Friday, February 10, 2012

Solving the Dahlia Dilemma

I recently wrote a post describing a few plants from last summer's garden as either hits, misses, or maybe's. The hits grew effortlessly while the misses either died or drove me crazy. But the real frustration lie with the maybe's. They hadn't died or harbored leaf sucking insects, but had managed to frustrate me all summer with their odd growth or slack stems. The dahlias were the worst offenders.

Planted in a deep pot with the promise of perfect fall flowers, they sprouted lush foliage that was quickly devoured by slugs and thick green stems that were felled by borers before finally collapsing in a storm onto a pot of Louisiana iris. But the plant continued to grow and sideways upside down flowers bloomed last fall. They were beautiful even if the plant was a total mess. In my typical decisive fashion, I decided not to grow them this summer with the caveat that if I missed them, I'd try them again. But if I didn't, I wouldn't.

But the more I scrolled through the pictures of their flowers, the more I began to miss them. I rarely see them in local markets and cut flowers here are always overpriced. Hadn't they grown easily? Plus, my slugs are cheap drunks easily sated by a sippy cup of screw top beer. Thoughts of fall dahlias began to seep through my work days, soaking my overflowing, exhausted brain with puddles of optimism. Maybe I'd give it one more try.

But maybe I wouldn't. I over analyzed and argued with myself all week until finally listening to the one voice that shouted louder than the rest: "Holy crap! Just stick the damn things in a pot, tie 'em to a stake, water in some nematodes, and buy a pack of cheap beer. Yeah, they might suck, but they also might not. They might be awesome! Geez!" So I ordered a dahlia. I'm excited already!


Wynne's Dahlias is a family owned business in Washington state that specializes in giant dahlias. Honeycomb is advertised as having "really strong stems" and deep golden bronze flowers. To order a dahlia you print out an order form and mail them a check. Very old school!

45 comments:

  1. Yippee! Now you can share your Dahlia-growing tips with me. I just love them, but I've never grown them myself. There are so many amazing varieties. Cheers to you!

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    1. I'm hoping this summer will be more successful than last summer. But I'll never know if I don't try!

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  2. Thank you for the link! I haven't heard about that nursery and I'd like to check it. My dahlias are easy. The one with the biggest heads tend to bend, and its stems break sometimes. 'Really strong stems'sounds very good! I hope you'll get those dahlias!

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    1. Dahlias must like Washington. I'm going to stake mine even though the stems are advertised as really strong. I'd rather be safe than sorry!

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  3. I'm glad you're going for it! You're going to be so tickled when you get those gorgeous flowers ;)

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    1. I think huge dahlia blossoms will be a great send off for summer. The idea of not trying again just bugged me.

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  4. They are beautiful flowers. Good luck this year with growing it.

    Cher Sunray Gardens

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    1. Thanks! I just hope I can eliminate the borers.

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  5. Good luck with them. Dahlias are so finicky. I grow them in pots with cages around them simply because where I grow them it is all concrete but this happens to be the location where my garden gets the most sun. I tie the stems to the cages as needed. The cages are cool colored round ones I found at Rural King so they look good. Some years the dahlias do awesome and others not so. I can't figure it out. I think lots of fertilizer, deep planting and regular watering in full sun are vital. I so go ahead and grow them no matter what. Make sure you prune them early to get a good branching habit too. Good luck!

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    1. I've never of pruning a dahlia but I don't have much experience with them so I'll keep that in mind.Thanks!

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  6. I hate em. Dahlias with dark foilage look kinda cool but I still dislike them. Thanks for the versatile blogger award btw.

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    1. You're welcome! Your comment cracked me up!! You're too manly for dahlias.

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  7. Oh, the seduction of the words "maybe this time".

    Maybe this time they'll be stunners for you! I hope so. I love the Wyn's Honeycomb color.

    I gave up on dahlias two years ago, but do still harbor occasional thoughts of "maybe this time."

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    1. I just had to try again. I felt like I was quitting without having tried hard enough. A bit stubborn, you could say... :o)

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  8. Yes, see.. I grew up thinking that we now lived in 'Dahlia land' where these things are SUPPOSED to grow... now that I'm here, they don't die, but something eats them almost immediately as the green starts poking out of the dirt. Majorly...to the point that they really can't make it in my garden. This is my last year of trying. LAST YEAR! good luck to you :)

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  9. I don't grow them because I always thought they needed to be dug up in the fall to overwinter in the garage or basement. I found there are some that are winter hardy and can stay in the ground, but still haven't decided on any to plant. Yours is certainly a beauty, know you will be glad you ordered it.

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    1. If I love them I'll dig them up and save them. If not I'll compost them. I don't think they're hardy in zone 7. It's supposed to be really big. I love the honey color of the flower.

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  10. I have always been told that we cannot grow Dahlias in Houston, Texas. Therefore, I’ve never even tried to grow them. I must say though, I’ve seen some delightful pictures of Dahlias over the years. Here in Houston I satisfy my need for Dahlias by planting Zinnias Dahlia Mix Seeds. They really do look somewhat like Dahlias. Good luck with the Dahlias. I’m looking forward to seeing pictures!

