For me, summertime in the garden is about all hot gaudy colours, and in my mind, no flower does that better than the dahlia. A few of these flamboyant daisies in a garden is guaranteed to create a riot of colour… not only that, they come in all sorts of weird and wonderful flower forms too, very collectable, some of them very dainty and perfect, others are big, frilly and boisterous! They’re certainly a hard bunch to ignore, but I must admit, in my early days of gardening, I did everything I could to ignore them. Plants like dahlias represented a style of gardening from yesteryear, one that I just wasn’t interested in.
Well thankfully, I’ve mellowed out a lot since then, and there aren’t too many plants that I don’t appreciate and love, but I must say, that when I finally discovered the hypnotic beauty of dahlias, I feel hopelessly head over heels.
It was around this time, 8 years when I attended one of my local community dahlia shows and was absolutely blown away by the displays, particularly the variety and the perfection in these blooms. I just had to have some, and with much glee, I was handed a bag of full tubers from one of the champion growers.
Now the tubers themselves are something to be seen… they are so grotesque looking, it’s hard to believe that that’s where all the beauty begins… but hey, those tubers are built for survival, they make growing beautiful flowers easy… and just one is all you need to get started. You plant them out in spring… and during the growing season, each one can produce ten or more new tubers that you can lift… divide… and turn into new plants.
All you need to provide is a spot with plenty of sunshine, and a well-drained soil. They like feeding… but don’t over do it… just a little blood and bone for growth and potash for the blooms… and always maintain a good layer of mulch too to hold the moisture in the soil.
I’ve learned a few tricks from some of the champion exhibition growers if you want to have a go at growing superior blooms. Look for the buds growing at the sides and pinch them out. What that does is concentrate the growth energy into the main central bud… and that makes the flower bigger and the stems longer and stronger – which are all good attributes of a show flower.
And this is something else they do… whenever the weather gets hot… or rainy…up go the umbrellas, which are tied to the stakes to protect the flowers to stop them from fading in the sun and getting soggy in the wet. It does seem extreme, but that’s what creating show blooms is all about, and a bit of fun if you want to try.
They sure do make wonderful cut flowers in the summer… I love sharing them with friends when they visit. I don’t plan to take on any of the local champions… but I do tip my hat to them for their dedication to the beauty of dahlias, and for turning me on to an old fashioned favourite, that is enjoying a return to the spotlight in my garden. And if you haven’t had a chance to discover the amazing world of dahlias, do be sure to visit one of your local shows… you know you want to.