Saturday, June 5, 2021

If I Can Grow Dahlias, You Can Grow Dahlias

 I think I've posted before about my brown thumb, probably several times. Despite having parents who lived on farms, I didn't have the talent (or maybe the inclination) for growing things. And though I do manage to grow a few things (shasta daisies, larkspur, lily of the valley and some annual flowers that someone else started), that's because those are pretty much idiot-proof. Mostly, though, I struggle just to keep everything alive. I once managed to kill a snake plant, one of the "unkillables." I've planted marigolds, another easy one, only to wake up and find that something had eaten them to the ground. I struggled (and failed) to get pink cosmos to grow. Rabbits ate my Knockout roses. Deer ate my turtleheads, reputed to be deer resistant. I've lost all of my columbine flowers, and I once had some especially gorgeous hybrids. It's so sad, but they're all gone, victims of garden thieves and my inept gardening.

And yet I've discovered that I can grow dahlias and have done so twice. This thrills me, not just because of my success, but because they're very full, gorgeous and colorful. They're total show-offs in the garden. In short, dahlias look like something that would be difficult to grow but aren't.
I grew them for two years, then decided that I was tired of waiting for them (around here, they don't bloom until mid or late July). So for the next two years, no dahlias. And I missed them. Other flowers were nice, but so tame in comparison. So this year I'm back at it. No flowers yet, of course, but I have a nice batch of plants growing and (hopefully) getting ready to bloom in another month or so.
I won't lie. When you're first starting, dahlias are an investment. They grow from tubers (like weird, oddly-shaped potatoes, with eyes and lots of tubery parts), and they're a bit pricey. I've read, however, that if you don't live in a warmer climate where you can leave them in the ground all year (I don't), you can dig them up, clean them off and overwinter them with a little care. And because they kind of multiply underground, you'll end up with more tubers than when you first began. I'm going to try that this year. There are numerous sets of instructions online. Some people store them in peat moss, vermiculite or sawdust (although I've heard that sawdust isn't best for the tubers). I'm going to go with what seems to be the easiest route for me, the plastic wrap method. We'll see how that works out. Here are two links outlining the method.

And just for good measure, one more link outlining a dry-storage method:

Oddly, my biggest concern isn't whether I can overwinter the tubers. It's that doing so means I might not have room to experiment by buying new varieties and colors. I don't have much room, at least not in the sunnier parts of my yard. With a huge maple tree and the shade cast from my house, my garage and the neighbors' garages, there isn't much sunny space at all. My dahlias all border a strip between the driveway and a hedge of lilac bushes, and they're tall plants that need some room, so we'll see how that works. I'm experimenting this year by planting some shorter dahlias in pots, and they've started well, but it's too soon to tell how that will work. 

Here are some of the ones I've planted this  year and am eagerly awaiting.

If you've had luck overwintering dahlias or have your own favorite flower photos or stories you'd like to share, please chime in below.

Happy reading (and gardening)!

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