Delightful Dahlias

Get ready for the annual tuber and plant sale by The Monterey Bay Dahlia Society, next Saturday, April 6th, at the Deer Park Shopping Center, in Aptos.

The sale will open at 9:00 a.m., when there likely will be a line of eager dahlia growers looking for the latest hybrid introductions, or particular favorites, or specific colors to complete a landscaping design.

Or all of the above!

The dahlia, a native of Mexico, grows quite well in the Monterey Bay area’s moderate climate.

There are many varieties of dahlias, so selection of plants for your garden is the first task. A good and simple rule of thumb is to select varieties that please your eyes. Other approaches include selecting plants that have won prizes or that have blossoms of the color, form or size that you prefer.

Fortunately, there are excellent plant selection resources on the website of the American Dahlia Society < www.dahlia.org>; click on the link for “Dahlia Resources.” To view photos of dahlia blossoms, conduct a Google search for “dahlia plants” and click on “Images”

Tubers are specialized structures designed to store nutrients during a dormant season. Dahlias are stem tubers, which differ from root tubers, like potatoes. A stem tuber has one or more buds on the end that was attached to the old plant. These buds, called “eyes” are the plant’s growing points, so examine actual tubers to spot an “eye.” Even experienced growers can have difficulty recognizing an eye, but a tuber lacking an eye will not produce new growth, so look closely.

The ADS website also provides information on cultivating dahlias. The basic (and easy) method is to select a spot that enjoys at least six hours of direct sunlight every day, and good drainage. The time to plant is between “right now” and about mid-June. The top of the tuber should four-to-six inches below the surface (larger tubers are planted deeper) with the “eye” facing upwards.

Taller dahlias should be staked to avoid flopping. Install a stake near the tuber at planting time; pushing a stake into the soil later risks damaging the tuber.

If you prefer not decorating your new dahlia bed with bare stakes, install a short piece of plastic pipe next to the tuber, with the top just above soil level. Then, when the plant threatens to flop, insert a thin stake into the plastic pipe and tie the dahlia to the stake.

Snails enjoy snacking on dahlias, so as soon as new growth appears, apply non-toxic snail bait, such as Sluggo or Escargo. Gophers also find the tubers tasty, so plan to monitor for evidence of gopher activity, and have traps ready.

Enjoy your garden!

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2013 Dahlia Sale

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