Just a Ridiculous Amount of Flower Pictures. This Year’s Cutting Garden Choices.

Dahlias.  The flowers that just don’t give up.  Looking for ONE plant that’ll provide you with enough cutting flowers for the entire season?  Make it dahlias.  They bloom from July until you’re sick of them.

Last year I planted Dahlias for the first time.  I. Had. No. Idea.  I wanted a cutting garden and I love flowers that are huge because they’re way easier to arrange than a ton of smaller flowers. Also you can wear them as a hat.  Or bikini.   Dinner plate dahlia heads are as big as peonies.  That’s pe-o-nies.  No one wants a vase full of the other things.

So I special ordered a few varieties of dahlias and planted every single one of them. By the middle of the summer they started to bloom.  By the end of the summer I could no longer go to my garden without enabling GPS on my phone, wearing a reflective arm band and donning an emergency whistle around my neck.  The Dahlias had taken over and were, on occasion, blamed for the disappearance of several gardening tools.  And gardeners.

I quickly realized that there is no bigger bang for your buck than dahlias.  One little tuber (that’s how you grow dahlias, from tubers) will end up producing a 3-4′ high bush covered in sturdy stems of dahlias.  The more you cut them off the more they grow.  They grow more, you become invaded with dahlias, so you have to cut more just to make a path to your tomatoes.  This goes on until the end of September when you finally give up on getting anywhere near the tomatoes, but it doesn’t matter because they have blight anyway.  The Dahlias on the other hand look as though they’ve been receiving Vitamin B through an IV drip all summer long.

From July on, I would go to the garden, pick a few vegetables and haul  home flowers.  The first few weeks were among the most exciting weeks of my life.  Free flowers.  As many beautiful flowers as I wanted … for free.  I danced among them, clippers in hand, carefully selecting the prettiest blooms to take home and arrange.  Occasionally I would give one away to a fellow gardener. But not too many.  It was a lot of flowers but I was pretty sure I needed every single one of them for myself.

Skip to the beginning of August when every single dahlia bush is now the size of an ice cream truck.

I cut them as fast as I can dropping them off by the armful to anyone nearby.  I invite family members to come up to the garden and take as many as they want.  I bring them as gifts, use them as bows on presents, fill every room in my house with them.  I even traded one for a Raspberry Basil Paleta at the farmer’s market.

I’ve never arranged so many flowers in my life as I did last summer.

And still the garden is FULL of dahlias.  There was the odd zinnia as well.  A couple of snapdragons.  Most of which were choked out by the steroidal dahlias.

 

At the end of the summer I had a decision to make.  Was there really such a thing as “too much of a good thing”.  Yup.   Yes, there was.

The thing about dahlias is, if you live anywhere below Zone 8, you have to dig the tubers up and store them all winter long. Well, these tubers, being that they’re supporting a plant big enough to provide cheer for an entire hospital ward are HUGE.  I made a few cuts and kept just my favourites of the 8 or so varieties I grew last year.

To store dahlia tubers you’re supposed to place them in bags or boxes of damp sand or peat moss.  You want them to stay dry enough that they don’t rot but wet enough that they don’t entirely shrivel up and die.  It’s a fine balance.

I threw all of mine into some ripped plastic grocery store bags and hoped for the best. And by best I mean I hoped half of them would die.

All these flower pictures you’re seeing by the way are just some of the flowers I picked from August to September.  So yeah. A lot of flowers.

Last week I pulled my tubers out of storage and … because I always have bad luck … every single one of them lived.  I’m planting them for the upcoming season this week.

Here’s the fun part.  Because I wasn’t sure if these dahlias were going to make it through the winter or not I also planted a few flower seeds just in case.  Hundreds of them I suppose you would say.  Snapdragons, Zinnias, Poppies, Sunflowers, Big Hairy Balls, Cockscomb, a secret flower I can’t tell you about yet, Statice, Bupleurum, Sweet Peas, Amaranth … um, and a few more.  Just in case.

Now that they’re growing and have become official seedlings it’s hard to just throw them out. I’m thinking I’d better plant them all.  I’m pretty sure I’ll need every single one of them.

Have a good weekend!

 

 

 

 

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66 Comments

  1. Aileen says:

    Great post! I must try some too.

  2. billy sharpstick says:

    Will they grow in Florida?

    • Karen says:

      I’m not sure what zone you’re in in Florida. In fact, I have no idea. BUT dahlias can grow anywhere from zone 5-11. From 5-7 you have to dig up the dahlias. Anything above zone 8 and you can leave them in the ground. I imagine like anything in Florida you just have to be careful about making sure they have adequate water to compensate for the heat. Maybe even some afternoon shade for them. ~ karen!

