DAHLIA DIARY 2017
March 22 It is too early to plant dahlias. The soil is damp, and tubers may rot. Plants will succumb to a late frost Our
tubers have been slow to show eyes, even with bottom heat and periodic sprinklings. Patience is the name of the game. Have the patch tested before fertilizing.
Dahlia Diary 2016 June 15. . . We are having trouble with the software for the website. Be sure to make a map of your planted dahlias in case the tags disappear.
April 26. . . Question, Can I put the dahlia pots in the rain? Answer, Yes, if the pots drain.
April 2016 The tubers are finally sprouting. But it is still too early to plant. I would wait until early May for the tubers, and mid to late May for dahlia plants from cuttings. If you have only
a few, put them in pots with a good potting soil. Keep the pots moist, but do not soak it. The idea is for the tubers to develop roots. Initially, the shoot feeds off the tuber. If the
plant is to grow well , it will need to form roots, as soon as possible. I have some tubers that are just sitting there. In a couple of weeks, if there are no roots, I will discard them. I have
a small garden, and need vigorous plants.
March 2016. The last entry disappeared. I was a victim of cyber theft. The baskets worked pretty well. I shaved off the tubers that grew outside the baskets and was left with what appeared to
be healthy "pot roots." They went into flats with a damp potting soil. Now if they put out eyes and shoots all will be well. This afternoon 5 of the 60 clumps have shown signs of life.
Check the soil pH in your patch. It should be between 6.5 and 7 (neutral). For the past 3 years my patch has been above 7 (alkaline). I c cannot figure out why.
The National Dahlia Society in the UK has enhanced it website. The photos and comments in the discussion thread are very informative.
December 31. It is New Years Eve, and we are between seasons. I have a new knee, and I am still adjusting. Most of the commercial dahlia growers have websites. See the ADS Bulletin for details. If
you are interested in the 2016 new introductions, get going as soon as possible. Do not wait for the paper catalogues. HAPPY NEW YEAR.
October 26. We are approaching the end of the dahlia, season. The stems are getting weak and the blooms and bees are hard at work. Underground, tubers are maturing. In the Washington DC area it is
risky to leave the tubers in the ground. It is mostly a problem with moisture retention in clay soil. There are a variety of instructions on line and on You-Tube for digging and storing tubers. It is
permissible to treat them as an annual and to buy new plants or tubers next Spring.
August 29. The heat continues and powdery mildew is appearing. A spray of Neem Oil is an organic remedy. The internet reports many home remedies such as baking soda.
July 23. The unusual heat in the Washington DC area has slowed down growth, and is rushing bloom development. Have patience! It will become easier to work in the garden
JUNE 9. The August issue of Fine Gardening has an interesting article comparing water-soluble fertilizers. Authors Jeff Gillman and Lin Plummer tested three organic and
two synthetic fertilizers. The test was applied to marigolds and tomatoes. They concluded that the marigolds that were fertilized produced flowers later than the marigolds that received no
fertilizer. The latter immediately devoted their energy to reproduction. At the end of the experiment the fertilized plants were flowering more actively.
A small amount of phosphorous is enough. More adds nothing, except runoff. Generally, plants need much less fertilizer than is called for on the label. No difference was found between organic and
synthetic fertilizers sampled. The former tend to release more slowly and may contain micronutrients. Fine Gardening is a consistently informative magazine.
June 8. The dahlias have been planted and the weather is getting hotter. It is time to mulch the dahlia patch. The June issue of Virginia Gardener has an excellent article on
mulching by Garry McDonald PhD. He observes that any mulch is better than no mulch. The article discusses bark and hardwood mulch, compost, and pine straw mulch. In some areas ground
tree trimmings are available for free from the local government. He makes the point that for most gardens bagged mulch costs the same a bulk mulch and is easier to apply.
In our dahlia gardens all sorts of mulches are use. One grower uses carpet remnants. Others use mushroom compost. I lay permeable horticultural cloth with straw on top.
Do not apply whatever mulch you use too thickly. The rain has to get through to the root area. A lot is going on underground. The mulch should not become a roof suffocating the root area..
May 26 · June can be windy. Tie the plants when they are tall enough to blow over.
· Make a map of the patch. Tags can disappear over the summer.
· As June becomes July, mulch the plants to keep the ground cooler and to retain moisture. I use permeable horticultural cloth and straw. Do not use a dense mulch. It will retard oxygen getting to
Whether you are growing for cut flowers, garden beauty or for dahlia shows, top the plants by removing the growing tip. As a general rule top when there are 4-6 pairs of leaves. This will lower
the center of gravity of the plant when the lateral shoots develop. To get larger blooms, reduce the number of laterals when they can be pricked out. It is a matter of preference
May 5. Tomorrow is the moment of truth. If a division (tuber) does not have an eye it will be tossed. I now have about 100 seedlings in various stages of development. They will need to be moved to
4 inch pots. There are about about a dozen rooted cuttings in sand. I keep forgetting to bring a fork to lift them out and transplant them.
April 26. Do not be fooled by spurts of hot weather. We can still have another frost. Rooted cuttings and seedling will not recover. Tubers will develop another shoot.
April 12. What a difference a week makes. The tubers are eying up, and seed is germinating. Even cuttings will root more quickly. Absent intense technological intervention, nature dictates the tempo
April 5. The commercial orders have begun to arrive. Les & Viv Connell's tubers were firm with good eyes. I think I have ordered more than I need. My eyes are bigger than my patch.
April 1. Don't be fooled by the warm weather. We can have frosts in the Washington, DC area into the third week of April. The biggest threat to early-planted tubers is cold, soggy
March 31. I am still opening bags and putting tubers on beds of vermiculite in half-sized flats . I have opened about 50 bags so far. Most are small trash bags and some 1-gallon
zip locks. The tubers are in good shape. There is little rotting or shriveling. Still, the eyes have been slow. The exceptions are Honka, a yellow orchid, and the Verrone originations. The
eyes on the latter tubers are thick and clearly poised to create shoots.
March 25. I opened some more bags and found some tubers with eyes. One bag of Verrone's Pink Giraffe had good shoots. On punctured the plastic bag. Now that is vigor. A good day.
March 22 If you want to take cuttings, the tubers need some warmth. If you use a heat pad, make certain there is a thermostat. Several years ago I melted a plastic flat and
baked the tubers.
