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My Favorite Dahlia

Pink Dahlia

Dazzling Dahlias

Janine Dellinger, in Connecticut, writes that all the flowers in her yard are from AmericanMeadows.com, and she has lots of them. Tulips and daffodils of course, but also gladiolus and all kinds of irises grow in Ms. Dellinger’s gardens. But in the midst of all this, her favorites of them all are the Dahlias . She says “The bulbs I bought at Wal Mart never bloomed; now all our bulbs are from AmericanMeadows.com. And yes, I love the dahlias, and so do all our neighbors and household guests. This picture is of my favorite dahlia.”

Dahlias are like roses or irises. Some gardeners grow them, some don’t. But if you do, you get hooked. If you’re a dahlia grower, you know all about it—the thick tubers that look a lot like a bunch of carrots. The beautiful glossy green foliage. And how, if you live in a hard winter area, you have to lift the tubers (roots) each fall, protect them from frost, and then replant them each spring. Once they get growing and blooming, nothing adds more color or excitement to a summer garden. (Dahlia tubers are always sold and planted in spring.)

The famous Dinnerplate Dahlias (that term means the flowers can reach 10 or even 12” across) grow on tall (up to 5 ft.) plants and create a sensation of huge blooms in late summer and fall. But there are dahlias of all sizes and colors. Many of them are very old favorites, such as the deep purple “Thomas Edison” dahlia, which was introduced in the decades ago. But many others are introduced every spring. There are scores of exotic color combinations, such as the fantastic “Caribbean Fantasy” with white petals streaked with red and yellow.

Ms. Dellinger’s favorites are the "Decorative Dahlias," also called "Semi-Dinnerplate Dahlias." That’s the official name of large-flowered types with blooms that aren’t always huge enough to be called “Dinnerplate.” Favorites in this group include Crazy Love , a magnificent bi-color of pink/lavender and white, white and hot pink Uncle Harry and Prince of Orange , one of the great glowing orange flowers named for the Dutch Royal Family (The House of Orange). By the way, that beautiful photo above was shot by Mr. Dellinger.

The wild dahlia is a rather scrawny, insignificant flower native to Mexico. But the Dutch hybridizers have been “improving” it for decades. Today there are short bedding dahlias, cactus-flowered dahlias, waterlily dahlias, and more. And by the way, there is no such thing as a Black Dahlia in the Flower Kingdom. That’s pure Hollywood.

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