Each year I look forward to the arrival of dahlia season and when the flowers are blooming in abundance! These beauties do take some effort to grow on a larger scale, but are worth every drop of sweat.
Every year I pour through catalogs, online photos and the pages of random lists that I've jotted down throughout the past season and try to narrow down the varieties that I can afford to add to my collection. This year, my big splurge was KA's Cloud ($25 for one tuber - eek!), but so far she is worth every penny. Just yesterday, I harvested 5 perfect blooms from my one plant. And that was after cutting at least 3-4 blooms just a couple days prior. A true workhorse!
Other favorites that I've added this year are Otto's Thrill, Breakout, Sherwood Peach, Willowfield Matthew, Crichton Honey and Diva.
I focus on growing varieties that will last at least 4-5 days in the vase (since dahlias have a notoriously short vase life) and colors that I like to use in my own designs. Lots of pinks, purples, blush, peach, white and creams.
Here in the hot, humid south, it can be a struggle to keeps plants looking healthy throughout the summer months. I cut deeply to encourage long, strong stems in the future, even if that means some deadheading and shorter stems for now. We lay landscape fabric in the pathways to help with weed control and use t-posts and baling twine to corral/support the plants.
We have significant Japanese beetle pressure during July and August and because we grow organically there are limited options. I set up beetle traps around the property and far away from the crops so I don't attract more beetles onto the plants. I walk around with a soapy bucket of water at least once a week (more often would be better, but who's got time for that?!) and pick the beetles off by hand, dropping them into the bucket. It seems to work. We certainly lose some blooms, but with over 500 plants in the ground, I'm willing to sacrifice some flowers here and there for the sake of growing organically.
It can certainly feel overwhelming to keep up with all the harvesting - about every 3 days - but but the dahlia field is hands down my favorite place to be right now on the farm. Its simply magical!
What are some of your favorite varieties of dahlias to grow or organic pest control practices that you've found work well?
Cheers to dahlia season!