March 20 . . . Spring has sprung, and it came with snow flurries this morning This is a good time to take a soil sample and have it analyzed. I use A&L Laboratories near
Richmond. www.al-labs-eastern.com/. Send
an email and they will provide boxes and
March 3 . . . I just received the Winter Bulletin of the National Dahlia Society (Britain). Once again I enjoyed seeing the the frequent references to American originations, both old
and new. The dahlia does not know national boundaries. Kudos to Les and Viv Connell on winning the NDS John Brown Medal with Tahoma Lady Oh at the Wisley Trials. Congrats to the Parshalls for the
Silver award for Clearview Sundance at the 2014 Exhibition Trials
March 1. . . The American Dahlia Society announced today that the dahlia, Edna C has been selected as the Best Dahlia of the Past 50 Years. The designation is
part of the American Dahlia Society’s centennial celebration.
February 25 . . . Who was Paul Comstock?February 24 . . . This is the season for being unrealistically optimistic.February 23. . . For those of us starved for dahlia images, the Giant Foods "Floral Tissue" box has a striking picture of a white cactus dahlia on a blue background with glitter.February 21. . . Snow, ice and cold. If your tubers are in a unheated area, make sure they do not freeze. Snow insulates the ground below.February 8 . . . We've had a couple of nice days, and I opened some of the storage bags. The tubers were nice and firm, but the crown tissue was a bit iffy. In a week or two I will try to get them eying up.Dahlias are beginning to pop up like crocuses. Our garden shops, hardware stores and the big boxes in the area, like Home Depot and Cost all have packages and boxes of dahlias. The tubers almost all come from Holland and most places have the same varieties. To be frank, most of the dahlias gown in the gardens of this area, come from such places. If you are reading this you are ready for a step up. Come to the NCDS tuber sales starting in MarchJanuary 21 . . . I was going to open some of the bags of tuberous roots, then it began to snow. All I need is an excuse. I ordered some dahlias by internet. A number of new introductions are sold out. I received Brent and Becky's catalogue yesterday. They are supporters of the American Horticultural Society, so I like to support them. They have six pages of dahlias. There are a number of border dahlias including the Gallery and Karma families. A lot of the images had open centers. There is a single with a dark center and dark foliage. Is is called DraculaJanuary 9. . . January is the time for new resolutions. Mine is to be more faithful to the diary. If you are interested in acquiring dahlias introduced this year. Open the website of your favorite dahlia dealer and place your order ASAP. Think of it as a late Holiday present --a dahlia-selfie.November 9 . . .You will have to give me a pass this season. In mid-July I broke my leg and spent eight weeks away from my dahlias. They grew with the help of Nature and a little tying to keep the plants upright. The experience confirmed that you can grow beautiful dahlias with minimal work if you do not care about top-size blooms. In 2015 we will start again. Our serious growers in the NCDS agree that this was one of the best growing seasons in memory. I also have been sharing tubers with gardeners in the Adirondacks. How to grow our plant in the 85 days between frosts.Remember, 2015 Is the Centennial of the American Dahlia Society.May 26. I have no idea how the fonts work with this application Perhaps the bold is appropriate because everything is proceeding at warp speed. Spring was short-lived, and we seem to be into summer. The tubers have sprouted and are ready to put in the ground. Some are more tun a foot tall. One has a bud. Make sure you tie these tall ones to a stake when you plant them out. If the tubers have been kept indoors, give the shoots some time to "harden-off" by putting them in the shade before subjecting them to the patch.The seedlings will be potted and also hardened off, by putting them outside and in the shade for a few days. Some of the tubers are more than foot tall. I will remove the lower pair of leaves and plant them so that the stem where the leaves were attached is buried. This is likely to support the plant more effectively and generate additional users in the fall.If you are applying a time-release fertilizer, spread it on the surface and not in the hole with the tubers. The dahlias create roots just below the surface of the patch.Aphids seem to be around. Be observant. If you see them spray with a general insecticide or wash them off.The big surprise of the spring is the appearance of five plants, the tubers of which were left in the ground last fall. After a harsh winter that killed all sorts of "hardy" plants, these tubers survived. Wonders never cease!!
April 24. The experts tell us that we are two weeks behind this Spring. They also predict the last frost date to be May 6. A drive around Falls Church bears this out. The tulips and some daffodils are still in bloom. The azaleas and dogwood are just coming out.
Somehow, my dahlias have gotten the word. They are slow to eye up and grow shoots. I have opened the bags and slightly moistened the vermiculite. This and warmer weather should wake them up.
I store by dividing each clump and bagging the tubers in vermiculite. I cannot see eyes, so some of the divisions in the bags will not have latent eyes (they are called blind).
I have begun potting up tubers with eyes, and will plant during the second week in May. This will allow them to get established before the real heat begins. Other growers wait until late May or early June. They will be growing to get their first flush of blooms on the large-size cultivars for the Philadelphia and NCDS Shows in September.
Some growers plant in 6"- 8" pots. In the Fall they will just lift the pots and save the clump in the pot. This practice limits the spread of feeder roots, and may limit the large dahlias from reaching maximum size. It will work well for BBs and smaller.February 11. In the dahlia world there is the equivalent of Spring training. For me it is cleaning the small greenhouse where I start the dahlias and making sure the flats and containers are clean. I use a Lestoil solution. You can also use a 10% bleach solution or even soap and water. Make sure you have a stiff brush.To lower the pH of the soil to make it less acidic (6.5-7) use agricultural lime in amounts recommended by the garden center or the laboratory that did the soil test. Make sure it is a slow acting type, and scratch it into the soil apply as soon as the patch is sufficiently dry to work. It will need some time to do its job. Hydrated lime (used on playing fields)works more quickly but is can burn the plants and is not recommended.
Dahlia Diary 2013December 29th . . .This has been a tough season for "Dahlia Diary." We were on sick call for a while, and then tied up digging and storing dahlias. The tuber crop was a good one, and they are snuggled in bags of vermiculite.If there are some special dahlias you want to grow, consult "the big list" on the website of the Colorado Dahlia Society, www.dahlias.net and contact the supplier selling the cultivar. Most are now on-line. The NCDS will have cultivars that performed well in the Washington DC area, but our supply is limited to what we grow. The internet has accelerated the buying season. So act quickly
.Our best wishes for a happy, healthy and dahlia-filled New Year.
