I remember when I saw my first dinner plate-sized dahlia flower. I thought it was on steroids! Dahlias and gladiolus flowers are known for their big shows. These summer bulbs thrive during warm days and produce an abundance of flowers from summer until frost that are sure to make you smile. While making a beautiful statement in the flower garden, both are also used as a cut flower in the home. Gladiolus What I love about these summer bulbs is also the dramatic color of the flowers. 'Peter Pears' gladiolus features eye-catching, apricot-orange flowers with red centers. 'Windsong' gladiolus has vibrant pink flowers with yellow centers. If you're really a pink lover, try 'Pretty in Pink Mix' gladiolus that features various shades of pink in the flowers. Glads grow great in part or full sun on well drained, compost-amended soil. If harvesting as a cut flower, pick gladiolus flower stalks when one to three flowers have opened. The other flower buds will continue to open indoors. Dahlias While some dahlias are known for their huge-sized flowers (up to 10-inches is diameter), what makes them unique is the variation in flower and plant sizes you can grow. Sure you can grow dinner plate dahlias featuring one strong color such as 'Dinnerplate Islander' (pink) and 'Dinnerplate Purple Giant', but why not get adventurous with your large-sized flowers? 'Hawaii' has white, pink, and yellow colors all mixed together in a fascinating array on the petals. 'Pippi' features large, orange flowers with red and yellow swirls. If you can't decide on a color, go with a mix. 'Purple Rain Mix' features white, pink and purple colored flowers, while 'Pure Elegance Mix' has more classic white, red, and yellow colored flowers. For something even on the bolder side, try the 'Cactus Mix'. This variety features pink, red and purple colored flowers with spiky petals. If you don't have room for these large-flowered varieties that can grow to 3- to 4-foot tall and wide in your garden, try the one foot tall 'Dragon Ball' dahlia with orange colored flowers and striking black foliage, or the 'Windowbox Mix'. They both grow well in containers. Whichever dahlia variety you choose, give your plants full sun, plant in well-drained soil amended with compost, and keep them well watered. Tall varieties may need staking or caging to keep the flowers from flopping. To keep those large varieties from getting too rangy, snip off the tip of the stems when the plants are 18 inches tall. You'll get a bushier plant that's more manageable. When cutting blooms for indoors, cut 2 inches below the flower base and dip the cut end in boiling hot water to seal it, then let it cool. They will last up to a week indoors. Happy Gardening
February 15, 2012.