Enjoy large and showy flowers with dahlias – Jamestown Sun


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I have found another flower that I was reintroduced to in which I decided to grow again. For years, I gave up on the stunning dahlia as it just never did what I wanted it to do in the garden, plus it oftentimes required staking.

A few years back, a friend of mine grew an entire bed of the taller species of dahlias only to make me envious of their multiple blooms and showy effect. He would cut them and place them in vase arrangements where they would last a week and stand out due to their flower sizes. All I could do was be impressed with how they grew for him, so that same year I purchased two packages of bulbs to see what I could do. Their first year in my garden pleased me, but I wanted to try more! The ones I tried were medium in size and about 4 feet tall. They were the same color, but they were pretty. This year I wanted more and different colors. Of course, I like showy flowers, so I figured if I was going to give it a try once again this time I was going to shoot for the largest flowers available. Those selections are called the ‘dinnerplate’ series and are supposed to produce flowers up to 12 inches across. I was all for that! So far, the blooms are beautiful, however, two out of the three did require staking as one is about 6 feet tall with large magenta blooms. If you are looking for large showy blooms in multiple colors, this is the flower you need to try. Most of the varieties come in the form of a tuber during the spring months, but some of the smaller ones are grown from seed directly in the ground after the threat of frost has passed. Oftentimes these tubers can be acquired locally at a fairly cheap price, so if you are not one to dig things up in fall, let them be and they will rot in the ground. If you are one who enjoys saving roots from one year to the next, there is a way to do that also to save a few dollars each year. Lilliput dahlias are the dwarf form grown by seed. They reach about a foot tall in height and equally as wide. Their flowers are typically single to semi-double in a large array of colors. These may form small tubers in the fall season right before frost but often are not grown to save from year to year. Once they begin blooming, they are non-stop throughout the season with weekly deadheading of faded blooms.

The taller varieties differ in height and flower size and they come in signature-type blooms. There are the single-flowered ones that have a circle of petals around the center. Then there are the collarette dahlias that have a single round of petals around the center with a smaller round of petals against the center also. Anenome flowers are very full with numerous rounds of petals densely compacted around the center. Larger flowers will be those of the semi-cactus and full cactus-style flowers with their long narrow petals with sharp points in a very doubled flower. Some of these can reach 10 inches across. The similar Fimbriata selection has the same types of petals with a toothed notch in each end giving it a frilly appearance. There are medium-sized pom pom dahlias with their round flowers heads and numerous petals that give a full effect along with the similar ball flowers which are nearly round with so many petals. Decorative dahlias are larger flowers up to 12 inches across and have large full petals in a double bloom. The delicate water lily dahlias are half the size at around 4 inches across and truly resemble that of a water lily. All of these flowers are available in every color other than a blue shade. But white, yellow, orange, red, purple, lavender, pink and magenta are very common.

Dahlia plants prefer well-drained soils that are rich in organic matter in full sun if at all possible. The taller ones will require staking to keep them upright with the heavy blooms, strong winds and potentially heavy rains that can bring them down easily. With the right conditions, they will bloom consistently, however, the larger blooming ones will have less due to their size. If you're looking for the challenge of keeping them over the winter, they need to be dug right before the first frost as they are not hardy for our zone. Cut the tops off 3 inches about the bulb cluster and let them cure in the sun for a week to seal them. Then place them in a crate or box covered in peat moss to preserve their moisture. Store this box in a dark and cool location so they are not tempted to grow too soon. Once spring arrives, you can start these tubers indoors around April 15 or wait until the first frost has passed and plant them directly into the garden at about 4 inches deep. With any luck, you will have year after year of future blooms for the garden. Yes, there are still flowers out there for the garden that I am sure I will continue to be reintroduced to but as for now, I will leave that for next year. So far I have been happy with the new rediscoveries to date and I have been thrilled to death that we are finally getting a long fall season without a frost to date. The frost will come eventually, but as for now, I am going to enjoy each day as it comes. Take it slow and you will always make the right choices. To read more columns written by John Zvirovski, click here.

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