October 13 . . .We are in a time of extremes. Little rain for more than a month. and then four days of rain. As we move to the end of the season, make sure that you have the correct names on your dahlias. Cull out the plants that did not grow vigorously. Replacement tubers are inexpensive. When in doubt, throw it out
Colors are more intense, stems are getting longer and blooms have daisy (open) centers. It is the dahlia's season for sex, much to the delight of any bees in the neighborhood. If a flower makes a firm pod after blooming, leave it on the plant to allow the seeds to mature. When the pod dries and turns brown, remove it and store the pod in a paper bag until Spring. Keeping seed will enroll you in the wonderful "Dahlia Seedling Lottery."
As soon as the soil dries, you can cut the stalks and begin digging the clumps. Or else, treat the plant like perennials, and just leave them in the ground. You can replace the plants in the Spring. If digging and storing is you thing--and it is for some folks--consult www.dahlia.org
September 25 . . .Four months of silence. My bad!!! Unfortunately, two messages were ost in the ether, or wherever the internet lives. We visited Italy and saw two or three dahlia blooms and then the Adirondacks (Zone 3), where it is hard to grow dahlias. A few blooms in pots and some more after we left in late August. The ADS National Show in Grand Rapids was almost made up for the drought. There were more than two thosand blooms at the show, and several thousand at DahliaHill in Midland MI and at the gardens we visited. We saw quite a few dahlias at the gardens we visited, see www.gardendahlias.org
Whe we finally returned hom the broad mites had turned out patch into a free buffet. They eat the new foliage and sap the plants vigor. These mites, unlike spider mites, start at the top of the plant. We applied some specialized miticides, and the new groth seems clear, but the buds are too late for the Show.
The NCDS Show today was outstanding both in the number and quality of the blooms. As usual we had a lot of help from our friends from Pennsylvania. But our local growers were well represented on the Court of Honor.June 5
. . . A neighborhood garden shop is having trouble with wilting potted dahlias. We took one out of the pot and there was a firm, hard tuber but no feeder roots. Growth from the tuber has run out of steam. Looks like a fungus and I suggested a drench of fungicide ad a liquid root stimulent.epotting does not seem feasible for 100s of pots.
Everything is in our patch and about half the named cultivars have been topped and tied. Some of the 2012 seedlings that survived the winter in the ground have buds. I have no explanation for their survival. The 2013 seedlings are in the ground, without pots. Perhaps they will grow vigorously.
The two most vigorous cultivars are Embrace and Steve Meggos. Another mystery.May 18
. . .There are some who are drepressed when it is dreary or rainy. For me it is day of joy. Over 50 young dahlia plants are in the ground, and they are getting settled under the most favorable conditions. Three days of overcast to allow them to get use to their new homes. The only threats are the slugs. I am offering up some lettuce and sugar snap peas as a sacrifice.
Whatever is going to eye up, probably has. Why did Clyde's Choice go blind? There is a full page picture in Fine Gardening
, and I know why I want to grow CC.
The seedlings are developing. I will plant them out in about 10 days under Nick's webbing. I have about 50 plants of mixed lineage, and about 10 more in the ground from 2012, stragglers that chose not to bloom.
At the moment, the dahlia part of my life is goodMay 13
. . .We have begun planting. I have some help this season as a result of a gimpy knee. Starting the tubers in containers seems to have worked out. you can see rootlets when the tuber is taken out for planting. We have been hardening the plants off for two or three days, and it seems to help. The weather has been sunny and breezy, not the best for the new plantings. Even with light, the plants in containers have longer stalks between leaf pairs; as a result I have added some bamboo support sticks that sort of work. One plant corkscrewed--not a good sign for a straight stem on the blooms. I trimmed off the stem and stalk, and wil try again. I have started a few cuttings, just to see if they will root.May 8
. . .Everything is growing. Last evening's NCDS business meeting was supplanted by a migration to the tuber and plant tables. I guess folks thought they could squeeze in a few more hills or were stocking up on replacements.
Try not to plant out while the soil is soggy. Our clay soil compresses and will challenge the plants. Some advise walking on boards or snow-shoes. Better to wait a few days and let the plants harden off before putting them in the patch. For the curious, look up "stomata."May 5
. . .Beauty is indeed in the eye of the beholder. The current cover of Spray-N-Grow
has a well-formed dahlia bloom that is a mixture of red and variegated. The bloom reminds us that our narrow standards of floral beauty are arbitrary, and are more in the nature of a horticultural challenge.
April 29 . . .Well, we had some computer issues, on what has been a usuable web platform. In the last month, everythng has taken off. Tubers are sprouting, seeds germinating and cuttings taking root. I am working hard to have everything potted up for a while before planting, so there are good roots to help the plants survive our spooky weather. I have put the first batch of plants outside to harden off. The soft rain today is wonerdul for them. I have put short, thin bamboo stakes in the pot to tie the plants as they get taller. The young stalks are not very sturdy because I do not have enough light where they are growing.
March 20 . . . It seems that you cannot rush Mother Nature. Snow flurries with freezing weather has slowed the tubers from sprouting. If you have just a few, bring them inside.
Tubers do not have to be in moist soil to sprout. The sprout will develop with the help of the tuber. It is only when the roots form that the tuber and shoot need to stay moist but not wet.
The shoot develops from the shoulder of the tuber where it meets the stem. Rootlets will develop from the sam area, or occasionally elsewhere on the tuber.
February 19 . . . I was just informed that Stanley Mehr passed away in January after a very short illness. Stanley membership in the NCDS dates back to the 1963. He was one of that core group who made the Washington DC area a center for dahlia growing in the 1960s and 70s. Until his death he ran an outdoor flower shop in McLean. He grew 100s of dahlia plants and sold 1,000s of blooms each summer. Stanly was an unabashed New Deal liberal and a magnet for customers of all persuasions who visited to purchase flowers and plants and discuss politics and current events.
Stanley loved dahlias and was constantly on the look-out for new cultivars that were floriferous and hardy. He was a mild environmentalist and tried to minimize sprays and other chemicals.
Stanley’s beloved wife, Maria, passed away little more than a year ago after a long and very happy marriage.
February 18 ... Potted dahlias from last season have been out of storge for more than a week. Still no shoots. Trying not to over-water.
Think I need to set up a heat pad with a thermostat set to 70
January 25 . . .I have started the diary a little earlier this year, even though it is 15F in Falls Church this evening.
