dahlias are my favorite plant(s) this week

Dahlia ‘Alfred Grille’

I have a sunny spot where I plant things that are meant to be strictly bouquet factories. It’s not big enough to be called a “cutting garden” but that’s the general idea. The Dahlia ‘Alfred Grille’ was purchased at a big box store and is much paler than the photo on the packaging. Good thing I was not planning it into a border.

Dahlia ‘Akita’

‘Akita’, on the other hand, was in full flower when I got it from Jockey Hill at the Scappoose Farmers’ Market. It was bronze tones then, but has come back this year in these salmony shades. These guys seem to have a mind of their own.

Dahlia ‘Lion’s Mane’Speaking of which, this one disappeared for two or three years but came back this year with a vengeance.

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It starts out looking like this,

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but grows increasingly frilly, as the first petals get paler and start to curve back toward the stem. It came to me with no name years ago and has followed me around since. I’m happy to see it back.

Dahlia ‘Groovy’

This one is called ‘Groovy’ and is the result of a visit to Swan Island Dahlias last year. I bought it for the dark leaves (not as dark as predicted) and the red flowers (not as red as predicted).

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The flowers do start out red, but pale as they open.

Dahlia ‘Red Devil’

‘Red Devil’, shown here in the center of the photo, develops in a nice, bright red with a spiky form.

Dahlia ‘Bed Head’

The prize for new acquisitions goes to ‘Bed Head’. The dark stems, the tousled petals, the shades of orange and the height (6′) make it a standout in my book.

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My aim, this year, was to work the new Dahlias into mixed plantings. The independent nature of these plants (coming up in unpredictable colors and forms from year to year, sometimes skipping a few years entirely) can make that a challenge. Here, with ‘Bed Head’, I seemed to be having some success.

Dahlia damage

Then this happened. Yesterday I watered deeply, but when I went out this morning ‘Bed Head’ was leaning heavily to one side and looking all wilty. See those mounds to the front and side of the tilting stem with the droopy leaves? Evidence of gopher activity. We’re as eager as the next person to welcome wildlife into the garden, but these guys are inviting armed conflict. I’m going to drop some smushed castor beans down those holes and see if I can salvage my prized dahlia. In the meantime, here’s what I know about Dahlias from my own personal experience. I only dig every third year or so, at which point the mass of tubers looks something like a potato crop. I separate the clump, replant the healthiest looking tuber on the spot and give away or store the rest. I have had limited success with storing in crumpled newspapers or peat moss. The trick is to examine them every so often, discard any showing signs of rot or drying out and keep them slightly moist. In the off years, I cut off the stalks after a freeze blackens them and mulch deeply with leaves. I was surprised to have them come back this year after last winter’s deep freeze.

Every week, Loree features a plant in her garden that is her favorite (that week) and invites us to do the same. Her choice this week is elegant and subdued…just the opposite of my blowsy, extroverted Dahlias. Don’t miss out.

13 Responses to “dahlias are my favorite plant(s) this week”

  1. Peter/Outlaw Says:

    Dahlias are great flowers and you’ve got some gorgeous ones! Like gladiolas, they almost look better in a vase than in the garden. Gopher soup might be nice. Throw in some new potatoes, a few carrots…

  2. Beth @ PlantPostings Says:

    Oh, I love Dahlias! I don’t have any in my garden, but I’d like to add some to pots. One of my friends uses them in cut flower arrangements, and they’re so pretty!

  3. Alison Says:

    I love Dahlias. I remember seeing ‘Bedhead’ at a nursery last year and being very tempted to buy it. I should have! I never dig or mulch my Dahlias and so far they have come back every year.

  4. Amy Says:

    Very pretty. Naughty gophers!

  5. Loree / danger garden Says:

    Damn gophers! I love your phrase ” bouquet factories” and dahlias seem like the perfect plant for such a use. So beautiful as cut flowers.

  6. Jenni Says:

    Great dahlia care advice Ricki! I lost all my favorite dahlia’s this past winter. I clearly did not have enough mulch on top. Super bummed..but then..it’s fun to pick out some new varieties. Bed Head is gorgeous. I hope you can rid yourself of those rotten gophers!

  7. ricki Says:

    Peter~I’m one of those wimpy carnivores who prefers her meat packaged and bearing no resemblance to the creature from which it came. That rules out gopher soup for me,but you are most welcome to come harvest as many of the vile beasts as you like.

    Beth~I may have to resort to pots as well.

    Alison~Bedhead would fit right into your hot colored border.

    Amy~Naughty is far too mild.

    Loree~I think a bunker would be appropriate for my cutting garden. Know where I can get one cheap?

    Jenni~Just finished enjoying your dahlia post. Did you buy one of each person’t favorite?

  8. Casa Mariposa Says:

    I love dahlias, too, but they can’t overwinter here. It’s just too cold. Your Bedhead is just wonderful. I hope you can salvage it. Good luck with that gopher. They are a wily enemy.

  9. ricki Says:

    Tammy~Bedhead is a goner and we are declaring war.

  10. Jane / Mulchmaid Says:

    ‘Bedhead’ is a touseled delight! I confess to paying little attention to dahlias over the years, but this year I visited Old House Dahlias on a Sunday walk: What an eye-opener! If you’re interested in seeling or buying dahlias, it’s a wonderful opportunity that is right in Portland.

  11. rickii Says:

    Jane~Our shared love of orange makes ‘Bedhead’ a winner. I’ve been meaning to get over to Old House Dahlias. Thanks for the reminder.

  12. Anna K Says:

    How very strange that it was gone for three years, and then suddenly came back… Not only that – it came back after the worst winter in history! Weird… Dahlias make such pretty bouquets – every year I swear I will get some, and every year, I miss my moment. I’m so sorry that damn gopher ruined your one of your favorites. I’m with Peter on the gopher soup! :)

  13. ricki Says:

    Anna K~Odd occurrences in the garden conspire to keep us guessing. I love a mystery, don’t you?

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