      • Erin says:

        I’m in 9b, whatever that means, in California, and they grow fine. And I dug ’em up anyway this last winter, because I’m paranoid, and I’ve never had any success with dahlia’s because I didn’t actually research what I was supposed to do. I have researched this year, and I can only hope I have the same horrible luck you had with your dahlia’s, as they’re my favorite flower and I’m desperate.

  3. Muff Hackett says:

    For many years our next door neighbour was developing new breeds of dahlias in his garden. Picture a 1/3 acre urban lot with multiple testing beds. The first year or so we were here he confined them to the back yard but soon he had ploughed up the front lawn and added another 50’ x 30’ bed of rows of dahlias. At the beginning of the spring he would make the rows of hills and place the stakes before planting the tubers – it always looked like a giant weaving project until the plants obscured the stakes – then it resembled a forest of pot plants or tomato plants until it flowered. Then, however, it was a tourist attraction! Simply glorious for weeks! He has a number of introduced varieties (any dahlia named Hy-whatever is his.) People still ask about the man who grew the flowers – he moved to the Okanagan to grow wine grapes instead.

    • Karen says:

      Interesting! I’ll keep an eye out for any Hy Dahlias. They do look great once they’re blooming and they bloom forever! ~ karen

  4. Lindy says:

    Ha! So glad you have joined the Dahlia Club. My goodness they are my favourite jungle plant. And you are right – ridiculous glut of colour. I’d send you pictures but you don’t need to see any more!

    I lifted mine the first year and they all rotted. So even though I get heavy snow and cold and wet. I leave them in the ground. I just mulch really really thickly with a bucket of bark chippings and they come through the winter. No need to fuss at all.

    • Karen says:

      I can’t get over the size of each plant. I’d like to have a larger variety of them but each plant is so big! ~ karen!

      • Carswell says:

        I grew a bunch of different varieties one year and I had huge yellow ones with blooms that were 12″ across. I could do a bouquet in my biggest jug with 3 blooms. LOL.

  5. Susan Hollier says:

    My daughter used to make her pocket money by selling dahlias from a little stand at the end of our driveway. I think she made something like $600 one year when she was about 10! In our zone 9 (West Coast) we found the best way to overwinter them was to leave them in the ground and bury them in fallen leaves and extra dirt (about a foot deep). Early spring we unbury them and let them go their crazy way. We have just moved from that location but we dug them up, split some tubers off for our new place and left loads for the new owners as a lovely surprise!

  6. Shauna says:

    Can you share which varieties made the cut? Every time I look through Swan Island’s catalog I’m overwhelmed by the choices.

    • Karen says:

      It really depends on what colours you’re looking for. I wanted to go with slightly muted colours. I also found the spider varieties always looked a bit sickly so I eliminated all of those. Ditto for the Obsidian Dahlia, which I loved but only 1 of every 25 or so of them produced a perfect flower. I kept Zorro, Hot Fudge Caramel, Ice Cube and After Dusk. ~ karen!

  7. Jen says:

    Lol-ed at the “official seedlings” part….my downfall every year. How can you throw the extras out? 😅

  8. Eileen says:

    I had tons of dahlias and killed them all by storing them and having them rot. I like the idea of leaving them in the ground. Southern Va is a good place to try them out again. Thanks.

  9. Kat says:

    Quite beautiful! This year I am planting my first bee and butterfly garden. Just a tiny little triangle area in the back yard. Last year I harvested a bunch of milkweed pods from down by the river where I go birding and have a bunch of packets of wild flower seed mix. Then a friend gave me several seeds from her giant sunflowers. I am not a gardener so I want as little to do with tending it as possible. The wildflower seeds were also given to me free and my hopes are that they will cover the area so you can not see all the weeds that I know I will never pull out.

    • Karen says:

      That’s great! You’ll love seeing the bees and butterflies. One word of warning about sunflowers. The giant varieties get HUGE (as I’m sure you know) which makes them a pain to take out at the end of the season. It’s like removing a tree. This year I’m going to pinch back my sunflowers so they don’t get as massive. ~ karen!

      • Nicole says:

        I’m trying the Maximilian sunflowers this year. I’m really intrigued by them partly because they are perennial (yay!) and they have masses of smaller flowers all along the stem.