Some random obervations: The ground is beginning to freeze this is good because it will eliminate some nuisance insects that winter over. It is bad if you are wintering over dahlia clumps in your patch
If you have bought bags of dahlias at a garden shop or received tubers in the mail, do not leave them on a basement table or in a unheated garage. They will shrivel or turn to mush. Put them in pots with slightly damp soil and keep in a place that will not freeze.
Most commercial dahlia sellers have websites on the internet. A good resource to find them is the website of the Colorado Dahlia Society at www.dahlias.net
Think about a soil test so you can improve the soil before you plant. Your local garden center can help you.
Dahlia Diary 2012
June 26 . . . I still have 50 or so seedling pots sitting in the shade.
When I put them in the patch—in the pots—I will use a heavy shade cloth for a few weeks along with a slug repellant to help survival, while the plants develop root systems.
I will also have the trickle hose run daily until we get some consistent rain and the plants are tall enough to mulch.
Contrary to what I just wrote, I am not a fan of surface watering. A periodic, deep drench works better when the plants have developed root systems to absorb the moisture. Until then, the plants are fragile and require more steady nursing.
Tubers are more resilient; they are the camels of the dahlia patch. I have seen shoots grow most of the summer in bags of dry vermiculite. We just inherited some potted trees on our terrace. In hope weather the foliage dries out after a a day or two without moisture.They are in line to be repotted with new soil and some water retention crystals.
Red spider and cyclamen mites seem to like this kind of weather. If you grow only a few plants, you can spray the foliage, top and bottom, to mist off the mites. Alternatively, consult a Garden Center for alternative remedies.
It is also timely to provide a supplemental fertilizer—sprinkle small handful of a general fertilizer like 10-10-10 around each plant, and then mulch. I use a porous horticultural cloth and straw. This keeps the soil cooler and helps retain moisture. Any mulch that does not absorb nitrogen will work. Don Brown in Georgia used rug remnants.
To have bushier plants in September, nip off the growing tip at the top of the plant after it has developed four or five pairs of leaves. And be sure to tie the plant loosely to the stake as it grows taller. A couple of turns around the stake will keep the tie steady. Last week, parts of Maryland had damaging micro-bursts of wind during a rain storm.
The key during July and August is to keep the plants growing. And remember—we grow dahlias for the fun of it
May 12 . . .Planting time has finally arrived!!! The season has officially begun. You can plant tubers or rooted cuttings.
Make sure the tuber has an eye, and plants have been hardened off by slowly preparing them for the weather variations in your garden. Set out the plants in a protected space for at least a week. The foliage needs to shut its windows that were open when the plant was indoors. In a clay-based soil the growing tip should be no deeper than two inches below the surface surface. Plant them with the growing tip pointing up. Be sure to put a stake behind the top of the tuber (where the eye) is.
Plants need to be watered like any other young flower. Tubers are more forgiving. A soak when planting is usually enough, assuming we continue to get Spring showers.
April 21 . . .The tubers in storage have been slow to eye up and make sprouts. Sprinkle some water on the tubers and have patience. My soil test came back at a pHof 7.4. My patch is still alkaline in an acid geography. It pays to have a soil test before planting. All the other minerals (except nitrogen) were either "Very High." It looks as though ammonium sulfate is all we will apply. Nitrogen is soluble and tends to leach from the soil.
When I have a chance to talk about dahlias to other gardeners, I often hear the refrain that "my grandmother grew dahlias." I recently read a column from Bluefield West Virgina on the same theme. You will enjoy it. http://bdtonline.com/columns/x1774445366/Past-intertwines-with-future-as-gardening-memories-spring-forth
It has been an unusual March. Reports from Virginia are that the weather has been unseasonably warm.The early clematis, daffodils, small irises and camellias have come and are going. My guess is that the ground is warm enough to plant—don’t know whether it is dry enough to dig. If you are interested in early blooms, you might plant a few tubers.
Plants are a real risk even with row covers. We might still have a surge of freezing weather between now and mid April—and possibly some snow—if Jack Frost can realign the jet stream
I am not interested in blooms during July and August. Most get blasted by the heat--fading and open centers are typical, particularly on the decoroative types.
I usually germinate seed during mid-April. Tom Yano used to shoot for tax day, but that was a fruit of his ironic sense of humor. Some damp paper toweling in a plastic bag will do the trick. Check the seed after two days and daily thereafter. You want to move the seedlings to cells in a flat as soon as they germinate—or else they will quickly root into the paper and be difficult to transfer. I prefer this to direct planting in the cell. I have a better germination rate with the paper. Once the plantlet is in the cell treat it like any new germinated plant.damp soil and a lot of cool light (fluorescents work well).
Start watering pot-roots so you can take cuttings. Slice the shoot when it is about four inches tall, just below a node. Then root in damp sand, and when you feel resistance when you pull on the shoot, dig out the shoot and roots with a fork. Plant the cutting in a 4” pot with good soil. Water conservatively and grow normally.
If I were on sschedule, I would open the storage bags now and check the tubers for signs of life or rot. After cleaning up the bags, make sure the bags have names, or there are well-marked tags are in the bags. Sprinkle the vermiculite with water and do it again in two weeks. Don’t let the medium get too wet--just enough to stimulate eyes. If you have a favorite cultivar, bring the bag to a warm place and pot up the tubers that begin to show eyes If dahlia clumps are stored in a box or cool sell, begin to get the shoots growing by placing the clumps in a flat with damp potting soil. Once the shoots appear divide the clump so you have a shoot with an attched tuber. The tuber will feed the developing plant until the roots find ,osture and nutrients. Do not overwater.
October Snow in Falls Church, VA
November 18 . . .I have begun to dig the patch. The clumps are well formed and the tubers seem to be mature. Division has been easy, and we have good omens for storage. I have taken a minimalist approach. I have been tapping to dirt off the clu and dusting the cuts with garden sulfur. We will see in the spring. Overall, we have had decent season. Enough nice blooms to think optimistically about next year.
October 30 . . . An early snowfall frozen purity white on white. Morning, back to life
October 13 . . .I have lost a couple of posting. The dahlia season has redeemed itself and the patch is colorful with vigorous plants. It is always amazing what cooler weather and regular rainfall will do. There is a new website for the casual dahlia grower, It iswww.gardendahlias.org
September 6... To see a wonderful article about dahlias and our own Nick Weber and John Spangenberg see http://www.shorehomeandgarden.com/newseptember20112.html
August 25 . . .Time flies! First a vacation and then a visit by grandkids from Sweden. The months have been marked by unrelenting heat and little rainfall. But that is behind us, and the weather is becoming kinder to the dahlias in the garden. September will bring better blooms and some tasks that will make them more attractive in the garden, house or show table.
