Tuesday, February 26, 2008
My struggle with dahlias
For about the 5th time, I am ordering dahlias via mail order: the Elise and Night Queen varieties. Both seem to be in the decorative group—Brent and Beckys does not list them by division, for some reason—2-4 feet tall, with Elise the shorter of the 2 and NQ leaning more toward the shaggy side. Last year I bought a few tubers at the garden store with zilch results. A couple depressing, half-eaten blooms appeared toward the end of the season. Were they too crowded by other plants? Did they get enough sun (they were in the sunniest bed I have)? Did they just suck?
This is the reason I never overwinter the tubers. The first time I grew them, I had pretty good results and did try to save the tubers, but they didn’t make it. Since then, it’s been all downhill—that is, unless I buy actual blooming plants from somewhere. So it hardly seems worthwhile to save them, as I know the blooming plants were developed in greenhouse conditions or on a flower farm someplace warm.
But I love dahlias. You really can’t beat them for sheer, sexy flower power. They have so much personality, particularly the cactus-shaped type. This year, I will start them in the new plant room, with its south window and lights. When I plant them I will have the stake ready, and won’t wait until I see them lying on the ground to stake them. I will try to give them room and will keep an eye out for slugs. If they do well, I’ll save them; if not, I’m giving up and switching to zinnias.