  10. Judi says:

    Ha! Ha! Ha! Your post really made me laugh out loud! I know just what you mean about having too many flowers, and made the same mistake as you, but with Marigolds. I bought one packet of seeds which had four different varieties of Marigold, ranging in size from the traditional small about 6 inches, to 4 feet high, and every one of the darned seeds grew!! At least with Dahlias you have a range of different colours, but my goodness, by the end of summer I was SO sick of orange/yellow marigolds, and have never planted them again!

    Meanwhile, loving your posts and your flowers.

    Keep on growing!

    Judi in the UK

    • Karen says:

      Thanks Judi! The Dahlias are great but even though I had different colours it was still alllll the same flower. So I vowed to get rid of some to make room for other things that weren’t dahlias! No marigolds though. 😉 ~ karen

  11. Ann Roberts says:

    my cutting garden has grown considerably in the last few years. Not sure I can even name all the things I am growing this year.

    achillea or yarrow-at least 3 kinds
    Aquillegia or columbines
    crocrosmia
    dutch iris
    cosmos-every variety known to man
    zinnia-again at least 10 varietes
    curcurma-a new summer bulb that is just a wonderful cut flower
    lisianthus
    tansy-2 kinds
    dahlias-although I can’t say I have as good of luck with them
    shasta daisies-4 varieties
    Bells of Ireland
    asclepsia or butterfly weed
    3 or 4 kinds of filler type plants
    gomphrena-2 colors so far, want at least 1 more color
    verbena bonairiensis
    alliums
    penstemons
    angelica
    phlomis
    tall cutting ageratum
    and many many more.

    Flowers may or may not be edible. But they feed the soul and that is just as important as feeding out stomachs

    • Karen says:

      I love Bells of Ireland and really REALLY love lisianthus. I haven’t seen the tall ageratum, but I’d love to grow that. The regular is too short for cutting. ~ karen!

    • Becky says:

      “But they feed the soul and that is just as important as feeding out stomachs” echos my sentiments exactly!

  12. Marilyn says:

    May have to try some this year ..

    • Karen says:

      Plus I just ordered MORE for outside my picket fence, lol. Border ones that don’t get as tall. I have issues. 😉 ~ karen!

      • Marilyn says:

        Yes! Me too ! Being the shortest in a family of giants can tend to do that to a person ..I’m going to have a look.

  13. Mary W says:

    Double bonus – looks like the butterflies were very happy with your misfortune!

  14. Brita Barlow says:

    Well now you’ve done it. I didn’t even make it to the bottom of your post before I spun off and ordered $40 worth of dahlias for my cutting garden. This year I am devoting a raised bed just to cutting flowers.

  15. Laurie says:

    Lovely pictures Karen. Where did you order your tubers from?

  16. Lez says:

    Could you all just please stop! Pretty please? Have you noticed the absence of South Africans commenting on this post?
    It is because we are all officially JEALOUS! No rain, just drought here. 3 days of rain in 7 months!
    Flowers! Unthinkable! Just one blade of grass would be good.
    So one request, if you could all do the Rain Dance, preferably naked, when it rains in your gardens, & spin around & around, (Think Princess Elsa!), & just send it down here, we would all appreciate it!
    Karen, they are gorgeous! Tears in my eyes… 🙁

    • Karen says:

      I actually think about South Africa and your water situation a LOT! I can’t even imagine what it would be like. ~ karen!

    • Alena says:

      I feel for you, Lez.
      I live not too far from Karen but based on the amount of rain, one would think that she lives in a rainforest jungle and I live in a dessert. And often, when it does rain, it rains extremely little in my area of town while elsewhere it is a real rain.
      I read several newspaper articles about South Africa and it was very sad – I had no idea the situation was so critical.
      Alena

    • judy says:

      This Lady’s plight just makes me sick to my stomach. Trumparica is now opening its’ Geography to drill,mine,log, and kill anything and anywhere that might produce the last nail in the coffin of our planets delicate atmosphere cause of course anybody who has words and is very very smart knows that wealth trumps the fate of this stunningly beautiful planet. Oh and lest I forget-Trophy hunting of Grizzles is now available as a neat passtime cause heaven forfend that the doozie brothers might have to go to a pet farm to kill large tame predators.

      Canada?????got any suggestions for Trumpairica because I just watch the news with tears running down this 78 year old face. I feel like a person mesmerized by a swaying Cobra. I apologize for the politics but I know,Karen can fix anything and youse guys is definitely smarter than we are..I hope…?
      We are plummeting to a very very dire conclusion and we are are standing still staring into the oncoming headlights. There are those-of course-who look forward to wall building?

  17. Kelli Norris says:

    Well crap. I read this post and heard “Kelli, you need to buy these now”. So I did. We will all be drowning in flowers. At least if I die out there in the garden they will have something to put on my grave!

