Delightful Dahlias - Carolina Country

Delightful Dahlias

These outdoor cutting flowers brighten floral bouquets indoors

By Melinda Myers

Delightful Dahlias

Photo by Longfield-Gardens

Dahlias are bold and beautiful flowers that are easy to grow in a sunny garden. They are also spectacular in summer flower arrangements. With planting just a few dahlias, you can enjoy your own fresh-cut flowers from July through September.

In North Carolina, you can plant summer-blooming dahlias in April and May. They make gorgeous additions to flower beds, or even the vegetable garden. If space allows, the very best way to grow dahlias for bouquets is in a cutting garden. It doesn’t need to be large. Even a 3 feet by 6 feet raised bed will give you plenty of space for six to eight mature dahlia plants. Planting dahlia tubers in rows lets you get maximum productivity with minimal maintenance.

When choosing dahlias for a small to medium-size cutting garden, start by narrowing your choices. Select colors that you can imagine looking great together in a vase. Blossoms in cool colors and pastels, such pink, lavender and violet, will be soft and soothing. Include purple and burgundy flowers to add drama and help unify warm and cool colors. Choose red, orange, and yellow flowers if you like energetic arrangements that mimic the colors of late summer and fall.

Floral designers know that combining flowers with different shapes and sizes makes arrangements more interesting. Ball dahlias have tightly curled petals and dense, perfectly round, 3- to 4-inch flower heads. Varieties such as “Sylvia” and “Jowey Mirella” are perfect for adding repeating bursts of color. Decorative dahlias have the classic dahlia look, with 4- to 6-inch wide, open-faced blossoms and orderly layers of petals. “American Dawn” and “Great Silence” are two reliable and versatile, decorative dahlias.

The flowers of dinnerplate dahlias can measure 8 to 10 inches across. These enormous blossoms make it easy to make stunning summer bouquets. Popular varieties for cutting include “Café au Lait,” “Penhill Dark Monarch” and “Otto’s Thrill.” Add texture and movement to your arrangements with cactus dahlias. Varieties such as “Yellow Star” and “Nuit d’Ete” have tightly rolled petals that give the flowers a spiky appearance.

Don’t let the many options overwhelm you. Consider starting with an assortment such as the Flirty Fleurs Sorbetto Collection (sold at longfield-gardens.com). It includes five varieties of pink and burgundy dahlias, specially selected by an experienced floral designer.

Most cutting garden flowers are picked before they are fully open. But dahlias should not be harvested until they are fully open and in their prime. To avoid crushing the stems, make your cuts with a sharp knife rather than scissors.

North Carolina resources

Local garden centers typically sell dahlia tubers in early-to-mid spring. NC farms that sell dahlias online include Garden Bee Flower Farm in Walnut Cove and Terra Ceia farms in Pantego.

About the Author

Melinda Myers is a garden writer and a nationally syndicated TV/radio host

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