As U.S. Customs agents tried to decide if dahlia blossoms counted as agricultural produce to be turned back at the border, Connie Young-Davis waited and worried.
After 90 anxious minutes, the agents allowed the Saanich woman and her husband Colin Davis to drive their specially fitted "Dahlia Mobile" to Portland, Oregon, for the 46th American Dahlia Society national show, Sept. 1 and 2.
There, Young-Davis took top honours.
"I won best in show," she said with a laugh on Monday. "I went down there and I took it from America."
The annual show filled 18,000 square feet of exhibition space with hundreds of spectacular dahlia blooms from across North America. Young-Davis took the coveted Best Fully Double Dahlia in Show, with a bloom of the variety known as Trengrove Millennium. She also brought back several other awards.
It was a happy ending, given the challenging start to the journey Aug. 31 at U.S. Customs in Port Angeles, Young-Davis said.
"They were looking for some kind of bug, something that we have that they don't have," she said.
As the agents deliberated, Young-Davis had 480 plants sitting in water, packed in insulating Styrofoam sitting inside the couple's SUV. The vehicle has been specially extended for flower transport by her marine builder and handyman husband.
With the water, insulation and the Dahlia Mobile's air conditioning going full blast, the flowers held up to the extra scrutiny.
The mother of two grown boys, who works as the executive chef at the Wellesley of Victoria retirement home, said she has been growing dahlias for 17 years. She is a frequent entrant to shows in Victoria, Vancouver, Nanaimo and the U.S., and is often a judge at shows.
The American Dahlia Society National Show always attracts thousands of flowers, and competition is always fierce.
At the show, which offers about 100 prizes, Young-Davis's Best Fully Double Bloom was the most honoured, said Ted Kennedy of the Portland Dahlia Society and a chairman of the past national show. "You can definitely say that's the best in show."