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Lawn & Garden

Dahlias: The Last Hurrah




I have written a few articles about Dahlias in the past, and I have proclaimed my appreciation for the beautiful, multi layered flower and what they can bring to a garden or planter; I believe I am now obsessed with the darling dahlia…I am changing my label for the impressive blooms to…..deliberate, determined, dahlia.


The dahlia tuber is planted into the ground once the threat of frost is gone; it lay dormant until the soil warms, it does not require water until the fresh green leaves emerges above the soil line, and then it only needs water a few times a week. Dahlias work all season growing in the background of the of a sunny garden bed while the seasonal annuals and the persistent perennials demand notice, slow and steady dahlias reach for the sky….deifying all weather conditions. Growing so tall that pinching back and staking just help the plant get ready for their show, “the grand finale” of the flower garden season.


While driving a few weeks back looking for a path to walk with a very energetic dog we past a large tent on the opposite side of a long, narrow, winding road. A large privet hedge covered the road side of the tent and there was a handwritten sign stuck into the mass hedge planting that read “Fresh Cut Sunflowers, Dahlias and Zinnias For Sale”….I was intrigued to say the least, we had to travel about a half a mile to be able to turn around and go back.


There was an opening in the privet hedge large enough for one car to turn in, and what was on the other side of the towering hedge was amazing….fields of flowers! Sunflowers bobbing their heads in the breeze, and there were rows, broad stripes of orange and yellow zinnias like bold stripes on a rugby shirt….and then I saw the fields of dahlias….I was speechless, that hardly ever happens!


Raised berms, long mounds of soil that stretch until I could not see the ends had dahlias growing up and out from all sides, spewing all colors. Rows with pure white and butter cream yellow, rows of jewel tones in deep ruby red, and rows of pale to royal purple, the sweetest pinks and vibrant fuchsia beside rows that grew deep fiery orange…it was a spectacular sight!  


Under the canopy of the tent the fresh cut bunches were in buckets and vases for sale. The flower heads ranged from four inches across to eight, in beautiful, bright colors. The hand cut arrangements were mesmerizing it was very difficult to choose a bunch they were all perfect.


I spoke to the owner of the fields who is also the planter, cultivator and picker and also the sales person…he is a flower farmer, such a great title. Farming flowers in this region of the country is an intense, time demanding job, the growing season is short everyday counts.

 

“The weather plays the biggest part of the season” he told me, “It takes me about a month to plant everything, and another month to dig up the dahlia tubers and shut the fields down and put everything to bed for the winter”, sounds exhausting, “A early frost not only will kill off the dahlias it kills profits as well”, he said.  





Home gardeners are enjoying the last hurrah for dahlias in their own gardens now, it is just a matter of weeks until we get a frost here in the Boston area.


The best practice for digging up dahlia tubers is to wait a week after the light frost has happened and the foliage of the dahlia plant has withered and turned brown. With a pitch fork carefully dig down around the dahlia remains and loosen the soil shake away any dirt without injuring the roots and tuber. 


Next lay the tubers on news paper in a dry, warm spot, spread them out so that they do not touch each other, leave them for at least a week

Prepare a cardboard box for storage; line a cardboard box with news paper add a layer of peat moss to the bottom of the box lay the tubers out then another layer of news paper or paper towels the paper and peat moss will help to pull any moisture from within the bulbs. Provide the driest possible spot for storage will keep the fungus and rot at bay. Place the box in a spot that will not freeze for the winter months.


When the spring arrives, remove and inspect tubers before planting, trim of any suspect decaying roots and tubers, be mindful to disinfect pruners with alcohol wipes in-between cuts…..and the planting process begins again.!


 

Dahlias are darling for sure, but the determined flowers and delightful blooms are daring, dahlias continue to bloom until they are struck down by a frost, and even then, they store energy within the tuber, never truly dying in a gardeners mind…just resting, and restoring.


Dahlias do take many extra steps and a true effort to grow, it is a passion and a love for these amazing flowers that has been shared by the gardeners and farmers all over the world for centuries.

 

Dahlias are native to Mexico and were first recorded in1525, seeds and tubers were taken to Spain, France, Holland and cultivated throughout Europe; Dahlias were name the national flower of Mexico in 1963, 400 years after first discovered.


Consider doing a little extra work think about planting dahlias. Do some dahlia homework over the cold winter months and stop by your local Home Depot for a great selection of Dahlia tubers in early spring.


Enjoy the last hurrah of the garden season then rest and restore,

Maureen

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Posted 2018-10-09T15:59:00+0000  by Maureen_HD_BOS Maureen_HD_BOS
 
 

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