Monday, June 10, 2024

Dahlias Early June Update

 Dahlias have become a large component of my annual plantings.  They could also fall into the category of perennials because I save them from year to year.  They satisfy the collector in me because I have curated my selection to have a certain variety of forms and colors.  It can take a few years to build up an area to match your vision, and you have to be very disciplined about the volume you keep and plant.  This all started with a random selection of dinner plate dahlias back in 2018 and I still have my Cafe Au Lait dahlias from that first season.  The rest of my collection has changed quite a bit.

My main dahlia bed is about eight feet square.  It is right next to the garden shed so I walk past it many times a day.  It is sheltered a bit by the apple tree to the west which reduces wind and late afternoon sun.  I plant my tall decorative dahlias here.  I have gotten away from the Dinner Plate size flowers and prefer 4" to 6" blooms in shades of copper and oranges.  The dinner plate flowers are difficult to support, and in cut flowers are your goal, they unnecessarily dominate a bouquet.  They are fun to have now and then.  I like to have a few other colors for accents.  I put the plants I know will be the most robust in the center so the shorter plants surrounding them can lend some support. 

 My one new dahlia purchase of the year is the Bloomquist Jean.  It has an unusual, turned back form and is difficult to obtain.  I bought it during "the dahlia wars" over the winter, where mid-sized growers put their extra inventory up for sale and it is sold out in less than five minutes with items disappearing out of your cart while you spend critical seconds making shopping decisions.  That was the only tuber I wanted and I was able to log in, check out and be gone in about two minutes.

Lady Darlene and Spartacus in the back row
Center Court, Gitt's Crazy and Mai Tai in the center
Peaches n Dreams, Bloomquist Jean and Summer's End in front.

My main dahlia bed was becoming too crowded, so rather than cull varieties, I moved the ball style blooms over behind the strawberry bed.  The ball flower structure is my second favorite, but beautiful in their own right.  This is the first time I have planted them on their own and I think it will be quite nice to have them on their own. 
Unfortunately, two of my Oh Honey tubers did not come up.
Rather than fill in with a spare decorative, I left a blank space.
These three varieties all appear to be close to the same color and form at first glance, but when you watch them grow in person you appreciated the subtle differences. 
Oh Honey, Cornell Bronze, and four of the Ice Tea
The space along the bank next to the sidewalk has always been my flex space.  Originally the "Tater Patch", a large portion of the bank is now taken up by an apple tree making it less suitable for potatoes.  Over the years I've also grown Zucchini, Sweet Potatoes, cantaloupes, herbs, and probably some other things that I've forgotten about.  This year it is hosting my single flowered dahlias that for the past two years were over where the ball dahlias are this year.

My Brown Sugar dahlia is very red and not the rusty copper that it is known for so I separated it out from the other ball dahlias and made it the backdrop of my single flowered and collarette dahlias.   The singles are compact with smaller flowers on long stems dancing happily above the foliage.  They are fun and easy to care for but it has taken several seasons for the tubers to gain any size and produce more than just a few flowers.

Opposite the large, decorative dahlia bed is a layout I developed to make use of my many Cafe Au Lait tubers and an odd ball, dark leafed, purply burgundy border dahlia left over from my original scheme to fill the fire pit planter.  Last year I purchased another purply colored border dahlia and some little hedge dahlias with bright pink and white flowers to fill in the layout.  Last year I had to fill in with marigolds, but it looks like this year the little pink and white ones are growing well.

I think it will look quite nice this year.

Cafe Au Lait, Sayonara and City Lights Burgundy and Binky border dahlias.

The Cafe Au Lait plants are compact but very productive.  And there are a lot of them!  They don't fit in with my other dahlias but it is pretty difficult to cull something that tries so hard year after year. The very large flowers range from pink to a cream coffee color and are easily overwhelmed when mixed in with my tall, showy decorative dahlias.  They are quite stunning in groups though and planting them in a row really showcases them.

I am very much looking forward to the show.


  1. Ooohhhh I can't wait for pictures when they are in all their glory! You are an artist at heart.

  2. I’m sure the show will be spectacular! I’ve only Planted 3 dahlias.. I just can’t deal with all the fuss in the fall😅My neighbor plants more than a hundred every year…!
    ~Ricki in NY

    1. Wow! A hundred! Well, I guess I come close to that. I saved 78 tubers but some of them were little ones!!!