Hello dahlias :)

I’ve always dabbled a little in dahlias, but last year I treated myself to a few named ones from Swan Island Dahlias.  Last year they did great, this year even better!

dahlia moonstruck

Dahlia “moonstruck” would look great in a border, it’s got a nice height and really puts out the flowers.

I did lose a couple (my overwintering technique is sloppy at best) but I like to think of it as natural selection.  Eventually I’ll be left with only the dahlias that can tolerate my abuse!  Right now if I can only keep them watered and possibly fertilized once more they should put on a great show until frost cuts them down.

dahlia tanjoh

Dahlia “Tanjoh” barely bloomed last year, this year it’s in a much better spot and is really starting to put on a nice show.

I consider dahlias to be as easy to grow as a cabbage.  Maybe that’s why some people look down on them, they grow so lush and showy that there’s little room for subtlety and finesse…. which is just fine with me.  I grow them best amongst the vegetables where they can be fussed over and freely cut for the house, and they relish the easy life amongst the tomatoes and beans.

dahlia 'mathew alan'

This was supposed to be my favorite from last year “Plum Pretty”, but apparently it’s dahlia “Mathew Alan’. He’s a nice enough dahlia, but this means it was the plum that died over winter and went onto the compost pile….

I love all kinds of dahlias, but seem to be stuck on the quilled ‘cactus’ types.  A six inch wide cactus bloom and a height of about four feet seem just right for my taste, but a look through any dahlia offering will show plants from a half a foot to six with blooms from one inch to twelve…. and daisies, pom poms, dinnerplates, waterlilies, collarettes and more and more in the way of bloom types.

dahlia 'bride to be'

With a generic white flower name such as ‘Bride to Be’ I would guess this one would be perfect for a wedding arrangement. It’s a waterlily type, with broad, perfectly arranged, rounded petals.

Water, rich soil, and full sun are all these ask of me.  They should be staked, but I’m the sort who waits until a storm knocks them all down before I do anything….. I should really reconsider that plan, especially since I just picked up some suitable wood at the DIY store (no excuses!)

dahlia "goovy" with japanese beetles

Slugs, earwigs and Japanese beetles are the only troublemakers I get in the dahlia patch. They’re never much of a problem, I just dispense punishment, clip the bloom, and wait for a new one to come up in its place. This is dahlia “Groovy”, a darker leaved variety.

I’ve been through dahlia phases before and usually after a couple seasons of digging and replanting I either get bored or end up losing them all to bad winter storage.  We’ll see.  This latest phase is still burning hot and fierce, and I’m tempted to turn over the entire vegetable patch and fill it with dahlias!

peach dahlia

My oldest dahlia. This unidentified one from the box store has been surviving the in and outs of winter storage for at least 9 years…. practically a record in responsibility for me! (If it was taller it could be the 1963 dahlia “Alfred Grille”, but named or nameless still a nice one)

So we’ll see what happens.  Dahlia season is just starting and there are more to come, but opinions may change when the temperatures drop.  Digging soggy dahlia roots on a cold windy October weekend can really kill a plant lust and I’m far too frugal to just buy new tubers each spring.

Do you bother with dahlias?

19 comments on “Hello dahlias :)

  1. I so. so love dahlias, but so do my slugs. I am always left with a leafless stalk and a pretty flower on top. It is the opposite with my sunflowers, the squirrels behead them and the flower looks up at me from the ground. Like you I over-wintered the dahlias, but gave up the battle with the slugs.

    • bittster says:

      I hate slugs. They appear from nowhere, reproduce at a supernatural rate, and eat like little demons. I’m glad my garden is usually too dry for them to be happy.
      I’m lucky in that the dahlias do well here, if they were more trouble I don’t know if I’d bother.

  2. So what is you’re overwintering technique? Digging up and storing tubers is one of the things that keeps me away from dahlias. I might get confused and make them into mash potatoes.

    • bittster says:

      I’m not sure how mashed dahlia root would taste, I’ll wait for your report!
      They were grown as a food crop by the Aztecs, so maybe it wouldn’t be too bad…. with a huge amount of butter and sour cream.
      My overwintering process is throwing them in a bucket or tub and throwing that into a corner of the garage. That’s pretty much the extent of it. Sometimes I kick the bucket over to a cooler corner, it’s very scientific.

