I know I’ve already talked to you about dahlias this month. But here I am again! What can I say?! They are intoxicating my daily garden visits. Their colours, their size and their sheer luxuriance is quite inebriating.
Add to their beauty there is a sense of urgency. The nights are getting much colder and the inevitable first frost is surely just a few weeks, we know the dahlias are soon to be doomed. That in a few weeks time we’ll wake to find the garden frozen overnight, sounding the moment to put the garden to bed. But for now they are still blooming strong, and the more I pick, the more flowers they produce.
When I shared a dahlia bouquet a few weeks ago, I received a lot of emails asking how best to grow them. Of course I can’t speak for every climate, and I am not an expert, but here in Normandy where we have regular changes of seasons, this is how we do it.
I like to plant any new tubers in the spring. They can be started off in pots and then planted in the ground, or even left to grow permanently in pots. If you already have dahlias in the ground, the gardening books tell you to lift the tubers and over winter them somewhere cool and dark.. I have tried that, but getting them back into the ground on time seems to require more discipline than I can display. This year, the only tubers I’ll lift will probably be a couple of my favourite varieties, or those where I only have one plant. Any others will be cut back almost to the ground and left in the soil, their protruding stalk base tagged with a label bearing either their name, or at least their height and colour.
The ones that are lifted are cleaned, then put into the cellar in a crate of sand to overwinter. I put clear labels on each crate so I know where to replant next year.
A girlfriend of mine grows dahlia from seed, which I have never done. Another friend takes cuttings very successfully in the early spring, but the most common method for propagation is to divide the tuber and plant the separate rhizomes,, making sure that each one has an ‘eye’ ready to sprout.
Apart from that all you need to know is that they need regular water, and do well in sun or dappled shade. The tallest dahlias like to be staked and supported, otherwise their heavy heads will pull them to the ground. To encourage new flowers simply keep deadheading or picking the blooms to bring them inside.
It’s worthwhile finding a really good dahlia producer especially if you want some of the more unusual varieties. Here in France I love to use Ernest Turc, and if I were in the States, I’d be ordering from Floret whose dahlia collection is breathtaking, and who also offers fantastic advice on how to grow and propagate.
Here are a few names of some of my favourites this year, that you can spot in these pictures: Shiloh Noelle (huge, white flowers with a mauve center); Café au Lait; Bel Amour; Apelsini Sniega; Emory Paul …. and many more.
I’d love to know how dahlias work for you, and if you are in a very hot, or very cold, climate whether you have found ways to help them bloom. Also, if you have the names of any big fluffy blooms for me to try, I’m listening! Merci!