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

66 Comments

  1. 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!

  2. Mary Casey says:

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

  3. 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!!!!

  4. Marilyn Majalca says:

    I think you are lucky!

  5. 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.

  6. 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.

  7. 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!

  8. 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?

  9. 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!

  10. 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!

  11. 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!

  12. 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!

  13. 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!

  14. Heather says:

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

  15. 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!

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