Late Homage to the Dahlias

Yes, we’ve had frosts and our flowers have mostly browned and died back. We’ve dug up the non-hardies for storage and left off thinking about most of this until the catalogs come in. So, a perfect time to give some praise for dahlias, right?

When she lived in South Carolina, my younger sister grew dahlias and she introduced me to their presence as something new and growable. Wow, they were towering tall down there–6 feet or more! She could leave them in the ground over the winter too.  Then, when my mother came north to visit, we enjoyed treating her to trips to the plant purveyors and nurseries and encouraged her to pick out things that we would plant in out gardens. Mom’s favorites were what she called “Dinner Plate Dahlias”—the biggies. So, we would plant her choices and it was a way to make a direct connection with a loved family member by growing something they enjoyed in our own garden.

So, that brings us to the current time. I’ve had to learn a bit about growing dahlias (still learning) up here. We have to dig them up at the appropriate time and not accidentally break portions off in the process. Failed at that a couple times.  And, I haven’t yet remembered to mark them so that I know what I am planting where the following year. Usually the digging is a backbreaking process made in haste because some horrible killing weather is imminent and involves all plants—cannas, glads, colocasia, dahlias and others all on the same day. Whew! Not exactly an orderly process on my end.

Now, there is one dahlia I have been growing as an annual for years from seed. It flowers the same year too. The variety is called Bishop’s Children. From Select Seeds: “Purple to deep bronze leaves with tall stems support single flowers in colors of yellow, soft orange, burgundy, and bicolors, too.” Start these indoors under lights and set them out when frost is past.

From two years ago–these Bishop’s Children came through the fence and showed the cactus flower shape. You never know what you’ll get:

escape-of-the-bishops-children                                                               Unfurling bloom:

Average size of the seed grown. Different shapes to be expected.

Average size of the seed grown. Different shapes to be expected.

Two years ago I made an order from a plant company that I admire. “Old House Gardens” is my cup of tea because I am always looking for rescued varieties from past days rather than the new hybrids.  Old House Gardens offers Spring and Fall planted items–all bulbs and tubers.  I made my first dahlia order for 5 different types of varying heights, blossom colors and foliage:

Little Bees Wings 1909 (Yellow with red tips)
Bloodstone 1939-red
Luyt Wichen 1941 white
Claire de Lune 1946 yellow
David Howard 1960 apricot orange with bronze foliage

Here’s their website for those interested: Old House Gardens

Year one, I had them in my walkway garden in Westminster. Despite my absence, they did wonderfully. The stone of the walk and the house probably helped the warmth situation because this was an E/NE exposure, but they would also get late afternoon sun from the west. They were flowering in July.
This year, so I would actually get an opportunity to *see* them, I moved the tubers to PA and put them in late in front of the porch, facing south. They took FOREVER to come into bloom this year (plus the drought didn’t help). It was late September before I even saw any flower buds. Plus, the height of the house and the angle of the sun blocked the rays later in the season. So, what seemed like a good idea at first, turned out to be not the case.

Dahlias like a decent well drained soil and sun. Ta Da. Here’s a link (do as I suggest, not as I do).

I was relying on my dear husband’s better cell phone pictures of the dahlias and we could not locate them. So, these are the best I can do. Check the varieties on Old House Gardens search for the better pictures. Little Beeswings is missing a photo. Chewing critters were after the foliage by these October pictures too.