There is a dahlia guy by the airport who has been on Ciscoe Morris’s show several times (the footage is apparently ten years old). The guy grows a lot of dahlias as cut flowers and also to sell the tubers. The co-gardener heard from someone that he was selling off his tubers for 50 cents each, so we decided to head over last Thursday. They are marked down because it is really late in the year to plant dahlia tubers.
When we got there we walked around the field for awhile and then went into the little building with the tubers and picked out 10. The dahlia guy told me that he had recently turned 90 and that this was his last year selling tubers (he has to dig them up, store them, bag them, and sell them). He said he’d still keep the fields for cut flowers.
In this area, one can sometimes leave the dahlias in the ground over the winter instead of lifting the tubers. On one of his shows, Ciscoe Morris put fern fronds over his to insulate them. In our garden, last year several dahlia tubers were lifted and then not stored properly. The two marked-down hardware store purchases were left in the ground and one came back this year. We bought two more dahlia tubers at the garden show in February, but after they were planted I hit an immediate problem. I think it was in May and I had to water the garden, but the tubers are not supposed to be watered until they put up growth. So, I think they got too soggy. That, or the workers pulled them out. Thus, it is not certain if the dahlia project will work this time. The co-gardener decided to put the tubers into pots until they had enough growth that they could be watered (a good idea I think).
The dahlia guy said that the dahlias we purchased on Thursday might not do much, and might not bloom this year (that’s why they were 50 cents each). It was still important to plant them, however, for they need the nutrients from the sun and etc.
To temporarily put the tubers in pots, we needed potting soil. As we needed soil-building compost anyhow, and that can only be purchased at nurseries, we stopped at the nursery to get supplies. They were sold out of the large cheaper potting soil, so we ended up with Dr. Earth potting soil (it was on sale) – the same brand as the organic fertilizer we use. The dahlia guy’s instructions said to use 5-10-10 fertilizer. Looking at the fertilizer at the nursery, I saw that we did not have anything similar to those numbers, so we bought Dr Earth organic Bud and Bloom Booster, which is 4-10-7, the closest I could find. So, it started out as an inexpensive project ($5 for ten tubers), but we ended up having to buy supplies.
It was difficult selecting ten tubers, as he had maybe thirty different kinds. The pictures on the boxes were quite faded, so we had to go by the descriptions. Thus, I am not entirely sure what some of the flowers will look like (and if I’ll ever see them). I decided to skip yellow since there are three yellow dahlias in the cat/cornus/yellow garden (purchased blooming).
We purchased (I quote):
- ‘Elsie Huston’: large informal decorative dahlia, attractive shades of pink, 8 inch bloom, 5 foot bush
- ‘Wildwood Swirl’: medium red incurved cactus dahlia, unusual twisted form, 5 inch bloom, 5.5 foot bush
- ‘Tennessee Rose’: formal decorative dahlia, distinctive dark pink color, 5 inch bloom, 4.5 foot bush
- ‘Pacifico’: medium semi-cactus dahlia, blend of lavender and white, 5 inch bloom, 5 foot bush
- ‘Purple Splash’: white and lavender variegated waterlily type dahlia, good cut flower, 5 inch bloom, 5 foot bush
- ‘Black Narcissus’: dark red (almost black) cactus dahlia, split tips, 7 inch bloom, 5 foot bush
- ‘Rothesay Reveler’: purple and white bi-colored formal decorative, light purple with white tips, good for cutting, 4 inch bloom, 5 foot bush
- ‘Sentry’: lavender miniature ball dahlia, good cut flower, 3.5 inch bloom, 4.5 foot bush
- ‘Sterling Silver’: large white formal decorative dahlia, 7 inch bloom, 5.5 foot bush
- ‘Lauren Michelle’: waterlily type dahlia, two toned lavender and purple, good cut flower, 4 inch bloom, 5 foot bush
What I don’t know: if we lift and store the tubers over the winter, can we do it properly? Will anyone feel like lifting when it’s time to plant fall bulbs, and the weather has turned icky? If we don’t lift, can we keep the tubers from getting soggy in the spring before their growth has begun? I don’t know. On the one hand, it is an inexpensive experiment, but on the other hand, it’ll be disappointing if it doesn’t work out.
Yes, I’m categorizing this as “bulbs,” but dahlias are actually tubers.