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.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

summer nights

cosmos, cockscomb, firework gomphrena, scabiosa and fern

summer nights during the week find a way of being filled with rose (the drinking kind, not the flower kind), oysters and evening strolls.  and summer time brings the farmers market to life with local fruit, veggie and floral goodies such as the flowers in this arrangement (i'm having a brief obsession with cockscomb and cosmos and bright colors right now).  

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

c + e wedding

pete and i were way up in maine a few weeks ago to flower up an intimate outdoor wedding complete with beautiful couple, gracious parents (and hosts), a barn, hand-made bars and signs, a few horses and some of the cutest dogs i've ever met (perhaps i say that about all friendly dogs).  this wedding was simply gorgeous!  congrats, c + e!

how so did i ever agree to go from nyc to maine (total trip time is 8 hours each way)?  it wasn't a hard choice, really.  i love outdoor weddings.  i'm a new england girl at heart.  doing weddings outside the normal nyc wedding scene is quite enjoyable.  i have a place to work right outside boston with relatively easy access to the market.  and the bride really wanted to use summer flowers which i could largely source from local growers (NJ, NY and MA).  

the wedding took some work to figure out logistics with ordering, buying and storing flowers outside my normal home base.  we stuffed our little volvo c30 with 12 buckets full of flowers on wednesday night for 4 hour ride to boston.  next day, i went to the boston flower market for more pick-ups and met up with a flower friend, julie of bittersweet gardens, for some of her beautiful poppies.  and later that day, i visited another flower friend, grace of five fork farms, for more poppies, grasses and some of the most amazing sweet peas i've seen grown locally.  dare i say that the quality rivals that of sweet peas from japan?  i met both lovely ladies via instagram (kind of love social media that way) and i hope to have new opportunities to work with them.

and i made flowers standing in my parents' kitchen.  i completely took over the space so we had to order domino's pizza -- yeah, i know, but my parents live in the 'burbs.  we took over a spare bedroom with an old ac unit and blasted that thing until no end (my dad referred to the room as the "cooler" which it totally became).  and there was lots of running back and forth with flowers and finished arrangements.  the behind the scenes pictures are below.

at five fork farms

and a tired florist....

Monday, June 30, 2014

evening lit bouquet

leftovers from my blue arrangement and carnations from two weekends ago.  i'm starting to think that the recipe for a good looking bouquet is some inky tones combined with some muted tones as the base and then you're free to pick either a bright or subtle tone.