Monday, October 4, 2010

Dallying with Dahlias

The beginning of October, here at Blooming Hill, shows that the gardens are turning the corner from summer's exuberant fresh herbs and flowers transitioning to a relaxed and vibrant glow of changing autumn leaves and burnished berries and rose hips clinging to their brown twigged vines.  Even though the gardens are looking a bit ragged and coarse there is still some pomp and circumstance being flaunted by the dahlias, now the darlings of the garden. Known as the flower of August, they steadfastly gain more beauty as the the hot summer days give way to cooler and finally, wetter weather

In my mind, dahlias are purely social creatures inviting willing participants to stop and gaze at their loveliness.  Growing alone or in clusters, they are here solely for our enjoyment and help to take our minds off of the severe weather yet to come. Their dizzy array of color promises beauty and frivolity, theirs to flaunt, while continuously teasing the humming birds, until the first hard frost.

If there was ever a flower that spoke to the beauty that variety contributes to the depth of the garden, it is the dahlia. The cornucopia of colors dahlias provide, from stark white to deep reds and purples and even pale creams and burnt oranges all the while boasting versatility in solid and variegated forms, is beguiling.  In fact, there is such a vast assortment of dahlia shapes and sizes that they are grouped into six different categories of sizes from the "Giants" that are about 10 inches in diameter all the way down to the  "Mignons" that are 2 inches or less in diameter.  From there, dahlias are further divided into 11 more categories ranging from "Decorative" to "Novelty."  My head is spinning so let me just concentrate on the graceful majesty the dahlias in my gardens are currently displaying like proud peacocks.  To me, each dahlia petal, plain or frilly, mammoth or minuscule, is a thing to savor during these early autumn days.

Promising delight and and personality to the eye of the beholder, dahlias hold several meanings in the language of flowers.  They  express gratitude, dignity, pomp and, sometimes, misrepresentation, probably because of their "frillyness" and bold presence in the garden when everything else is fading away during the final stages of the growing season.

To take it even further, dahlias, a favorite flower of Victorian gardeners, were given deeper meanings with almost as much variety as their different varieties. Double-petaled dahlias emphasize one's active participation and involvement in something--perhaps a love affair?  Single dahlias convey good taste while intricately  variegated dahlias refer to someone thinking of another constantly.  Pure white dahlias nod to loving gratitude for one's parents and yellow dahlias express one's happiness that they, too, are loved by someone.  So many meanings for so many different and lovely dahlias.  Would one have it any other way? Never!
Now, back to basics...Dahlias can be grown from seed however, the most common and easier way to grow them is from their tubers that multiply under the ground during the growing season.   To create more of these beauties in garden borders, dahlias can easily be divided after a killing frost or early in the spring. Of course, to add to your assortment of color and type of dahlia, don't forget you favorite garden nursery in early spring where a plethora of tubers can be bought.

Most gardeners will tell you to preserve them by digging them up and storing them away during the cold winters. Maybe I've been lucky.  I don't dig them up and their rich green foliage deli-gently appears in my garden borders each spring, encouraging their ruffled blooms from mid-summer until well into autumn.  And, for that, I am truly grateful, for their presence in my garden beds as well as gracing my summer and autumn tables, year after year. I love dahlias!

1 comment:

  1. Beautiful, Cyndie! I haven't grown them in years but you're making me want to again!