Dahlia jackpot

Thursday, October 2, 2008

After the Garden Writers Association conference, I stayed a few extra days in Oregon visiting with my friend Jenny. We walked to the grocery store one night and discovered the mother lode of dahlias, right there in her suburban neighborhood. Needless to say I was intrigued. I even tweeted about it on Twitter.

Emily, Tom and Erin all know how smitten I am with dahlias. I mean, how can you not love flowers that are so richly colored and so beautifully formed? They also feature prominently in the bold gardens of Christoper Lloyd, Sarah Raven and others--the gardens I'd love to emulate.

I admired the yard each time Jenny and I walked to the store, but it wasn't until my last day in Corvallis that I stopped by with my camera. Lo and behold, the gardener himself was out in the yard.

I found out that his name is Art Redfern and that he has been growing dahlias for more than 20 years. He got started with dahlias because his wife's father had grown them. Art now grows more than 250 different dahlia varieties. Wow.

I had a feeling he was growing lots of different types since they're all arranged in gridded beds with plant ID tags.

The East Bed

Glorious dahlias in Corvallis -- the East Bed

The West Bed

Glorious dahlias in Corvallis -- the West Bed

ID Tag

Serious dahlia organization

It was quite an impressive operation for someone who does this as a hobby. And of course, the dahlias themselves were equally impressive.

After I'd chatted with Art for awhile and said that I really ought to be getting back, he asked if I'd like a bouquet to take with me. Well yeah... of course! Like I'm going to turn that offer down!

Jenny came around the corner at this time, no doubt wondering where I had disappeared to. By the time Art was done cutting, Jenny and I both had our arms full of dahlias. You can see all of the ones he gave us in this photo. And yes, they really are that big.

Kim, with the bountiful dahlias

In fact, the large pink one in the center was bigger than my head! Art told us that it's called 'Elsie Huston' and that it's a repeat prize winner at dahlia shows. No surprise there.

It would be a lot of work, but I just might have to see if I could grow some dahlias at home. I know they need a good, rich soil and lots of moisture. Our native soil wouldn't work, but maybe I could amend the soil with bags of composted cow manure or try growing the dahlias in containers. Who knows--maybe I could become the dahlia queen of Florida!

If you're interested in learning more about dahlias, Art recommends the Colorado Dahlia Society.

Red dahlia in Corvallis


Wicked Gardener said...

I know nothing about Dahlias. Why don't they do well near us? Are they perennial? I'd love to grow flowers that big!

debra said...

hi Kim, love your blog ~ the vibrancy is a visual treat and your personality really comes through. I'm glad we've *met* through your lost GWA shipment. I'll be back to visit again - gotta see what you're excited about, like these awesome Dahlias. I miss them from my Seattle days and hope I can grow some here in LA, debra

Kim said...

I'm not entirely sure we can't grow dahlias in Florida. Apparently, Central Florida Gardener grows them. I've also seen Florida folks on GardenWeb mention growing them. But other trusted sources told me they don't do very well here. Maybe our high heat and humidity makes them more prone to powdery mildew? And our native soils are too poor?

Kim said...

Correction. I guess we CAN grow dahlias in the South.