With cooler weather and moisture, the plants will grow vigorously. You should keep up with the tying and remove laterals below the bud. I do this to get straight stems that are proportional to the size of the bloom. A bloom 8 inches in diameter should have a stem 12 to 16 inches in length. Small size plants throw up numerous lateral branches. Strip the side shoots at least two sets of leaves below the bud—as well as the side buds and shoots that accompany the future bloom. the sooner the better
If we do not get regular rain, water the plants so they receive about an inch a week. Remember that the feeder roots can grow out about a foot or two around the plant. Remove spent blooms and any bottom leaves that are wilting. This helps air circulation.
If a plant is exhibiting stunted growth, this is a good time to remove it to the trash. Replace tags that have disappeared and check blooms against the name on the tag. I found two plants of Spartacus that had different names on their tags.
We have waited all summer fo the dahlias to do their thing. We will now have about eight weeks if floral bliss. Enjoy!!
June 19 . . .Some of my neighbors thought I would never plant the dahlias this year. They suspected the patch was to become a slalom course for the rabbits and squirrels. We finally had a break in the weather, and I am now officially planted.
The dahlias are at all states of development. Some are vigorous and well-formed, having been topped and tied. Others are wiry and seem to be posing as ground covers. The diversity of growth habits is remarkable.
We have had almost 2 1/2" of rain this week; no need for irrigation. Keep you eye out for red spider and mildew. If signs appear, consult one of our experts or a good garden shop.
June 1 . . .After a month of growing, the tubers and plants were ready to go in the patch over the Memorial Day weekend. It didn't happen!! The 90+ heat was daunting to the gardener and deadly for the tender plants. We made a try, and set out about 40 plants that had been hardened off for two weeks. Even then, after about 24 hours, and extra watering, they were getting "limpy." Since then, each day seems to be hotter than the prior one. Hopefully the weather will break after the shower this evening.
Two suggestions: First, gradually harden off the plants before you put them out. Second, if you have set them out, a nice sprinkle during the late afternoon will pierk them up.
April 27 . . . We have had several days of 80+F weather. Every thing in the garden is growing by leaps and bounds--as much as a plant can do that. I am tempted to put in a few tubers, but I know the ground is still cold and damp. If the threatened storms come, it will only get worse. One more hot day, and I might give in. In the meantime, I am paying attention to the tubers that have sprouted stems and foliage. I have to resist overwatwering, and regularly shuffle them around to increase the light. It is important to "harden" these plants to get them ready for the outside world. Gradually bring them outside for longer periods first in shade and then in the sun. I have had more than one plant simply collapse from heat exposure when I planted it out.
April 22 . . .Every year I have to decide on a planting date—at least a date to start planting. For a number a years I picked the Memorial Day weekend. This year by mid-May I think the ground will be warm and dry enough to nourish the plants.
Waterlogged or cold soil stunts development and encourages root rot.
April 5 . . .There is still a likelihood of frost in the Washington, DC area. Do not be fooled by the warm afternoons. If you have tubers, put them in pots with a good quality potting store; lightly water, and let the tubers develop indoors . As the shoots grow, give them as much light as possible. DO NOT OVERWATER!!!
March 15 . . .We just had a computer glitch and lost some content from the diary. To catch up: The soil is still too cold and wet to plant tubers and plants in the patch. If you feel compelled to do something, start the tubers in pots with a slightly damp potting soil. This will give the roots a chance to develop before you put them out.
What's in a name? For several years I have grown a giant red dahlia called Bryn Terfel. It grows well and makes spectacular blooms. We had no idea why the cultivar had such an unusual name. Earlier this week, I was reading the Washington Post and came upon a glowing review of a concert by a famous Welsh baritone, Bryn Tefel. The puzzle was solved! Perhaps the plant will grow even better if I serenade it with music from its namesake.
January 29. . . We started the 2011 season at the NCDS with a Show Meeting on Saturday. Even though dahlia blooms and the flower show marking the end of our 75th year are months away, our discussion of the competitions, displays and banquet brought the season into sharp focus. What varieties to plant? Is the soil in good shape? How about playing Mother Nature and growing some dahlias from seed? It is supposed to snow again this week, and the dahlia patch is a bright white when the sun shines. So, perhaps we are pushing things a bit. But when you are a dahlia grower, two months of hibernation is more than enough.
2010 Dahlia Diary
December 5 . . .About an hour ago I dug, cut up and dipped the last clumps. After packing them up on Monday, the 2010 season will be officially over. It is tempting to say that the year is gratefully behind us. But that would not be fair to the favorable weather and beautiful blooms during September and October, and even into November. The clumps for the most part developed multiple tubers that seem to be mature. There is a lot to look forward to in 2011, including the new introductions that are being featured on the websites of the commercial sellers.
Happy Holidays!! We will posting the dahlia calendar for 2011 in a few days. The Dahlia Diary will return in February.
November 28 . . . Each year I forget how long it takes to divide a big clump of tubers. It takes probably 15 minutes to cut out 10-15 divisions, dust the cuts with sulphur, and bag them in vermiculite. Every once in a while I get "wagon-wheel" clump that is easy to divide. The hardest is where the tubers have short necks and thick bodies. We took the seedlings out today; they seem to have potroots--one had pot roots plus. It will be interesting
November 23 . . .While I dig dahlia today, here is a link to dividing the clumps. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gROv1nhrRQE And here is one on storage from the Colorado Dahlia Society: http://dahlias.net/dahwebpg/CultureIndex/Culture.htm
November 20 . . .To quote Dr. Seuss, "The time has come Marvin K. Mooney to dig the dahlias." It was a beautiful day Saturday, so we cut down 20 plants and moved the tags from the stakes to the stalk. One last chance to check the tag and make sure the name had not disappeared. Some permanent markers do not live up to their name. Occasionally, the wire on the tag is too short to circle the stalk and twist tight. I resort to a piece of binder cord and tie the tag to it and then the cord to the stalk. This morning I dug the 20 hills--all AAs and As--and discovered that the clumps varied from enormous clumps to a single tuber. The variability of the clumps was remarkable. It confirms the often asked question, "Is it a good root maker?" We cut up the first twenty clumps. Some had water in the stalks and rot in the crown. Those we dunked in a fungicide drench for about two minutes. The clumps with solid stalks were cut up and simply packed in vermiculite in small plastic trash bags. A little garden sulphur was brushed on the cuts. I make a list of the number of tubers in each bag, so I will know, at least potentially, what I will have for 2011.
