Thursday, October 9, 2014

the last of dahlias

cafe au lait dahlias with blushing bride protea, astilbe, hydrangea and snowberries

we've prematurely ended our dahlia season this past weekend and are a bit sad about it.  it's tough to let the frost get them but feels even worse when we take our shears to some pretty healthy and productive plants.  it's not for nothing.  we're going away at the end of october and the timing of everything dictated that we cut them down when we did.  next weekend we'll be back to dig up the tubers and dry them in the basement for a week to toughen up the skins.  And the weekend after we'll pack them up for winter storage.

this dahlia thing is completely addictive.  we've decided to add another bed to the dahlia patch and perhaps (gasp) grow less cafe au laits.  trust.  i love cafe au laits, but a few of them can produce a ton of blooms (they're perhaps some of the more productive ones) and there are lots of new varieties to try.  one day i'll have a field large enough for a few hundred cafe au laits.




Tuesday, September 30, 2014

black widow


i had a few late nights already (didn't the week just begin?) and about to fade.  i'm trying really hard to keep up with the blog now that instagram has completely dominated how i access social media.

the arrangement from this weekend was loaded with red and wine colored dahlias and wild grapes that i foraged from some brush on the edge of the field.  i'll remember next time to wear boots or whatever because flip flops just does not provide enough foot protection (if something is tickling my feet, i just refuse to look down; yup, things don't exist if i ignore it).  there are some crab apples tucked in there somewhere, but admittedly the grapes were the real showstopper.  i'm calling this one black widow, because it's dark, vamp-y and i'm obsessed with that black widow song.

anyways, dahlias are still blooming strong but we're cutting everything down next weekend.  normally i wait until the frost gets them, but this year, pete and i are going away in early november and there just won't be enough time to get the tubers dug up and put away before then.  so i apologize now if i spam your instagram feed with dahlias.  it will be over soon...until next august....



 


Monday, September 22, 2014

fancy dahlias


i suppose this is my annual cafe au lait dahlia post -- cafe au laits are the fanciest of the fancy.  they bloom big and plentiful, so much so that i have a hard time keeping up.  i have 20 of them in my dahlia patch.  why so many?  unfortunately the shelf life on these girls aren't so terrific compared to other varieties so i keep plenty on hand for back-up.  they're a terrible tease really -- their petals unfurl so perfectly and then they fall apart within three days. ("...it's like i loved you so much and now i just hate you....")  if you readers have any advice on them, please let me know.

it's been a while since i made a large arrangement for no reason at all.  perhaps in the city, i really don't like spending lots of $$$ on foliage and foraging in urban areas isn't my thing (i've seen rats running in and out of gardens at all hours of the day and it's enough to deter me from even getting a community plot).  in the country, however, things grow wild and i get to wander around the edge of the woods to find material.  i didn't stray into the woods because there were still too many mosquitoes and i still can't tell the difference between poison ivy and wild raspberries / blackberries.

anyways, back to the flowers.  everything in this arrangement is sourced within 100 yards of each other.  it's a funny, but good, feeling to harvest locally.  yeah, i know, these words are overused, over-marketed, over-everything but it's true! this arrangement includes cafe au lait dahlias, other lavender / purple dahlias (i have at least 5 varieties in there), hydrangea, birch branches, pokeweed and a few gomphrena and cosmos.








Thursday, September 4, 2014

end of summer, beginning of dahlias

dahlias in this buckets are cafe au lait, chilson's pride, hamilton lillian,  otto's thrill, kidd's climax and kelgai ann

it's always sad to say good-bye to summer and this one felt particularly short-lived.  but for the past few years the end of summer has been greeted with dahlias and my dahlias are blooming in earnest.  

a reader emailed me about my dahlia garden and asked for tips and resources.  i suppose there could be one or two people out there who are also curious, so i've copied and pasted my response (more or less) for reference:


"I order my tubers from Endless Summer Flower Farm in Camden, ME or Swan Island Dahlias in OR.  Their tubers are great. This year I've planted tubers from Dan's Dahlias and Old House Gardens. They seem pretty good at the time of planting and they all (but one) sprouted (likely my fault since I never opened the delivery boxes until the day before planting).  I do save my tubers at the end of such season which is how I now have such large dahlias beds. This year I needed to expand to 2 more beds!


As for growing resources, I did some google searching to read about specific issues (earwigs or Japanese beetles) but the most comprehensive is a little purple booklet that Swan Island Dahlias sends with its orders. They also have the same information available on their website.  I also email the tuber suppliers themselves with questions.


