Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Wednesday Vignette: Dahlias!

I've never succeeded in growing dahlias.  I tried some fancy varieties in my old garden but, crammed into a small space that offered far too little sun, I got few flowers and lots of mildew.  I tried them in my current garden but fared little better, probably because I provided less water and fewer nutrients than they need.  Last weekend, I visited my local botanic garden, just 5 miles away as the crow flies, and was confronted with a beautiful dahlia display garden, which made it clear that I can't blame the local climate for my failures in growing dahlias.

By way of introduction, I should add that I hadn't gone to the garden to see the dahlias.  I stopped by for a "shop and learn clinic" on Australian plants.  Unfortunately, that event was disappointing.  There weren't many plants and most of those there I already had.  There were 2 Brachychiton acerifolius (Australian Flame Trees) but as it's a fast grower reaching 60 feet in height at maturity I wasn't going to encourage another confrontation with my neighborhood tree hater by planting that, pretty as it may be.  This is a long-winded way of explaining that, because the event placed me in the garden at high noon on a very sunny afternoon, my photos are all overexposed.

But on to the dahlias!  Although the garden was especially busy for a Sunday afternoon, I had the Dahlia Garden all to myself.  It seems that the majority of visitors that afternoon were not there to see the dahlias or to participate in the Australian plants "shop and learn clinic."  They were there to play Pokeman Go.  However, no Pokemon were hanging out among the dahlias.

The Dahlia Garden occupies a relatively small area of the 87-acre botanic garden

The trellises at the entrance are planted with Amaranthus, Datura, and Dolichos lablab (aka Hyacinth Bean)

I tried to pick just one dahlia photo as my Wednesday Vignette but I just couldn't do it.

This daisy-flowered variety may be my favorite, though.  I love that coral color.

I'm sure there were plant tags with cultivar names but I didn't take note of them

Even in partial shade, this bloom shined



I think this is one of the dinner plate variety, although the bloom's size isn't evident in my photo

I didn't like this one much when I saw it in the garden but it photographed well

I loved this one


This one struck me as prim but the geometry of the bloom is striking


I was glad I got a chance to see the dahlias in peak condition and offer these photos as my Wednesday Vignette, in connection with the meme hosted by Anna of Flutter & Hum.  Visit Anna to find the images she and other gardeners found arresting this week.


All material © 2012-2016 by Kris Peterson for Late to the Garden Party


26 comments:

  1. Things the nursery sales people never tell us ... maybe they don't know ....

    This is a very exciting post for me: I want to grow dahlias. Period. If South Coast can do it, why can't I? Granted, I am twenty-five miles farther inland. However, that may not be the reason after all. I Googled "heat tolerant dahlias" and guess what? every single one of your pictures (clarification: your flowers, not your pictures) showed up on the images pages. So .... South Coast is buying tubers that are considered heat tolerant. But can we find those in the nursery? No. I think we will have to go to the online dahlia sales websites specializing in southern heat tolerant dahlias. How exciting this will be!

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    1. Let me know if you uncover an on-line vendor addressing the heat tolerance of dahlias, Jane. Most references I've looked only address cold hardiness but that's typical. I noticed that most (if not all) the varieties listed by White Flower Farm indicate that they're hybrids of varieties from Mexico and/or South America, which may be at least somewhat indicative of heat tolerance. The South Coast Botanic Garden has a Dahlia Society that meets the third Tuesday of every month except August and January. The meeting organizer's name and contact information is provided in the garden's event calendar.

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    2. It's a two step process. First you find the name of the dahlia you want. Then you google that and go to shopping to find sources.

      Everybody's out right now. Look maybe November or January, but earlier better than later. I have read that dahlias have become popular once again and are hard to find.

      Dahlias For Hot Nights
      https://www.oldhousegardens.com/DahliasForHotNights
      But some dahlias can handle warm nights better than most. We recommend these varieties — noted as “heat-tolerant” in their descriptions and “heat-ok” in our dahlia chart — through zone 8b in most of the country and 10b on the West Coast. (California, by the way, has six local dahlia societies in zones 9-11a.) How you grow them makes a big difference, too. Dahlias are thriving for many of our customers in zones 8 and warmer, and here are some of their tips for growing and enjoying them where summer nights are never cool.
      Dahlia Flower Bulbs (not available now)
      http://www.americanmeadows.com/flower-bulbs/dahlia-flower-bulbs?___store=default

      Dave's Garden, has a nice list similar to Georgia Dahlia society
      http://davesgarden.com/community/forums/t/1357273/

      Swan Island Dahlias
      http://www.dahlias.com/viewall.aspx


      LOCAL
      South Coast Gardens
      http://sfdahlias.org/gardens/southcoast.htm

      LoveHouseDahlias (Ventura)
      https://www.facebook.com/LoveHouseDahlias/

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    3. Vendor list
      http://www.sfdahlias.org/webresources/Vendors.htm

      Aztec is taking orders already for 2017, another will start in August

      So, hey, is this our equivalent of seed catalogs in winter? looking for appropriate dahlias in summer when it's too hot to be outside?

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    4. Thanks for the input, Jane. Yes, I do think our summer heatwaves have parallels to the winter experience of gardeners in colder climes. Of course, those gardeners aren't generally foolish enough to plant in the middle of a snowstorm - I, for one, can't claim to have that much sense.