  18. Jeanne cb blue says:

    Too bad I live in the US. I would take your extra seedlings. Your pictures are amazing. How did you hold out on us till now? I will have to go back through your pics from last year to see how many dahlias I can spot that you didn’t mention. My mom used to grow dahlias out in the garden when I was a child (a LONG time ago) so she could go tend them. Actually she was sneaking out to smoke. I wonder where I got my bad habits from? Your dahlias are beautiful. I grew some one year and they were beautiful, but I forgot to dig them in the fall. Oops.

    • Karen says:

      They’re a bit of a high maintenance flower but they also give BIG payback. They were planted along the back fence of my garden behind the chairs and strawberry cages. 🙂 ~ karen!

  19. Jen Topp says:

    I am planting dahlias from seed this year (Baker Creek), which they say will develop tubers to overwinter. Crossing fingers because I LOOOOOVE their obnoxious showiness.

    • Kim says:

      I’ve grown them from seed for several years now. Planted early enough (like last month) they will flower from seed first year. But its a crap shoot on what you get. I keep the ones I like and pull up the others.

  20. Ev Wilcox says:

    My mom had the greenest of green thumbs and this brought back a lot of memories. She always dug up the dahlias in the fall (northeast Ohio), stored them in the basement, and replanted in the spring. She had some very established hen and chicks, and one grew a rooster that was over a foot tall. She had a lot of other flowers too. So so fragrant roses, front and back yard. When my dad retired he hand dug up a sizable plot in the back and had a wonderful veg garden. If he asked you if you wanted an onion, he meant just that-AN onion. But it would be so big it was really hot! Miss my gardeners. I do a bit of gardening too, but that’s another story. Thanks for the butterfly pic! Ev

  21. Alena says:

    I have no experience with dahlias but for years, I grew a very nice specimen of canna lily. It also requires the tuber to be pulled out and winterized in storage. The problem with the canna lily’s tuber was that it multiplied like crazy and it was really hard to get it out of the [large] pot. I winterized them wrapped in newspaper (each tuber invidually) and then I put the individual bundles into a large paper bag and finally the whole thing when into regular brown bag (for leaf collection etc.). I shoved it into a corner on a garage table, by the inner wall.
    I think I did this about two years and then I got lazy and left them in the pot. Always grew like crazy.

    Ok Karen, you got me. I will plant some dahlias.
    But this is a plot on your side to get us all crazy. Looked at a number of catalogues online and a lot of dahlias are already sold out (primarily those I would be interested in). I am a colour purist so I won’t order just anything, and the problem with some catalogues is that they don’t specify the bloom size. I did find what I thought would the perfect dahlia for me (with a Japanese name with several hyphens) and while I chatted through a live chat with a rep it became obvious they don’t ship to Canada. That always p!sses me off.
    Do you know of any white dahlia with a 4″ bloom?

    • Karen says:

      Hmm. I don’t. But I was Googling dahlia growers in Canada last night and I feel like I may have seen one. It wasn’t at Veseys .. somewhere else. ~ karen!

  22. Heather says:

    A feast for the eyes – especially in an Ontario garden at this time of year. Thanks, Karen!

  23. Elaine says:

    Thanks for this post and the pretty photos, Karen. I loved gardening and miss my flowers but now live in a condo. I usually dislike brightly colored blooms (reds, oranges, etc.) but see, from your photos, that dahlias come in softer colors too. You have now piqued my interest, Karen, and I’m wondering if I have room to store some tubers over the Winter. I LOVE the idea of being able to have cut flowers in the living room, kitchen, etc! I don’t drive anymore so am wondering if our* local dollar-store seeds would be okay. (*I live in the same town as you.).

    • Karen says:

      I’m not a huge fan of a lot of primary colours in flowers either. My favourites from last year were the pale, pale peach ones and the dark, almost black ones. ~ karen!

  24. Shawna says:

    Is there a certain store you can recommend to buy Dahlia tubers? I have no idea where to start this process but I want the same flowers as you this summer!
    Thank-you!

    • Karen says:

      I bought all of those tubers from Vesey’s. Some of the varieties I had were Zorro (huge dark red), Hot Fudge (very dark), After Dusk (very dark), Ice Cube (very light peachy), and a few other mixed bunches. ~ karen!

  25. Julie says:

    I love dahlias! I can grow dahlias! But our area is rife with earwigs, and earwigs love dahlias too! Picture each beautiful bloom with 10 or more earwigs squeezed in headfirst…it is a sad sight!