Here's what I do:


- in the spring I have someone till the beds and add compost; I'm not sure how much the guy uses since I'm never around when he does it. But I ordered 4 cubic yards for 4 beds that are 25' by 4'.  I'm not even sure how far he tills into the land either.


- I plant tubers generally in two rows. Although in some spots I'll add a third row because I have way too many tubers.  However, I try not to overcrowd the plants (tends to yield weak stems when I have done so previously).


- I stake each one at the time of planting and then throughout the season I tie the plants to its stake.  I also add a handful of bone meal in each hole (I have small hands though).


- I apply a foliar spray of fish emulsion/kelp mix and aerated compost tea every other week. I'm not sure this helps but have read that it does.


- I find myself weeding up into July but allow the weeds to get big enough to pull. Now that my plants are large (now 3' or taller) the weeding is very light.


- The location where the dahlias are growing gets at most 4 hours of really hot sun (10am - 2pm) from June to early September.  It gets so hot that the plants are wilting by noon. They seem to do fine but I'm convinced I would have more flowers with more sunlight. There are two very large pine trees that block out the morning sun. The trees are on the property we're leasing and we aren't allowed to cut them :(


- Toward the end of season, I put a frost cloth over the dahlias at night just in case. However, by last week of October, I let the frost kill the plants and I cut off the plants, leaving 6-8 inches of the stems.  I cover any holes with aluminum foil to keep water from getting into the tubers. I pull the tubers out 1-2 weeks later and wash the dirt off and dip them into a bleach solution. I then leave the tubers to dry in the basement to develop "skin" and then divide and wrap individually in plastic wrap. This year I'm not going to do the plastic wrap bit because of timing of other obligations.  Instead, I plan to put them in cardboard with peat moss." 


i had a random thought about japanese beetles when discussing how to deal with a friend's wasp problem.  i remembered while traveling in cambodia we had these electrified tennis rackets to swat at mosquitoes and the static electricity would kill them on contact.  the japanese beetles have been terrible this year and they're still around and feasting away on my garden so obviously i ordered a zapper racket from amazon to try on the beetles.  picking off beetles and drowning them in soapy water is easy enough, albeit gross.  but imagine zapping them in mid-flight?  yes, evil maniacal laugh is happening as i'm typing this.  hopefully there will be a few beetles left to get!


hamilton lillian dahlia

hillcrest suffusion dahlia

left - razz-ma-razz dahlia, right - prince noir dahlia

pop talk dahlia

tempest dahlia

sonic bloom dahlia

these dahlias are not supposed to be > 8' tall!

brushstrokes dahlia and the requisite bumble bee shot



Monday, August 25, 2014

p+v wedding

bridal bouquet of juliet garden roses, louise augusta garden roses, cymbeline garden roses, cafe au lait dahlias,
peach dahlias, double click cosmos, quickfire hydrangeas, hot biscuit amaranths,
snowberries, bay leaves and jasmine vine

pete and i did a small wedding this past weekend up in the boston area.  i love late summer flowers and the highlight was being able to use flowers grown by grace at fivefork farms.  her flowers are a must when i'm doing events in the boston area.

bridal bouquet of juliet garden roses, louise augusta garden roses, cymbeline garden roses, cafe au lait dahlias,
peach dahlias, double click cosmos, quickfire hydrangeas, hot biscuit amaranths,
snowberries, bay leaves and jasmine vine

bridal bouquet of juliet garden roses, louise augusta garden roses, cymbeline garden roses, cafe au lait dahlias,
peach dahlias, double click cosmos, quickfire hydrangeas, hot biscuit amaranths,
snowberries, bay leaves and jasmine vine

a pair of bridesmaids' bouquets 
we opted not to have table centerpieces given the family-style nature of the dinner and went with a few tall arrangements -- one by the entrance and another by the photo booth.  yup and all those amaranths (the gold and the green hanging dreadlocks) were from fivefork.



and finally congrats, p+v!

Monday, August 4, 2014

Saturday, August 2, 2014

persian zinnias

arrangement of dahlias, orange cockscomb, persian zinnias, blackberries and grasses

i'm infatuated with summer flowers this year, more so than before.  and while i'm away from the garden this weekend, i've managed to fill my time with flowers from the river garden at the union square farmers market.

the garden is humming along.  wish i had some pictures to show you (i'm too embarrassed of how i looked in the most recent pictures that pete took -- it was early and i was tired and hell bent on picking and tossing japanese beetles into soapy water).  we're heading up there next weekend and fingers-crossed that a few dahlias will be in bloom.