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BONNIE'S GARDEN--Dahlias--For a Rainbow

I never really paid much attention to dahlias until about twenty years ago when my cousin and I were going through some old family photos.  There was a picture of our grandparents house with beautiful flowers in a rainbow of colors in front of the porch.  When I looked closer, I recognized them as dahlis.  
How had I not noticed these as a kid?  Maybe because I was too busy chasing fireflies with my cousins in the front yard.  I did a little research and found out that dahlias came in an array of sizes from 12 inches all the way up to five-foot plus; flowers from cute little two to three inch pom-poms to giant dinnerplate sizes.  And a whole rainbow of colors from pure-white to burgundy black and nearly every color in between.
Dahlias are a member of the daisy family and are hardy from zone 8 south, so here in zone 7, it's probaby best to dig and store over winter. If you elect to leave them in the ground, plant in a protected area and add a generous later of mulch.  I usually take mine up just before the first frost, air-dry the roots for four or five days then put in a single layer in a shoe box or cardboard try.  I'll toss a handful or two of dry peat moss on top, if I have it.  If I don't, I'll lay a few papertowels on top.
I don’t plant mine outside until the end of April. They will continue to bloom all the way to frost, if you dead-head them and feed them occasionally.   They tolerate our hot dry summers well because they're native to Central and South America--where they were grown by the Aztec Indians.
They are out-standing cut flowers.  Like most cut flowers, they'll last longest if cut early in the day.
If you’re growing dinnerplate dahlias for the largest possible flower, then select one good strong stem and stake it (an 8 to 10 inch flower gets top-heavy.) Select the largest bud and pinch off all the others. Keep the dahlia well-fed. Me?  I don’t really care about the largest flowers, I just let my dahlias bloom their pretty little heads off. 

By the way, they’re good butterfly attractors.  And even better--deer and voles don't bother them!  Let's see--deer don't eat them:  check.  Voles don't eat them:  check.  Butterflies DO like them:  check. Blooms all summer:  check!  Maybe I'll tuck a few more in around the deck...
Posted: 4/10/2017 by Bonnie Pega | with 0 comment(s)
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