November 14 . . .Well, we have had another unseasonably warm week and there is still color--mostly yellow --in the dahlia patch. This week I have to start digging, even though we have not had a hard frost. The memories of last year's early freeze and snow are still vivid. The weather still goves us a chance to make sure the tags are correct. The plants all look alike after a heavy frost.
November 6 . . . Earlier this week frost tickled the dahlia plants, but left abruptly with the first hint of morning light. Here and there the foliage has a brittle calling card from JF's visit.
There are few new blooms. The buds are just sitting there because the temperature seldom leaves the 50s during the day. At the same time, the blooms that are left tend to hang on and provide bits of color that are pleasant when you look over the patch from a distance. Up close, the blooms are open, thin and ragged. Most of them look down like shower faucets.
This is our last chance to check the tags to make sure the names are correct and have not disappeared like Houdini. If I could only remember which of the marking pens fade or wash off during the season. Most of us won't keep all the plants for next season. My patch is too small and there are new dahlias that I will just have to try. Courtesy requires that we not give away tubers from a cultivar that we do not want to grow. Tomorrow, I will start digging--at least symbolically.
October 25 . . . The stems keep getting longer and thinner. The blooms are beginning to resemble the psychedelic images from the '60s. They are ready for Woodstock. I can't leave this posting without enclosing a link to Don Dramstad's website: He is a man for all seasons--and dahlias too. http://donsdahliasetc.wordpress.com/2010/10/26/highlights-from-2010
October 24 . . . A group of NCDSers closed down the Exhibition Garden at Derholm MD for the season. The plants were dug and the dahlia beds covered to keep out the weeds. The dahlia meisters made plans to refurbish the soil in the beds next Spring. This has not been a good year for plants, blooms or tubers. The prevailing view is that the soil is worn out. This is one of the mysteries of dahlia growing. The beds are expertly fertilized each year, and there is a good watering system. Admittedly, the weather this season was challenging, and the site> is at the top of a hill that is both sunny and windy. Nevertheless the drop-off this year was dramatic and requires some reconstruction and the engagement of a Shaman
October 22 . . . In a few days we will wake up to frost-covered dahlia skeletons, hanging limply by their ties from the stakes. It will be time to make a choice: to treat the dahlia as an annual and go on with life, or to begin the process of digging and storage.
The internet is awash in information about digging and storage.As the years go by, I am less and less certain that there is a “right way” to prepare dahlias for winter. How long to leave them in the ground after cutting the stalks; to wash or not wash; to dip in fungicide or not; to wrap in plastic or store in vermiculite. Each season I experiment with different methods, and I seldom see a real difference in outcome. The tubers are either mature or not mature, and either infected with some fungus or not. The outcome of storage will largely be determined by these factors.
October 17 . . .Another week of nearly perfect weather. The depth of the blooms are spectacular. Row after row of petals (florets) on slow-opening blooms. I dreamed about this garden during the hot days of Summer. Because I planted late, some of the plants are having the first flush of blooms. Hollyhill Flamingo's color is even more complex, with yellow and gold tones lighting up the pink florets. Gargeners from Falls Chrurch visited the patch yesterday, and Flamingo stole the show from the yellow Vickis and Windhavens. Every day an orchid seedling blooms with great form. I think I am tagging too many for a second year. The seedling crop has done well overall this year in their 4 1/2" pots. The only question is the keeping quality of the tubers.
VISIT A DAHLIA GARDEN TODAY AND ENJOY OUR FLOWER
Ocober 9 . . .We have had a week of beautiful fall weather, and the dahlias are responding. Some of the plants are above 8 feet, but others are waist high and putting out their first bloom. At least this season, mid-June was too late to plant tubers. There is some powdery mildew on the lower leaves and signs of red spider on new growth. But the shows are over, so it is live and let live.
If you have tagged your blooms, make sure the names are correct. Mark the plants that did not grow vigorously. There is no use perpetuating poor stock. The colors are spectacular and the bees are calm and happy. It is a perfect time to contemplate a dahlia and to forget, for a minute or two, the challenges in your life. A dahla patch is a temple to Nature, whatever her name.
October 2 . . . After 4 inches of rain the patch is soggy. Weather like this is not kind to blooms with weak stems and petals with thin substance. Plants that were not thoroughly tied have broken branches and a couple of stakes are listing. Nevertheless, there are still brightly colored blooms that are startling in color and form. This is the great season for the dahlia, and we should enjoy it. It will soon be time for digging.
September 26 . . .Grace and I just returned from the NCDS dahlia show at Brookside Gardens in Wheaton, Maryland. As usual, our fears that this year's show would be below par did not come to pass. The blooms were beautiful and the tables mostly filled. Thanks once again to the Kuhns from Latrobe Pennsylvaina, and to Jim, Vilma and Dean Thomas from Philadelphia for bringing blooms that added to the quality and appearance of the show. Our own Nick Weber won the double--the Senior and Junior Grand Championships--a rare accomplishment. More on the show will appear in day ot two on the website.
During a conversation with Ed Kuhn, there are lot of them at a dahlia show, he made the distinction between competitors and exhibitors. Competitors participate a show for themselves, and exhibitors for themselves and others. Exhibitors help one another improve their blooms for the show table, competitors work by themselves. Ed said that he has always thought of the NCDS Show to be one for exhibitors. I think he is right. One only need to hang around on Friday night and Saturday morning as the folks get ready for the show. John Spangenberg is sharing his latest spray for mildew and Karen Nordahl is helping a new grower to classify his blooms. Someone else is pointing out a tiny side-shoot that hasn't been plucked or straightening out a bloom that has slipped from its moorings in the vase.
These kindnesses do not diminish each exhibitor's desire to have blooms on the court of honor, but it allows for pleasure if someone else prevails with a better bloom. This has been the culture of the NCDS for generations and it is perhaps the reason that we are alive and well as we celebrate our 75th birthday.
