It's that time of year when many of our garden's flowers start to putter out or look kind of drab. But the end of the summer is when the dahlias shine! Two weeks ago, a small group of CSU Extension folks took a tour of Arrowhead Dahlias, a family owned and operated dahlia farm located in Platteville, a small town in Weld County. It was a beautiful morning with good weather and lots of ooh's and aah's as we meandered through the many hoop houses filled with dahlias of all colors and sizes.
|Arrowhead Dahlia farm in Platteville, CO|
Arrowhead Dahlias was established in 2000 by Calvin and Julie Cook and specializes in growing a wide range of dahlias, along with a smaller crop of other popular cut flowers like lisianthus, zinnias and sunflowers. But their main attraction...the dahlias!
|Some of the many, long hoop houses filled with dahlias!|
|Another popular cut flower grown - Lisianthus|
The three-acre farm is filled to the brim with over 200 different dahlia cultivars, many in full bloom for us to admire while we toured the long hoop houses. The structures were covered with a light shade-type covering used to protect the flowers from hail storms that can be common in the area. They have approximately 12,000 plants in the ground and harvest often to keep the product at peak freshness to send to market. Here are a few of my favorites seen on the tour:
|A view from inside the hoop houses|
Dahlias find a very favorable climate in Colorado that allows them to grow large, showy flowers. However, they must be grown like an annual since they are not hardy here. They grow as tubers and can be planted much like tulips, but the seasons are switched. With dahlias, you would dig them up in the fall and plant the tubers in the late spring after any chance of frost has past. They don't need a lot of extra care right after planting, just wait until they sprout above the soil then start them on regular irrigation. A drip line set with an automatic watering system or timer can help to keep the dahlias watered on a regular basis as they don't like to dry out. Dahlias prefer a sunny location with plenty of room to grow. You can also grow them in containers, but make sure to give them a larger pot and staking so they don't flop or blow over - they can get quite large and tall, depending on the cultivar. For more information on planting dahlias in Colorado, check out the Plantalk article from CSU, HERE.
|Calvin cutting a dahlia at the ideal stage to send to market|
There are over 15,000 florists in the US, and about 70% of the retail flowers sold in the US are imported from Colombia. Other big players on the cut flower scene are the Netherlands and Ecuador. Although the US doesn't even make it into the top 10 for countries with the most exports of cut flowers, the local Colorado-grown cut flower scene is vibrant and growers like Arrowhead Dahlias offer a local product that doesn't have to board an airplane or cargo ship to make it into your bouquet. Check with your local farmers market to find cut flower growers near you!
To learn more about dahlias and other spring-planted bulbs, corms and roots, check out CSU's fact sheet, HERE.