Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Dahlia Weddings: One Beautiful Example

Gregoire wedding party in front of the Governor's MasnionWhen Courtney Gregoire and Scott Lindsay were married in August of 2008, it was the first wedding ever held at the 100-year-old Washington State Governor's Mansion overlooking Capitol Lake in Olympia. Courtney's mother is Washington's Governor Christine Gregoire. The staff at Lynch Creek Farm is proud that beautiful dahlias from the Farm were featured in the wedding.

Floral designer Colleen Hunter of Lynch Creek Floral in Shelton was chosen to provide the bride's personal flowers and the floral decorations for the outdoor ceremony. Seattle-based wedding photographers Kim and Adam Bamberg (La Vie Photography) captured the day for the couple, and posted a generous sample of their photographs as a blog on La Vie's website.

Courtney and Scott under dahlia arch.Kim and Adam, known for their artistic wedding photography, high-fashion photos and portraiture, "turn passion into pictures." They also do high-fashion photos and portraiture, and Kim is the art director and founder of Junebug Weddings. Their work has been featured in Bride's Magazine, Seattle Metropolitan Bride and Groom Magazine, Seattle Bride Magazine, Eliza Magazine, Your Wedding Day, The Washington Post and The Knot.

The Gregoire wedding offered lots to work with: a photogenic wedding party, lovely setting of the red brick Georgian-style built in 1908 on the crest of Capitol Point with its white pillars, sloping lawns, and elegant grounds. And of course there were the beautiful waterlily, ball, decorative and pom pon dahlias in the bride's chosen colors, vibrant shades ranging from orange to pink and deep rose, as well as white dahlias in the bridal bouquet. Dahlias clustered on a lavishly flowered archway under which Courtney and Scott exchanged vows.

Attendants' bouquets of dahlias and other summer flowers
The day itself must have been an interesting challenge to wedding party and photographers alike, with rain threatening and, at one point, even sprinkling on the gathered guests and attendants. (Even the umbrellas were color-coordinated!) But as the bride walked down the petal-strewn aisle, the sun emerged, as the sun always should on lovely couples on their wedding day. It was a brilliant occasion, and Lynch Creek Farm is honored to have had a part in Courtney and Scott's lovely day.

Dahlias in Courtney Gregoire's bridal bouquet

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Dahlia Weddings: Variety's a Big Advantage

Dahlias decorate an Alderbrook wedding
Next to color, it's the infinite variations of dahlias that make them such a perfect choice as the featured flowers or floral addition to any bride's wedding flowers and decorations. Petite to preposterous, cool white and pastel to fiery brilliance, dahlias can do it.

Lynch Creek Floral owner and designer Colleen Hunter says one of the things she loves about dahlias is the range of sizes. She can choose little round pom pon dahlias or mignon singles for flower girls and, within the same species and color ranges, mid-size dahlias for personal bouquets or reception tables and striking dahlias big enough for massive floral baskets or free-standing bouquets that will hold their own outdoors or in a cathedral.

Bridesmaids bouquets with ball, pom pon and waterlily dahlias
Whether you're growing your own and making your own bouquets, buying farm-raised dahlias to augment florist's flowers, or working with a florist for the whole shebang, dahlias offer a lot of decoration for the dollar, and colors and forms to meet every taste.

Starting this time of year, you can buy or grow dahlias in types small enough for boutonnieres or nosegays and bold dinner-plate dahlias for pillar arrangements to be seen at a distance. You can grow or select dahlias for personal flowers, the bride's bouquet, and church or hall and table arrangements, and you can plant dahlia tubers to have colorful, elegant dahlias in pots at your wedding or reception site or in flower beds where you plan an outdoor wedding or wedding gathering.

White ball and formal decorative dahlias
The range of forms is as impressive as the range of sizes. For interesting forms at a distance, there are cactus dahlias, with their slender rolled florets like an explosion of fireworks, and laciniated dahlias whose florets have split tips. Round, tightly flowered pom pon and ball dahlias make romantic bouquets, waterlily dahlias look classic in any setting, and mignon single, orchid and colarette dahlias offer a delicate look for a tiny bouquet or arrangement.

