Cottage Gardening – The Grand Dahlia

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It’s a cold, rainy and generally gloomy Saturday in Cincinnati. I’ve managed to get a few errands done, but all I want to do is curl up and keep warm. Maybe do a bit of needlepoint…

Then there appeared a  bright spot – the blooming of a spectacular Autumn-colored dinner plate dahlia!!  It loves the miserable weather.  A gorgeous reminder that even a dark and damp Fall day can be beautiful!!

The Daily Dahlias

These blooms are the sweetest because they are the last soldiers in the garden.

Dahlias And The Last Of Summer Blooms

The emergence of my dahlias soothes the pain of losing all the other blossoms…

What’s Blooming In The Garden On July 28

There’s still plenty of nectar for the bees. I can’t wait for my dahlias to start blooming en masse!

Flowers For The Bees

The nectar flow is strong right now, but we worry about August, September and October. We want our ladies to go into winter with a big store of food to carry them through the winter.

My dahlias and everlasting peas will bloom until fall, but my roses and hostas will be done by then.  Thank goodness for my neighbor who’s a wonderful gardener!

She grows the most gorgeous hibiscus which the bees just love! While not a staple of the English cottage garden, they are beautiful just the same!

They are just now coming into bloom and will continue as long as the weather is warm, which, around here, can last until October.

Here are some pictures, along with a few from my garden as well:

What’s Blooming In The Garden On July 3rd

It’s broiling hot, and we have to water almost every day. Thank goodness for flowers that like the heat and humidity! Lots of nectar and pollen for the pollinators…

Daylilly

Monarda With Bumble!

Old Fashioned Hydrangeas

Everlasting Peas

Dahlia

Geranium ‘Rozanne”

Hydrangea ‘Limelight’

The Noble Bayard tried to drink out of the Italian Bees’ birdbath and got roundly spanked!  I will be administering Benadryl with his kibble tonight!!

The Noble Bayard

More About Dahlias

On my recent dahlia post, fellow blogger and organic gardener Oceannah commented:

Dahlia’s never do very well here and I’ve stopped growing them. It may be the cool mountain nights, not sure.

Oceannah lives in the mountains of New York.  I live in the hot and humid Ohio valley.  Dahlias grow like weeds here, while I struggle to get a few blooms from my foxgloves and delphiniums.

That started me wondering about the history and origins of dahlias.  What I found was very interesting!

Dahlias are warm weather plants, occurring naturally in Mexico and South America, where the Spaniards first “discovered” them. They are the national flower of Mexico.

The earliest reference to them occurred in 1615, but were then considered as an edible tuber rather than an ornamental flowering plant. At first, they didn’t attract much notice in Europe and weren’t recorded again until the late 18th century when the first tubers were sent back to Europe.

The dahlia was considered primarily an edible plant until 1815 when the first double flowered varieties were bred in Belgium and they quickly became a popular garden plant. They hybridize very easily and by the late 19th Century more than a hundred different varieties were listed.

 
They were common in the Victorian gardens, and persist as a popular cottage garden plant. They are easy to grow in fertile, well-drained soil. They favor sunny locations, and thrive in heat and humidity.

 
Today there are over 50,000 different dahlias in cultivation, and to try to bring a degree of order to the bewildering array of shapes, sizes and colors of dahlia flowers they are classified in ten different groups, ranging from Single and Anemone Flowered types to Pompoms, Large Decorative and Cactus flowered dahlias. At this point the classifying committee seems to have given up, and the tenth group is named simply “Miscellaneous”.

Dahlias love heat, humidity and sun, all present in abundance in southern Ohio. South America’s gift is much appreciated in my garden!!
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Favorite English Garden Bee Plants – Dahlias

J’adore dahlias!

They look like little taffeta party dresses.

I don’t mind staking them, but I confess that I sometimes just let them lie there, looking like beautiful reclining maidens.

When my daughter Amelie got married a few years ago, I gave the bridesmaids’ luncheon at home. I put a dahlia blossom at every place setting, in different shades of pink. Even my daughter was impressed!

This winter was so mild that some of last year’s dahlias are coming up again. I used to dig the tubers up and store them, but after one bad experience I now plant new tubers every year.

Do bees like dahlias? How could they not??

Of course, they prefer the yellow and blue single varieties, but they like them all!

Growing dahlias is fairly easy.

When & Where to Plant

For best results, dahlias should be planted from mid April through May for most areas. Ground temperature approx. 60 degrees. (exceptions will be hot climates). In general about the same time you would plant your vegetable garden. Dahlias need a sunny location to thrive. An area that receives at least 8 hours of direct sunlight is best. Less sun equals taller plants and fewer blooms. Exception for hot climates, they will need morning sunlight, afternoon shade.

Soil Preparation & Planting 

Ground should be warm, well drained at planting, and in an open sunny location. If you have a heavier soil, add in sand, peat moss or bagged steer manure to lighten and loosen the soil texture for better drainage. Bone meal is ideal at planting time, put a small handful in the hole and work in well before planting tuber. PH level of your soil should be 6.5-7.0, slightly acidic. Do not amend dahlia beds with purchased top soils unless you are sure that it has not been treated in any way for weeds. Lay the tuber horizontally 4-6” deep, about 18” to 24” apart, and then cover with soil. DO NOT WATER TUBERS AFTER PLANTING!! Please wait to water until after the sprouts have appeared above the ground. The exception will be in hot climates, where they should be watered very lightly. Do not use bark dust or mulch to cover dahlias, as it does not allow the soil to warm up or tubers to sprout properly. This is a good time to apply snail and slug bait to protect the new sprouts.

Staking

Staking is necessary for any dahlias that will reach 3 feet or taller. Any staking product will work, please check your local garden center – i.e.: tomato cages, metal rods, or bamboo stakes.

Watering
Most areas have enough rain to fill dahlia water needs until the sprouts appear above the ground. After dahlias are established, a deep watering 2-3 times a week for at least 30 minutes with a sprinkler, more required during warmer dryer weather. Hotter climates will need to water more often as conditions require. Proper watering promotes proper blooming. Hand watering is not enough.

Fertilizer
Dahlias require a low nitrogen fertilizer, such as a 5-10-10, 10-20-20, or 0-20-20. First applications should be within 30 days of planting and repeated again approx. 3-4 weeks later. One of the biggest mistakes made with dahlias is over feeding them. Avoid high nitrogen compost and high nitrogen water soluble types as they promote weak stems, small blooms, or no blooms, and tubers that rot or shrivel in storage.

Weed Control
Hand weeding is the only type of weed control you should ever use, there are no exceptions. Do not use any type of Herbicides, your dahlias will not survive.

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