  3. Cathy says:

    They are all lovely Frank. I tend to have phases too and grew some in pots this year – one has been lovely and the rest either didn’t do well or were not terribly impressive. Some have already made it to the compost heap after they were nibbled by various creatures almost down to the ground! I envy anyone who can grow them – AND keep them over winter. How do you store the tubers?

    • bittster says:

      I feel so lucky after hearing of the problems others have with slugs etc. I guess drought is good for something after all :/
      My storage is very haphazard. The tubers are dug, the tops cut, and the dirty root clump thrown into a bucket (or plastic tub) and placed in a cool garage corner. Warm enough to keep them just from freezing is perfect, and if it looks like they’re starting to shrivel up I put a cover on to keep in the moisture.
      Good luck!
      If you have the space you could just bring in the whole pot after frost and just keep it cool and dry until spring.

      • Cathy says:

        That’s a great idea – I could put the pots in the garage, although there’s only one sort that has been pretty enough to keep so far…. Maybe I’m just not a Dahlia person after all! LOL!

  4. Chloris says:

    You have some lovely Dahlias, gorgeous colours. I never dig mine up in winter. I think your winters are colder there, but I am convinced that it is winter wet rather than cold that kills them. I cover the tubers with newspaper and lots of compost. It usually works.

    • bittster says:

      I can’t imagine a climate moderate enough for dahlias to overwinter, yet cold enough for tulips and fruit trees. From this side of the fence your grass looks awfully green!

  5. Pauline says:

    Your dahlias are super, far better than mine! I managed to store them under the staging over winter in the greenhouse, but I’m thinking maybe I didn’t pot them up soon enough, they are rather pathetic!

    • bittster says:

      Good job on overwintering, sorry they’re not more appreciative….. You really have so many other goodies, I’m surprised they’re not doing well for you this year. You would think they’d like your hot summer!

  6. It seems like it takes all summer to finally bloom here. I keep them in pots and they have yet to bloom. It may be it’s not hot enough or it may be they don’t like living in containers. Never yet tried them in the vegetable garden.

    • bittster says:

      I don’t mind showing the successes, but there are plenty of extra roots (which I planted late) which are only just now breaking the 6 inch barrier. I’ll be surprised if they amount to anything.
      Do yours get full sun? Mine bake out there, and as long as the water keeps coming they thrive.

  7. Annette says:

    Gorgeous, Frank! I love them but haven’t grown them in my new garden yet. I shall have a go next year…they’re so flamboyent and every garden should have some. I love the dark red ones like Karma Choc and Chat noir but also the single flowered varieties. I like to grow them among the veg in the potager – adds some zest to it. You have some very pretty ones 🙂

    • bittster says:

      Thanks Annette!
      Karma Choc and Chat Noir are popular over here too, rightly so for those rich dark colors. The single ones are less common. My favorite is the “Bishops Children” mix. I would love to grow out a whole bed of them to see what comes out of it. Hmmmmm. Maybe next year!
      -oh and the ones with dark foliage, you can’t go wrong with them either 🙂

  8. Christina says:

    I’m new to Dahlias this year Frank, I thought I didn’t like them, but I’m a convert, although I think they are difficult to use in a garden situation they are brilliant in the cuttings bed and I’ve really enjoyed them in the house. I intend leaving them in the ground as my soil is very free draining and our winter temperatures aren’t usually low for long.

    • bittster says:

      I don’t blame you for having your doubts, they’re often so oversized and overdoubled that they really just look like heavy lumps of color in the garden…. but there are also plenty of nice ones! Some of the singles and smaller blooming types are also very appealing, these don’t look half bad nixed into the garden, but their stems aren’t always the best for cutting.

  9. I have only ever planted the shorter, bushy dahlias, and I’m usually not happy with them. I want to plant taller, cutting-quality dahlias, but need to find space to do it! I really like your oldest one in the picture next to the canna leaves.

    • bittster says:

      There are always plenty of tubers to share (and experiment with) come spring! They do need a bit of space though, and don’t handle neglect well, but the flowers are worth it -in my opinion of course 🙂

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