Let’s talk Dahlias! I try not to play favorites with flowers. Sure, a spring peony can unfurl seemingly unmatched, that is until I spot a dreamy rose moonlighting as a perfumed pillow of petals. Oh wait, would you take a look at that lily, such stature, such fragrance, such gradations in color. Yep for me, picking a favorite flower is a lot like picking a favorite ice cream flavor, slice of pie or work of art. So many options, so little time.
But this time of year (late summer), the dahlias flatten the competition, serving up the garden equivalent of the final ten minutes of a Fourth of July fireworks display. The show’s colorful, varied, dramatic, bombastic, and stands alone as other garden performers retire early to drop leaves and don seeds.
My flower farm leans heavily on the dahlia as a cut flower, so I’d like to share some of my favorite dahlia blossoms, guaranteed to brighten any day or elicit a little wonder in the beholder’s eye. Some of the grander dames of dahlia-dom are cultivated in my greenhouse, for earlier bloom and later dormancy.
Dahlias planted in the front field weave a crazy quilt of color row by row. Here, I test out many different varieties for stem length, vase life, razzle dazzle, vigor and disease resistance. Because I sell the dahlias to florists and islanders alike, I work to select and grow viewer-worthy dahlias, ones with a little more mojo than your average tuber.
Penhill Watermelon (tubers from Longfield Gardens), one of this year’s star dahlias, is all about remarkable colors and expressive petals. The plant is especially vigorous, too!
Cafe au Lait dahlias (far left) find their way into more bridal bouquets than any other dahlia I grow.
Mango Madness, Purple Haze, Fusiana, and Brigitta Alita (top, left to right)Labyrinth Dahlia, like summer fireworks
I arranged a little still life of Cafe au Lait dahlias for Snapdragon Bakery and Cafe, and placed it in front of a stunning John Anderson photograph. (I’m competing with some seriously good-looking pastries, afterall.)
- Longfield Gardens*
- Swan Island Dahlia
*denotes bulb suppliers I have used and been very happy with. The other suppliers also get good reviews online, I just haven’t purchased from them, yet.
Here’s a great resource from the site Dave’s Garden: Guide to Gardening by Mail, Mail Order Gardening, and Catalog.