Dashing dahlias

Beckie Fox

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‘Mom’s Special’ and ‘Pink Attraction’ in a mid-October bouquet.

I’m not an expert dahlia grower, but I am an enthusiastic one. Every year, I try six or more different shapes and colours, ones I’ve never grown before. That’s your first clue that I’m not an expert — I don’t save tubers to replant the following year. Or maybe that speaks more to my lack of commitment in overwintering tender tubers and bulbs.

What I do try to do every summer is to keep ahead of the dahlias’ growth spurts with tall stakes and strong ties (Velcro ties are easy to reposition and reuse). Yet, they always outgrow the stakes the moment my back is turned. At least I put the stakes in before I plant the tubers, so I don’t end up accidentally piercing one.

Someday, I even hope to be disciplined enough to prune early, limiting each plant to two or three robust stems instead of the tangle of six or eight I allow.

Regardless of my haphazard care, dahlias never fail to reward me with an exhuberant, outrageous show of blooms. To me, a valuable lesson in gardening is to enjoy a plant’s beauty and resourcefulness, and not obsess too much about the rules. These dahlias certainly look happy, and I was happy to have them.


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