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  2. Hi Kris, I wanted to grow Dahlias for ever, but never really tried. This year I finally bought a few tubers, but sadly never got around to plant them. Last week though I went into the garage to see if there is still some life in the tubers and to my surprise some eyes had produced green shoots. So I potted them up. Of course, it is crazy to plant Dahlias tubers NOW, but if I hadn't they were destined to die for sure, so they have at least a small chance to survive.
    I love the flower shape and dark red color of the Dahlia in your second last photo. That one I totally can see growing in my garden!
    So will you give Dahlias one more chance in your garden? I think they are worth it. Maybe the smaller flowered varieties are not that water thirsty?
    Warm regards,
    Christina

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    1. Under current circumstances, I think my biggest issue with growing dahlias here is managing their water requirements, Christina. As they don't like crowding and managing the air space they need is a consideration, my thought is to try them in one of the raised planters in my vegetable garden as it'd be easier to manage their needs and my plan is to turn that area into a cutting garden anyway.

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  3. I'd have enjoyed checking out the dahlias with you Kris. Isn't it interesting how varied they are? My grandmother used to grow the dinner plate ones and I have only the faintest image in my mind of seeing her beside them. Would love to take a 3D tour around that memory.

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    1. We had an apartment in Santa Monica within an 8-unit complex with dinner plate dahlias growing in a bed on the west side. I still remember how large those flowers were (bigger even than the yellow one I saw last weekend). They didn't look real. I wonder if there's a vase that could support them.

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  4. I adore Dahlias, and loved seeing your photos. I have several in my garden, but not many are actually flowering here yet. Thanks for sharing so many as vignettes for today.

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    1. I'm glad you enjoyed the photos, Alison! I think the dahlias here are at or near their peak but maybe I'll stop by the garden again next month to see how they're doing.

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  5. I suppose you can pick some clues on what they are doing right there but are they more likely to be a temporary bedding display? Nice selection!

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    1. I don't remember the dahlia display at the botanic garden was in place all year but the new signage suggests that its space is permanent. In our climate, dahlias can remain in the ground year round but whether I'd want to do that would be an issue if I grew them in my raised veg beds.

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  6. I was reading your conversation with Jane; your final comments about hot summers being similar to cold winters and our responses to those conditions and I agree completely; I wouldn't want to live where there is a very long protracted winter but if winter was short I would probably perfer it to the hear! Dahlias are a recent thing for me (I planted two the summer before last because they were in a mixed bag of bulbs and I was amazed by the numbers of flowers produced); they certainly don't seem to mind the heat but I do give them quite a lot of water whether tht is entirely necessary I'm not sure.

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    1. I agree with you about finding the perfect garden sweet spot, Christina! Climate change confuses the search for that perfect garden spot still further. I tried to interest my husband in building a tiny vacation house in an area with cooler summers but that suggestion doesn't fly with him

      As to the dahlia bulbs, I think they do want moist albeit not soggy soil during their growing period. Giving bulbs adequate water during their growth period has been a problem for me in general. I think the poor performance of my bearded Iris the last few years can be traced back to low rainfall and limited irrigation.

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  7. Oh, I love dahlias!Wish I had room (and sun) for more. I only have one - a smaller variety called Bishop of Llandaff. I planted it rather late this year, and only have leaves, so fat. Fingers crossed that it blooms!

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    1. 'Bishop' is a lovely dahlia, Anna. I hope it comes through for you!

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  8. They are a lot of fun. I hope you try one or two. The cheapo kind you see in plastic bags at big box stores in mid-winter will grow--good to experiment with. The Swan Island site has good, detailed growing instructions.

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    1. HB: thanks for the recommendation of the Swan Island site. It differs radically from other instructions I've seen viz a viz using commercial products. Sometimes I wonder about them, must we use them?

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    2. I think the failure to provide the tubers the water they need is probably primarily responsible for my failure with the last ones I bought but I may try again. The local botanic garden's dahlias were grown in raised planters constructed of brick but I imagine the raised planters in my veg garden would work as long as I give them sufficient space - and water. Thanks for the suggestion to check out Swan Island's growing instructions - that source is far more detailed than any others I've seen!

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  9. I've recently become interested in dahlias, too. I may plant a few in the fall just to see how they do. Hoover Boo has featured some very interesting selections on her blog.

    Are you tempted to get a few new ones?

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    1. The 'Cafe au Lait' dahlia Hoover Boo is growing this year is one that intrigued me when I saw it on Floret Farms site last year but in general I'm attracted to the cactus types. Maybe I'll plan ahead and order some by mail but there's also a good chance I'll just select from the limited options available locally.

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  10. I grew dahlias for the first time this year and they are just starting to bloom. I have four: one similar to the 3rd to the end that you said you loved, I think it's Tiki Torch, a wine colored one called Voodoo and a creamy white and salmon pink. All those IAVOM posts inspired me last year!

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    1. Dahlias ARE flashy flowers and they look great in a vase! I hope to see yours make an appearance IAVOM soon, Eliza.

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  11. I tried growing dahlias once. But they're not winter hardy here, and the tubers have to be dug up in spring and stored in a place where the mice won't get to them over the winter (sure!). So now I just like to visit them in other gardens. These are beautiful. -Jean

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    1. I can't say I'd be up for growing dahlias if I had to dig them up at the end of each growing season either, Jean. Fortunately, we can at least leave the tubers in the ground year-round here.

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