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How to Grow Dahlias

DAHLIAS
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August is when Dahlias come into their colorful glory! Most people look through catalogs to select those they can’t live without and then order tubers which are delivered the following spring.

Here in Sonoma County  we can drop by Aztec Dahlias in Petaluma, Calif.  and see in person which Dahlias are on our “must have” list before placing an order! The blossoms first caught my attention at the Wednesday Night Farmers Market where buckets of fresh cut dahlias are for sale each week. Then, last year, a friend mentioned driving by a field of dahlias along Old Adobe Road in Petaluma and I made the connection! We drove down right away but they had just cut nearly every flower in their fields for a wedding, so I had a note on my calendar to contact them and go back this year.

They grow 420 varieties on their 2 acre dahlia farm and have 4,000 to 5,000 plants!IMG_0576

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IMG_0494IMG_0493IMG_0492IMG_0490Dahlia Care: Talking to Jamie, (the owner along with his wife Rosa), I found that dahlias come in nearly every color except blue. They grow in average soil  with regular watering (right now their drip system is running an hour and a half about 3 times a week) but the plants do  like to dry out a little and not become soggy with too much water .Drip watering is best…you don’t want to wet the leaves. Their farm has adobe clay soil which they amended with manure the first few years.  Now they plant and turn under a cover crop which seems to work better for them.  He also suggests trimming off the bottom leaves to help with air circulation and to help keep bugs like spider mites from crawling up to dine on your plants!IMG_0503

He adds plant food to his watering system a few times during the growing season but cautions against  food high in Nitrogen after the beginning of August since that encourages leaves instead of tuber development .IMG_0504

Jamie also recommends snipping off all but two good shoots after year two to produce a strong plant on a strong stem instead of  weak multi-stemmed plants. As those stems grow “hug” the plant and wrap green plastic garden tape around the plant to hold it upright. They drive a piece of rebar next to the main stem to which the tape is tied.IMG_0505

The only problems I have experienced are leaf miners, which disfigure some of the leaves but don’t hurt the flowers, and mildew, which proved to be a bigger problem. Leaf miners don’t harm flowers and can be sometimes be controlled by  picking off affected leaves as soon as you notice them.IMG_0501

To control mildew Jamie suggested planting tubers where the plants will get full sun and dry off quickly after a damp foggy morning. Last year one of mine was in a spot where the sun didn’t get to it until later in the day and it was covered with mildew. This year it gets some nice morning/afternoon sunshine and no mildew in sight!

I asked Jamie what he liked best about dahlias and he didn’t miss a beat before saying, “the diversity!” The many forms, colors, shapes, sizes….you can have such variety when you plant dahlias! The flowers on a single plant even change as they mature and open:

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Their plants are all clearly labeled at Aztec Dahlias so it’s easy to identify the ones you like:IMG_0563

If you see one here you simply must identify, please let me know in comments and I’ll find out for you!IMG_0530adj IMG_0543IMG_0534IMG_0556adjIMG_0538IMG_0528IMG_0525adjIMG_0523adjIMG_0522cropadjIMG_0519IMG_0514IMG_0512IMG_0497

(It’s hard to juggle a large camera and write down names)

Cutting Dahlias: Since Aztec Dahlias sells cut flowers at farmer’s markets as well as shipping tubers, I was excited to get tips from Jamie about picking  a good dahlia bouquet. To  guarantee your bouquet will last as long as possible, select or cut flowers before any of the center petals open.  Flowers should be partly open but don’t buy flowers or pick flowers for the vase that are fully open or they will only last a day or two. If the center is still fully closed  and you change the water regularly you’ll get a week or so from your bouquet.

If you want great variety in your flower garden you’re sure to get just that by planting dahlias!

For some great information on dahlias, to order tubers or for links to dahlia societies visit Aztec Dahlias.

 

 

 

 


Donna Jones has always loved to garden. After completing the Master Gardener program, spending some time hosting a garden program on television and writing a garden column, she took time off to be a mom and a school teacher. Now, just beginning the journey as a grandmother, Donna is repairing the garden for little hands again! Raised beds full of flowers and veggies are ready and plans for a few chickens are well under way. To learn more about Donna visit Radish Patch Blog, or you can also check out her professional photography site at Donna Jones Photography.

 

 

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How To Make Sunflower Bouquets

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I’ve had sunflowers in every garden I’ve ever grown.  While I loved their bright sunny faces, there were a few things I didn’t like. I didn’t like those that were 9 feet tall and produced one huge flower that was great for seeds but fell over in every  vase I tried. Then there were those that fit in a vase, looked good in a vase, but shed pollen all over the place. Can’t say I was too crazy about those either. Why, I kept thinking, couldn’t someone breed a sunflower that was perfect for cutting.  The right size flower (about 6 inches across), on the right size plant (about 3-4 feet tall) produced abundant blossoms and didn’t shed pollen all over the place in a vase.  Every year I bought whatever I could find to try, but this year I came up with a WINNER!

In March I ordered a packet of “Solar Flash” sunflowers from Burpee Seeds. I started them in small pots under grow lights to get a jump on the season and transplanted two of them at the sides of my 2 foot by 5 foot raised bed. They are gorgeous in a vase:IMG_9545cropadj

Gorgeous in the garden:

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And gorgeous up close and personal!

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My plants are about 36″ to 40″ tall. They each have 20 blossoms and more buds to come. The cut flowers are lasting at least five day in the vase and they don’t shed pollen! I LOVE these sunflowers.  Now, I know there are other dwarf sunflowers and some are probably just as good but these have won me over! So, if you’re looking for a sunflower you can love in the garden and indoors in a vase you might want to give Solar Flash a try!

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Do you have a favorite…large or small….please share!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Donna Jones has always loved to garden. After completing the Master Gardener program, spending some time hosting a garden program on television and writing a garden column, she took time off to be a mom and a school teacher. Now, just beginning the journey as a grandmother, Donna is repairing the garden for little hands again! Raised beds full of flowers and veggies are ready and plans for a few chickens are well under way. To learn more about Donna visit Radish Patch Blog, or you can also check out her professional photography site at Donna Jones Photography.

 

 

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Zinnias – the Perfect Summer Flower

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Zinnias are “perfect”  to me because of the perfectly symmetrical way they grow.  Their rows of crisp, even petals are extremely pleasing. They come in so many colors and bicolors, have a lovely green leaf and no scent to cause allergies.  But, they had one drawback in my garden…they always got mildew.  This year I tried a new variety though and it’s gorgeous and mildew free.

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Gardening in a Rented Space

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You don’t need to own a home with a huge yard to grow your own food and flowers! I rented apartments for years and always had the stairway to our unit lined with pots full of blooming plants and a few wine barrels filled with flowers along the driveway. The neighbors shared in the bounty and no one minded my obsession.

My daughter, with her husband and two tiny daughters, lives in a rented, 106 year old  home,  in an  historic neighborhood with a large yard but no landscaping at all.

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Grow Your Own Hydrangeas

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The hydrangeas are blooming and brightening the shady spots in  the garden! Of the 16 we have all but two are blooming now.

I did a few experiments when I pruned last year. I pruned  this Endless Summer quite a bit because of frost damage and it bloomed even more than usual but with very small flowers…which I love! The unpruned Endless Summer plants have the usual larger blooms.

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