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    1. I love the dahlia type zinnias! I'm growing some this summer. I'm actually going to start them inside so I can extend the bloom. When I sow the seeds outside I don't get flowers til mid July.

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  11. My dahlias weren't very happy last summer, but I've saved the tubers (I hope) and I'll be trying again this year. Good luck with your dahlias.

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    1. Neither were mine but I'm determined to try again, so we're in it together!

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  12. I have never grown them because they have to be dug up in fall, but I do enjoy their beauty. Perhaps one day I will give them a try...

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    1. Digging them up in the fall should be easier since they're going in a pot. Last years tubers came up pretty easily, even though I didn't save them. I was too mad at them!

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  13. I think it is great that you decided to give them a second try! Maybe the first time was just bad luck. I was wondering why you plant them in a pot. I had dahlias in my old garden and the plants became huge and needed a lot of water but bloomed beautifully and the stems hold up the tall heavy blooms. If I would have grown these dahlias in pots I would have watered myself to death. Being planted in the ground the roots just stay cooler and probably also have more room to spread. Just a thought. By the way the dahlia 'Wyn's Honeycomb' that you picked it plain gorgeous. Good luck with it!
    Thanks for nominating me for The Versatile Blogger Award!
    Christina

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    1. I totally agree with you that plants' roots are cooler in the ground but I don't have room in my flower beds for a dahlia. Despite their bugs and inability to stay upright, they actually grew well in the big pot I stuck them in. I have a big, self watering pot that I'm going to use this year so I'm not watering constantly. Best invention ever!

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  14. Try and try again! I have never grown them but I do think they are pretty flowers. I have never had an issue with slugs. Fingers crossed. Maybe I should try some.

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    1. My slugs are cheap drunks. I just have to keep them well supplied.

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  15. hoo boy, that photo would convince me to buy in a heartbeat. But then I'm a dahlia addict. Glad you decided to try again. Slugs can be decidedly problematic with dahlias but I find it helps to make sure the plants are in a super sunny location and not overly watered. Starting the tuber off indoors will also help give it a little jump start before putting it in the garden.

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    1. We had a super rainy spring last year and those spineless eating machines ate everything in sight. This year, I'm on to them!!

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  16. I hope the dahlias turn out awesome for you! I've never grown them, but they are beautiful flowers. I'll just enjoy looking at yours. :)

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    1. If my dahlia makes it and the tubers make baby tubers, I'll share one with ya!

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  17. I'm busy with Dahlias for the first time. I'm not overwhelmed. Lots of lush growth, not many flowers yet. We'll see. LOVED this post though, had a good giggle :)

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    1. It will be fun to see your pix, especially since our seasons are opposite. I'll have to borrow your dahlia growing tricks! :o)

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  18. I love dahlias tho I don't grow them myself - too much digging in and then digging up and out for me. That is a beauty you have chosen, hope it arrives soon.

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    1. If I had to dig them out of the ground, I might pass on them, too. Fortunately, they're going in a pot so digging them up should be easy, I hope!

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  19. I hear you on the maybe plants! Right now that is honeyberry (the Lonicera one) and pineapple guava for me. They're alive... but what are they doing?!

    Good luck with the dahlia, I love the snot out of those gaudy things.

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    1. Oooh! Honeyberry sounds awesome! Is it an actual berry? So glad to have you back!

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  20. I hear you on the maybe plants! Right now that is honeyberry (the Lonicera one) and pineapple guava for me. They're alive... but what are they doing?!

    Good luck with the dahlia, I love the snot out of those gaudy things.

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  21. I tried dahlias for the first time this year and started with a punnet of miniature seedlings and the last two tubers left at my nursery. Only one came up. It's called Marie Antoinette and I am tickled pink with it. I can't wait for our next Spring to try my hand at one or two more - a dark red cactusy one like the one that didn't come up (Mrs Rees) and a deep pink, or maybe a burnished bronze. It will be fun catalogue shopping!

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  22. Hi, I have grown dahlias in London for many years and I never lift them for the winter. We get down to minus 5 or so during the worst part of the winter. But I have my dahlias placed around a tall conifer, which keeps the tubers nice and dry during the winter, essential for them to survive. I would not try to keep them overwinter in tubs. The slugs in my garden seems to be less interested in dark leafed dahlias, my absolute best dahlia has been ‘sunshine’, I bought one 7 years ago and I have divided it into 3 plants. Good luck with your new dahlia, hope you succeed!

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  23. Sorry to hear about your dahlia growing problems, never had much luck with them, but it is too hot here from them really. I read on somebodies blog is you sprinkle dry oatmeal near your slugs, they will eat it, as it is very tasty. The oatmeal expands in the slugs digestive system and kills the slug.

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  24. Ah yes, the case of over-thinking drowning the loudest of the voices. Finally she was set free. I think you made a wise choice. Better to say "Oh well..." than "Dang, I should have..." right?

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  25. I adore dahlias, though they can be bit fussy. Hope yours behave themselves this year.

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