September 11 . . . It is raining today--finally. Be sure to check the plants to make sure that the ties are around the upper-half of the plants. On some plants a new tie may be necessary. All this means the plants are growing and the blooms will be coming.
September 9 . . . Mildew has begin to appear on the lower leaves of the plants. It will move up the plant and disfigure the foliage if not treated. See you garden shop expert or consult the following link on the internet: http://www.dahlia.org/index.php?page=fungus-mites.I also discovered that two plants had blown down overnight. As the dahlia plants grow vigorously, it is important to apply a secong tie higher up on the plant. "warp speed, Scotty. Batten everything"
September 6. . .It was 55 degrees this morning. A great opportunity to work in the patch. All the plants are growing vigorously. They are making up for lost time during the hot spells. Laterals and side buds are popping out from the stalks. If you are going to cut or show flowers nip them off as soon as you can reach them. The plants are also growing taller and may need another tie. Loop the twine around the plant; criss-cross the ends, and tie them to the stake. This is the time of the year for mildew. Check with your garden shop for a remedy.
It only gets better between now and frost. Enjoy your dahlias!!
August 24 . . . We are waiting for the weather to break. Rainfall has improved recently, but it is still unseasonably hot. The plants are stressed during the day, and the blooms are flat and have open centers. The law of averages tell us that things will get better, hopefully before the show at Brookside Gardens on September 25. The dahlia plants need an inch of water or more each week. Do not put away the hose.
August 4 . . . Well, we returned to Virginia last evening and the air was as uncomfortable as I feared--hot and humid. Today was even worse. The only positive development was about 0.3" of rain overnight. Grace and I walked around the patch as soon as we unloaded our gear and discovered that the mosquitoes are thriving, and we quickly became their dessert.
Dahlias do not like this kind of heat. The few plants that bloomed mostly have poor substance and open centers. The plants and tubers that I set out in June--most of the garden--have not grown vigorously and are hovering at about 2 feet. Nevertheless, they are alive and poised for a growth spurt when the heat abates. A number of the stakes have no dahlia growth--it is a summer for survival of the fittest. Amongst these problems there is a nice bloom of Windhaven Blush. A cultivar that has its genetic roots in Pittsburgh has to be resilient.
July 20 . . .Congratulations to those who have ventured into the garden during this run of hot weather. Heat and humidity raise the question: "fight or flight"? I have fled to the Adirondacks and have left the dahlia plants to more or less fend for themselves. They will not grow very much when the temperature is +85F. But the plants will be stressed and more vulnerable to the mites and other critters that are tying on their napkins for a summer buffet.
If the rains are not regular, it is important to keep watering the plants. A mulch around the base will help conserve moisture. Remember, dahlias are now beginning to put our feeder roots near the surface that will extend a foot or more from the base of the plant. So water accordingly.
July 1 . . . The two weeks of hot weather has finally broken. Perhaps the dahlias will start growing again. We had very little rain during June, so it is important to water twice a week. It is better to water deeply than frequently. If the plants are growing, this is a good time to sprinkle a tablespoon or two of fertilizer (e.g. 10-10-10 or a time release variety) around each plant. Sprinkle it about 6-12 inches from the stalk. The feeder roots grow out from the plant.
It is also useful to mulch the plants. I have used newspaper and straw; a wood bark will also work to cool the soil and aid it in retaining moisture. If the plants are slow, do not forget to top and tie when they have formed 4 pairs of leaves. If they are taller, you can still top them. Taking off the growing tip will stimulate the growth of lateral branches that develop from the point where the leaf and stalk connect. It will give you a more bloom-filled plant.
June 22 . . .This has been the worse start of the dahlia season in a decade. Unseasonably hot weather and little rain--although we are having a shower while I write this. It is hard on the garden and on the gardener. Last week I stopped planting because it was too hot and dry for me and the tubers. I have about 20 to go.
The tubers planted early need to have their growing tips removed (topped) to encourage laterals to developed and tied. This makes the plant bushy and it will yield more blooms. I use a soft garden cord to tie. I wrap the cord loosely around the plant and tightly around the stake by crisscrossing the cord after I put it around the plant. Wrap it around the stake several times and tie it. I use soaker hose for watering and horticultural cloth coverd with straw to cool the soil and keep the weeds down.
Eventually, the weather will cool, and gardening will be a hobby again.
June 12 . . . The weather is still warm and storms are threatening. The U.S. v. England, World Cup match won out this afternoon, so we still have quite a few dahlias to plant. My frame of mind is that is never too late. That is how I make peace with the distractions in my life.
The dahlias we have planted are thriving. We have had regular showers, and the temperatures have seldom exceeded 90 degrees. I am one of those gardeners who do not aspire to prespiring profusely while I work in the garden. After all it is a hobby and not an obsession.
When the plants get three or four pairs of leaves, nip off the the growing tip and that will encourage shoots to grow at the joint of the leaves and stalk. Topping is also a good time to tie the plant to the stake. As my mentor Mark Alger used to say, "loosely around the plant and tightly around the stake."
You accomplish that by criss-crossing the twine between the plant and the stalk. Use a hemp twine, so you do not garrote the plant when the wind blows.
May 30 . . . The weather has been hot and humid, and this dahlia grower is quickly wilting. We still have quite a few dahlias to put out--both plants and tubers, as well as about a 100 seedlings. Hopefully the weather will cool off and the recent rains will become just showers.
If you have a choice, it is best to put out plants on a coudy day. It will reduce stress for both you and the dahlias. Treat the plants like you would any planting. If it does not rain, water every few days--especially if it is hot. Tubers should be put in the ground with the growing tip facing up--about two or three inches below the surface, giving enough room for the feeder roots. Plant a stake with the tuber. If you do it later, you might pierce the tuber. Newly planted tubers can generally take care of themselves. The plant that grows out of the tuber will live off the tuber for a while.
May 11 . . .We have just returned from a vacation in Peru--including Machu Picchu--and I am still catching my breath. The dahlia planting season is in full swing, notwithstanding the thirty-something temperaure on Tuesday morning. The ground is warm and just waiting for dahlia tubers or plants.
Dahlias are foregiving plants, but need at least a half-day of sun. Their culture is similar to tomatoes. The non-bedding types will grow to between 3 and 6 feet and will need to be tied to a stake. Besides that and an occasional watering during dry weather, Mother Nature will take care of the rest.
