I'm stepping up my game this year at the Larimer County Fair. I've entered nearly every year since I started working for Extension and love the competition, the judges' remarks and the sheer chaos of entry day. But I've never entered much in the Open Class Flower Show, primarily because I don't feel my flowers are worthy. Insect damage, bleached petals and misshapen foliage does not make the cut in our judge's eyes. Plus, there are really, really good flower growers and they actually know what they're doing.
But this year I bought dahlias. I grew a few several years ago and they were surprisingly easy, low-maintenance plants. But I had tucked them in a bed on the side of the house and didn't enjoy them much. Then I got an email from an Oregon dahlia company..."Sale! 50% off! Buy dahlias now!" So I did.
For those who haven't attempted the "summer-blooming bulbs", here's a quick lesson in planting dahlias. Don't be scared--they're really no different than a daffodil or tulip. Yes, they do need to be dug from the ground in fall (they are not winter hardy in Colorado), but properly stored and cared for, dahlias (and their folk) can last for years.
I purchased a mix of flowers from the "Cut Flower Collection" and also a group from the "Itsy Bitsy Collection". I figure that by the time the Fair rolls around, I should have enough flowers to scrape together an arrangement. And the names are the best part! Some of my cultivars include 'Bride to Be', 'Lights Out', 'Bambino' and 'Angels of 7A'.
|Each tuber comes stamped with the variety name.|
|Planting instructions attached to the dahlias.|
|Cut back new growth to 1" in length.|
|Pulling back the mulch to expose the soil.|
|Plant dahlias flat on their side in a 6" deep hole. Space tubers 18-24" apart.|
|The dahlias are planted and ready to cover with soil.|
|Handy dandy golf tees to mark where the tubers were planted.|
|Maple meeting a tuber for the first time.|
And if you don't have garden space, dahlias can easily be grown in containers. Just follow the same spacing and depth requirements mentioned above. Also consider the mature size of the plant and your container size--ensure it's big enough to support the plant at maturity (generally a 12" by 12" container will be large enough). Cover the tuber with a few inches of soil and water it in. Be careful about watering until growth starts...but don't let the potting media dry out. Also make sure your media is well drained so the tubers don't rot. You'll also need to fertilize throughout the summer.
|Dahlias are great container flowers. Just make sure your container is large enough to support the plant when full grown.|
|Maple requested the pansies.|
I'll remove them as the weather gets too hot and just allow the dahlia to grow.