Blog Author: Ellie Rafoth, Community Engagement Intern
What’s blooming down at Fellows Riverside Gardens? Dahlias!
Located near the Family Garden is FRG’s Dahlia Garden, which is home to 20 different kinds of dahlias. Native to Mexico, this tuberous perennial is just beginning to blossom! To learn more about these colorful and spiky flowers, I had the opportunity to speak with Stan Vuletich – a volunteer at FRG. This is Stan’s third year working on the Dahlia garden and he has some great knowledge regarding these late summer bloomers!
ER: When is dahlia season?
SV: Actually, dahlias just started blooming and are not even in full bloom yet. Dahlias begin blooming in July and continue to bloom through the fall until the first frost. They will be in their prime during September, October, and November as dahlias are a late summer and fall flower.
ER: How do you care for dahlias?
SV: Dahlias require full sun and do not do well in soggy soil. They do best in raised, framed beds where their roots are protected because they run extremely shallow. It is best to use straw and mulch to surround the base of the flower. These plants grow between four to five feet tall, so they must be staked. While the stock looks rather sturdy, it is easily broken. I suggest using a vegetable stake or in the Dahlia Garden, I use broken pieces of steel rebar.
SV: No, dahlias do not require a lot of care. One thing that I cannot stress enough is do not use fertilizer! Due to all of the rain, the nitrogen in the soil has been washed away, so this year’s flowers will be a shorter than usual. However, do not resort to fertilizer to grow your flowers taller!
ER: Can you start dahlias early and harvest them?
SV: Yes. Some gardeners buy tubers and start them indoors to get a jump-start on the season. Dahlias do not handle frost well, so some gardeners dig up the dahlias at the end of the season and store them over the winter. If this seems like too much, skip the storing and start over again in the spring and early summer.
ER: What kinds and colors of dahlias are there?
SV: Some dahlias look like water lilies, orchids, and cactuses. They come in all sorts of colors, except for blue. There are dark red, blush, yellow, white, and all different blends of colors to make these flowers colorful and unique.
ER: What is your favorite type of dahlia?
SV: My favorite dahlia is one called ‘Jessica.’ Jessica is a medium semi-cactus dahlia. It has a yellow base and petals with tips that are red.