If you buy a dahlia plant, get it used to the outdoors for a week or so before planting. Tubers should be planted shoot (eye) pointing up about 3-4 inches below the soil level. I could provide several additional pages of detailed instructions, but they are not necessary for bouquets of pretty flowers from August til frost. For those who think they need more help--join the National Capital Dahlia Society by contacting:
Membership - Nancy Mossburg
National Capital Dahlia Society, PO Box 476, Hamilton, VA 20159
March 28 . . .And they were mostly mush!! The dahlia clumps that I had not dug before freeze and snow, came out of the ground with some promise. A number of tubers felt dry and firm. After two days at room temperature they began to smell and leak. The insides resembled over-ripe cantelopes. I guess that will answer the perennial question: Will dahlias winter-over in the ground--not always!!
March 27 . . . I warned you about a frost. After a warm week, it was 30 degrees this morning, and tender plantings bit the dust. Patience is the watchword. If you must do something, pot up the tubers and get them started in a sunny place. Make certain that the growing tip of the tuber is near the top of the pot at soil level.
March 17 . . .It is St Patrick's Day and the back- yard is beginning to green up for the holiday. As the temperature reaches the 60s there is a temptation to start planting and to get a jump on the season. Two cautions: First we are still likely to get a frost in the Washington, DC area until mid-April. It will kill off young plants. Second, until the soil temperature warms up to at least 55 degrees, the tubers will not do much in the way of growth and will be susceptible to whatever microbes are in the ground. Do not ask me why tubers that successfully over-winter are not bothered by cold, damp soil and newly planted tubers are vulnerable. I guess it is like the difference between people who live in Maine and those who live in South Florida.
March 8 . . .With the warm weather we put a foot in the patch and sunk at least two inches into the dirt. The snow melt has soaked the garden beds. Let them dry out; walking in them now will compress the soil and make it less friable and suitable for gardening.
February 25. . . One of our members asked how to start dahlia plants from cuttings. This technique enables you to grow more than one plant from a single tuber
I wait until March to start the tubers. Everything about dahlias speeds up with Spring. For fun, I would pot up one or two tubers, water lightly and put them in a sunny window. The eyes should sprout in a week or two. When two or three pairs of leaves develop cut the stem with a sharp knife or blade just below a leaf node. Fill a small pot with sand, moisten thoroughly, make a hole in the sand and set in the cutting with a label. Keep away from direct sun for a day or two and water daily--dipping in a rooting hormone is optional. After about two weeks, you should feel resistance when you tug on the cutting. Roots have formed!! I gently lift the cutting with a fork--watch out for the small roots, and transplant in a 4 or 6 inch pot with potting soil. Thereafter treat normally.<
February 20 . . .I guess I could post more pictures of the snow on my dahlia patch. But they would be redundant. There is not much to do outside until the last six inches disappears. Many of the commercial growers are posting "sold out" notice on the internet below pictures of their most popular dahlias. The NCDS will have tubers of many of these dahlias beginning at the April meeting. These tubers have been grown successfully in the area and should perfom well in your gardens.
February 8 . . . There is so much snow in our dahlia patches that the olympic rabbit fence is barely visible. The only solace is that the tubers still in the ground are well insulated, and are about to receive another !0+" blanket. An El Nino winter with a southern Low seems to be causing all the snow that is close to a record in our area.
The truth be told, I found of bag of dahlias this fall that I had failed to plant. I put them in a flat and buried them in potting soils. To my surprise they began to sprout in December. I water the flat periodically and and spray every two weeks with a rotation of insecticides. One tuber has made a shoot with good growth, the others have modest growth and an orange tint that is a sign of mites. This is an experiment to see if I can keep them alive through the winter. How I misplaced the bag in the first place remains a mystery.
January 21. . . The ground is still frozen in Falls Church VA. Hopefully, the clumps that I left in the patch are below the frost line. There has been a lot of discussion about leaving the tubers in the ground over the winter. This will be a large scale test. More news when the ground defrosts next month.
The Soil in our area is acidic. The pH is can be as low as 6.4. About every two years I do a soil test and apply lime as recommended. Large garden centers typically provide that service or can recommend a state extension service office. It is hard to collect frozen soil, so wait for the Spring thaw.
Avoid over-watering while you wait to plant outside.
Potted tubers are generally living off the tuber as it initially develops.
Do not let the pots dry out either.
You do not want to stress the young plants.
Be sure to “harden off” the plants (whatever their origin) by exposing them gradually (about a week) to outside conditions.
Plant the dahlias in a sunny and well-drained location, so that the crown is about an inch or two below the soil line.
I have clay soil, so I dig a bigger hole, insert the stake and then fill it in as I set out the tuber or plant.The tuber will lay flat or have a slightly downward tilt from the crown.
Remember during the course of the summer, the tuber will form at the base of the plant but most of the feeder roots will run slightly below the surface.
Put a tag on the stake and make a map in case the tags disappear.
Plants from cuttings or seed should be watered as any other newly set-out plant.
Contrary to what I just wrote, I am not a fan of surface watering. A periodic, deep drench works better when the plants have developed root systems to absorb the moisture.
Until then, the plants are fragile and require more steady nursing.
Tubers are more resilient; they are the camels of the dahlia patch.
I have seen shoots grow most of the summer in bags of dry vermiculite.
We just inherited some potted trees on our terrace.<span> </span>In hope weather the foliage dries out after a a day or two without moisture.
They are in line to be repotted with new soil and some water retention crystals.
Red spider and cyclamen mites seem to like this kind of weather.
If you grow only a few plants, you can spray the foliage, top and bottom, to mist off the mites.
Alternatively, consult Alan or the Garden Center for alternative remedies.
t is also timely to provide a supplemental fertilizer—sprinkle small handful of a general fertilizer like 10-10-10 around each plant, and then mulch.
I use a porous horticultural cloth and straw.
This keeps the soil cooler and helps retain moisture.
Any mulch that does not absorb nitrogen will work.
Don Brown in Georgia used rug remnants.
To have bushier plants in September, nip off the growing tip at the top of the plant after it has developed four or five pairs of leaves.
And be sure to tie the plant loosely to the stake as it grows taller.
A couple of turns around the stake will keep the tie steady.
Last week, parts of Maryland had damaging micro-bursts of wind during a rain storm.
The key during July and August is to keep the plants growing.
And remember—we grow dahlias for the fun of it</font></font>
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