11 August 2013

Dahlia Season Pictures

Exquisite Pleasure, catching water in the petals
My husband's grandparents and parents grow dahlias.  He remembers helping on the farm in Alaska as a young boy, being utterly delighted when someone chose his bouquet to buy.  They'd get up early, make sure the entire acres-large garden and dahlia patch was entirely weed free, and then pick bouquets for the passers by and tourists who drove by on the way to the reindeer farm down the road.  I can't describe how completely picturesque the Alaskan farm really is.
Exquisite Pleasure (they tell me it's not a good blossom, because the center is showing...they're picky)
To give you an idea of the extent and popularity of Grandma's dahlias, I have to tell you about my small town library in Virginia.  Of course, I'm no longer there, but one of the first things I did when I arrived in Virginia was get my local library card.  I checked out cookbooks, garden books, and all kinds of other fun books--I needed to lighten up a little after graduate school.
The library kept a few piles of "used" magazines any of us could take home for free and never return, and it was one of my favorite corners of the library.  One day, I picked up several Birds and Blooms magazines, and gasped delightedly as I turned the page to see Grandma's dahlia garden, with the "well house" in the background (my husband's first childhood home).  The magazine was several years old, but I called Grandma immediately to recount my amazing and random find.  She knew all about the article, and we both reveled in the delight her garden gave so many people--in person and in print.
Exquisite Pleasure again, a little shy this time
Exquisite Pleasure produces lots of bulbs, and its deep maroon color is one of my husband's favorites.  But when the center shows (as in the photo before this one), they break off the blossom and throw it at each other around the yard. "They're not supposed to have a center," they tell me.
And I can hardly believe how such a thing of beauty could be called inferior, let alone battered and beaten in a game of...flower tag?
Robin Hood
They tell me these are one of the best varieties to grow, because they have consistenly healthy plants; long, strong stems; and it produces a lot of bulbs.  Of course, it's beautiful too.  :)  The coloring of the blossoms doesn't show fading and bruising as much as some of the other varieties.
Robin Hood, closer up
The No-Name Dahlia:  White Seed?
My father-in-law planted single seeds from a bloom several years ago.  Each seed makes a different kind of dahlia bloom.  Then, once the plant grows the first year, he saved the tuber to plant the next year to insure that the flower would come out the same as the flower did the first year.  The seeds, especially when the parent flowers are in a garden with lots of close-by different varieties, can produce all kinds of fun surprises.  He says this one is a nice bulb producer.
No-Name White Seed
To get a dahlia registered with the dahlia society, a grower has to take the new variety to dahlia shows, and the flower has to win a certain number of shows.  Or, the grower can submit the flower to a trial garden, where the flower will be tested and cared for to be sure it is a steady enough flower to be named and sold as a consistent variety.
We don't think we have all the details on the process, but we think it would sure be great fun if one of the family's own varieties got registered and sold as its own distinct variety.
The label faded...we'll have to find someone who remembers which variety this is.
 See the little "ears" sticking up?  The flowers are such a delightful part of visiting my in-laws (and my husband's grandparents during the Alaskan summer, when I'm lucky) and their garden.  The plants' lush greenery sets off the colors of all the varieties along the two double rows of dahlias.  They get the most garden space every year, but don't worry--there's plenty of room for all the edible garden delights, as well.

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