When I first became besotted with daylilies, many of my best and most highly regarded plant friends thought I had lost my mind. ” Too long in retail, poor thing” , or “Well, he is a Gemini…” they said amongst themselves. But, now I also like dahlias very much! Maybe not the ones in the above photo (yet) , but I have amassed quite a collection out in Langley at my new garden. I have purchased some at the Seattle Garden Show , which has several tempting booths of vendors each February. They also have a USDA inspector there issuing permits for Canadian shoppers to get their treasures home legally. I also go to the Vancouver Dahlia Society’s tuber sale in the spring . This is held at Van Dusen Gardens Floral Hall in Vancouver, and it is like a giant bake sale for dahlia tubers. The selection is just amazing ! This year I bought ‘Hissy Fitz’, ‘Bad Hair Day’ and about twelve others.
A few of my current favourites are shown here in some pictures I just took (in early September) in my own garden. I am growing these dahlias for cut flowers . I think my favourite has to be ’Bracken Palomino’ . This is a very tasteful soft peach colour with a ‘ formal decorative’ (I think) type of flower. Each bloom is about 6″ across, and I’ve had cut flowers of this variety last for over a week. My second favourite is ‘Bracken Sarah’ . Another peachy one, with flowers that are bigger and paler in tone. Next in line is ‘Bedhead’, which is outstanding. The flowers are a pleasant shade of orange, with twisted cactus-type petals that give it its well-chosen name. This plant gets amazingly large. My one tuber became a mass of blooms on a Vokswagon-sized plant TWELVE FEET across , with hundreds of flowers and branches to the ground ! ‘Bedhead‘ is a fantastic variety for cutting, as the stems are long and clear of the foliage. We will have them for sale next spring.
There are many other varieties that I am fond of, and some I am going to throw away. After the first frost, dahlia plants turn brown immediately. This is when I cut them down and dig them up. I store them in a bit of the clinging soil. dry, in plastic crates in the dark. i make sure to label each clump. I have a cold, dark workshop, that is just above freezing in winter. The tubers must not freeze, as they are tropical. In spring, I haul them out and clean them off, dividing them into clumps, making sure each divided piece has an eye or atleast a section of last years plant stem at the top. This is really essential as no eyes will appear on broken tubers (which will not grow a plant) without a piece of ‘mommy’ – last years stalk/neck. I pot them up in one or two gallon pots are start them in a greenhouse, waiting until May to plant them out. By giving my dahlias this headstart, I get flowers earlier that planting dormant bulbs straight into the ground. If this is your only option, you will still have a mass display by August.
Next year, try to source some interesting dahlias to provide you with buckets of beauty and to horrify any plant snob friends!
Dahlia ‘Bracken Sarah’ Here I am with a few cut dahlias and sweetpeas from my new garden in Langley, B.C. Deer have not been much of a problem, but this area is fenced, just in case. Dahlia ‘ Bedhead’