickly became friends. They had a mutual interest in flowers, dahlias in particular and nature in general. “He was just special,” Cummings said at the time. “He was almost like a dad to me.”

As Cummings helped him plant a few dahlias, Scott always wore his plain yellow baseball cap. On the porch was an old, rustic-looking watering can.

“If you ever sell this place, I want to buy your watering can,” Cummings told him.

After Scott’s death, Cummings went over to the house. There was the watering can. And the cap.

“I’ve got Fred’s yellow hat,” he said with a smile.

“The watering can will always remind me about all the times I went over to see him and spent time with him.”

This packaged ‘Duet’ dahlia was hanging in the Floating Flower Market in Amsterdam.

When I traveled Holland, the mecca of bulbs, the first thing I saw when visiting the Floating Flower Market in Amsterdam was ‘Duet.’ I thought it was a fitting tribute for a Pittsburgher to stumble on to Scott’s creation, which has reached all corners of the world.


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