Treasured Blooms: Planting Dahlias

We bought our house on two acres over three years ago now.  It feels like just yesterday we did a walkthrough of this home and decided it had to be ours! Just being on this land brought a sense of relaxation over us and a feeling of “home”.  I envision my grandchildren following me around the garden, eager to help out and gathering around our big farmhouse table (my husband made) for one of my homemade dishes.

This house is just special to me.  It signifies everything I wanted – a good community to raise a family, space for our children to explore on and a simple, cozy house with a character all of its own. It has been fun creating something in this place – since moving in we’ve made renovations to the house, constructed a chicken coop for our girls and started a vegetable garden that provides our family with a seasonal bounty.

But something I didn’t expect to find in our home was a new relationship.  An unexpected friendship, with a gentlemen in his mid-eighties who we called our neighbor.

I remember the first time we met Mr. C. He walked right through my front door, in his big old work boots, without a single knock.  Coming from a much more urban town, I was astonished by his forwardness and thankful I was appropriately dressed for his visit!  He took no time prying to get to know us and telling us lots of stories about who he was.

At first his visits felt intrusive (to be honest).  I had two small children keeping me busy and a house I was trying to make a home.  But I worked to entertain his conversations and over time I started to really appreciate his company.  As I do with my grandparents, I began to patiently listen to what I could learn from someone who has lived many years beyond myself.

Well in the last three years I’ve learned somuch. Our home was not only one of the first homes built on the acres surrounding our quiet dead end road, but Mr. C’s wife’s great aunt owned it.  She sold off pieces of all the land around us, until it became what it is today.

And Mr. C, like most people in his day, is very accustomed to working the land.  I’ve learned dozens of tips on cultivating the soil, raising vegetables and nurturing the many flowers in my garden.  His friendship, although unexpected, is one I cherish.

Well one day last summer, I was toiling in the garden when Mr. C. made his way over with a gift.  He handed me a brown bag with two bulbs and told me they were Dahlias.  I had never planted Dahlias before but gladly took them and dug them in right alongside of my deck.  I was astonished weeks later when a gorgeous bloom appeared.  Holy cow! What a rare beauty! I’ve heard of this flower, but to experience its bloom first hand is truly breathtaking.

Thanks to the advice of Mr. C, I dug up the bulb in the fall and replanted it this spring.  The blooms reappeared this summer with an even greater show (see above; this is from ONE bulb!).  Now I am eager to plant a dozen more!

While planting will not take place until next spring I decided to do a little research on them and I am surprised by my accidental success.  Apparently these bulbs do not fair well in warm humid temperatures (like we have here in Maryland).  They much prefer the climate of the Pacific Northwest.  But my timing, successful bulb storage and planting location may have made all the difference.

First, I planted the bulbs in late spring.  They do not flourish quite as well if planted as soon as the last frost (at least two weeks following the frost is recommended).  I also planted my bulbs on the east side of my desk.  So while the plant is graced by the morning sun, it is spared the scorching rays of the late afternoon (note: some gardeners use beach umbrellas to shade their Dahlias in the afternoon).  Lastly, when the blooms are done, some time after the first frost, I dig up the bulbs and store them in a brown bag in a cool place (I stored mine in my basement).

Should you decide to add Dahlias to your garden as well, be sure they are placed in well-drained, heavily composted soil.  I highly suggest trying, for their blooms are exquisite and they make great cut flowers. It’s so nice to see them dazzling in the garden when many other summer blooms begin fading away.  Much like our elderly friends, whose wisdom from simpler times should always be treasured.


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