    Do you not have earwigs Karen, or have you found a way to avoid them?

    • Karen says:

      Oh yes there are earwigs around here but they didn’t get the dahlias. Of course now that you’ve cursed me … ~ karen!

  26. linda in illinois says:

    I would love to have too many flowers !! they are beautiful, but I have never been able to get Dahlia’s to grow for me. Obviously, I’m not doing something right. My hydrangea bush flowered once in the 13 years I have had it.

    • Karen says:

      Try not trimming your hydrangea Linda. Most people trim the dead bits back in the fall or spring. Doing this will almost always result in no blooms. ~ karen!

  27. Lynn says:

    Karen your Dahlia’s are so beautiful. I have planted one or two years past but I never used them for cut flowers maybe that’s why they never got as big as yours??? Love them just never had much luck with them . Tiger lilies ( giant), Day lilies an Iris’s on the other hand everyone loves . Husband loves Roses and Tulips which I struggle with each year. Mine on the other hand need very little attention now other than thinning every 3 to 5 years. I always put in others seed flowers in as fillers an for variety each year just to change things up. Change is good I think, it gives you a fresh look from year to year.
    I might try the Dahlia again as I do so love them if I can find one I like … since to put that bee back in my bonnet 👒.

    • Karen says:

      Mine might be bigger just because of the variety. I got them from a specialty place (Veseys) so they’re a bit nicer than what you would find at a garden centre or home store. ~ karen!

  28. Nicole says:

    SECRET FLOWERS? Why is no one else asking about this?!

    Also, I remember reading an Agatha Christie novel where Dahlias meant Death, so I’ve always been somewhat weirded out by them.

    This is the year that I will have a garden. No really. Stop laughing, I mean it!

    Kind of.

    • Karen says:

      I’m going to believe you. I expect pictures of this garden. I did wonder why no one else was interested in the secret flower, lol. ~ karen!

      • Nicole says:

        Is a secret flower like when you forget to label what you’re growing and suddenly are surprised with tree-like sunflowers appear?

  29. Tina says:

    I’m in the Boston area. I’ve been trying to think how I could leave the tubers in the ground over winter. I thought about covering them with plastic (Rubbermaid) totes, I have a lot of those from moving. But then I thought maybe I should fill the totes to help insulate the ground under them. But what would I fill them with? Straw? Peat? Old quilts? I wonder if that would work.

    I have a friend who grows spring bulbs in planters but unless you have somewhere to keep them (garage or basement), they freeze too solid and the bulbs die. So she wraps her planters in layers of bubble wrap. Then, toward the end of winter/early spring, she takes the bubble wrap off and shortly they bloom.

    • Karen says:

      Straw is a good insulator but I don’t think it would do enough to keep the tubers from freezing. You would literally have to keep the ground from freezing underneath them. :/ If you don’t have an insane amount like I did digging them up wouldn’t be too big of a deal. ~ karen!

  30. Kelsey says:

    I’ve only got one Dahlia and I don’t know what it looks like yet because my husband found it on the curb for free and brought it home to me. I’ve restrained myself so far but there’s a local company called Warwick Dahlias that’s always at the markets around here and as soon as I can commit to a place for them I’m digging up a bed and going for it.

  31. Catherine says:

    Ah, if only they would grow here in South Central Texas. I may just get a few and try them out, but leave them in the ground, well muched. I’ve got a semi-shady bed on the north side of the house that they might actually like. We do get cold during the winters but the cold is uneven, and if I pulled them out of the ground, I’d have to store them in the fridge. Which my family thinks is nuts. We even had 2 snows and lots of freezing or just below freezing days. Our other issues is the infamous Texas Caliche Clay. I’ve been seriously looking into to how to turn that stuff into pottery since, you can’t just add in vermiculite, compost and mulch and hope that it magically turns into anything like good soil. You have to actually dig the stuff up.

  32. Marilyn Majalca says:

    I think you are lucky!

  33. Lyanne Hoefer says:

    I have tons of flowers in my garden but have always refused to do dahlias because in our ontario climate, they must be dug up in falllllll! too much effort…but, alas, you have convinced me. I will be including your name with expletives under my breath this fall!!!!

  34. Mary Casey says:

    How many tubers did you plant the first year? I am inspired to plant some this year…

  35. Laurie says:

    Hey Karen, once you plant the tubers, how long does it take to get flowers?

    • Karen says:

      Hi Laurie! I can’t remember exactly but a couple of months if I remember correctly. I planted the end of May and they were blooming some time in July? ~ karen!

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