White pom pon dahlias decorate a dramatic wedding cake. Photo by Cooper Studios.And because of their good substance and holding power, dahlias will do great things for wedding settings. They can decorate elegant wedding cakes, stand up to a small flower girl's hot-handed clutch, crown floral archways with brilliant color on a hot day, and provide petals for strewing in the bride's path. For your August or September wedding, dahlias are the ideal wedding flowers.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Dahlia Weddings: Oh, Those Luscious Colors!

Dahlia wedding bouquetBeautiful dahlias come in any color you might want for your wedding, whether traditional pastels or intense hues, tones within a single hue or brilliant contrasts. "Dahlias have as wide a range as any flower you can imagine," says designer Colleen Hunter of Lynch Creek Floral. They track the rainbow from greenish yellow through apricot, red and pink to lavender and purple, and range in intensity from pure white to a burgundy so deep as to appear almost black.

In fact, it's the colors that floral designers love most. "It's not just the range; it's the depth and complexity of the color," Colleen says. Many dahlias are bicolored, tipped or striped with a contrasting color as soft as cream and lavender or as distinct as red and white; others are blushed with an analagous color like yellow and apricot, pink and lavender, red and orange, or even a range from yellow to purplish pink. Some have second colors on the reverse side of what appear to be petals on dahlias but are actually florets.

Table arrangement in pink. Cooper Studios photo.Traditional pale dahlia colors include pure white, white or cream tipped with pink or lavender, palest lavenders, pinks and soft yellows, both creamy and lemony. A brighter palette ranges from pink to vivid red, yellow and orange. And dahlias come in varying shades, from blushed white and palest pinks, lavenders and yellows to rich bronze, orange, apricot and rose to deep, intense purple, burgundy and fire-engine red.

Courtney Gregoire's bridesmaids' dahlia bouquets. La Vie photo.
The color variations in dahlias as wedding flowers lend depth to bouquets and arrangements. They also make it possible to create bouquets with colors that might be considered clashing, but which work to tremendous advantage, like the orange and pink dahlias Colleen combined for Courtney Gregoire's wedding (see left, in one of photographer Kim Bamburg's shots).

The wide range of dahlia colors, varieties and forms means you're sure to find dahlias in hues the complement your chosen color scheme. At this point, someone's sure to whine, "But I want blue!" Okay, there aren't any blue dahlias—but there are plenty of dahlia hues that work with blue. And note: since blue has a short light wave in the color spectrum, it's a very recessive color. Delphiniums, Dutch iris and other blue flowers have a tendency to become invisible unless presented against a white background.

Dahlia-decorated wedding cake. Cooper Studio photo.
Great photographers like Kim Bamburg of Seattle's La Vie Photography, who photographed Courtney Gregoire's wedding, and Amy Cooper of Cooper Studios in Shelton, who shot the photo at right, love dahlias because of their varying colors and forms. Because of the high water content in dahlias, the flowers' cells are large and the cell structure refracts light, so they appear luminous, showing off to great advantage in portraits and still shots. (And speaking of advantages, the fact that dahlias are edible flowers means that they work well to decorate wedding cakes!)

What photographer doesn't love to capture images of beautiful weddings? And dahlias, with their luscious colors, can make a lovely wedding even more beautiful.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Dahlia Weddings: Beautiful Flowers That Won't Break the Bank

Buckets of Lynch Creek Farm dahlias
It's true. You can plant dahlias for your garden wedding or reception site or go all out with glorious bouquets of dahlias in a formal wedding location for much less than it would cost to have a modest display of traditional florist flowers.

Even if you have florists designing and arranging your wedding flowers, you can realize some savings by adding local, seasonal dahlias to the mix. "One thing to remember, too, is that because dahlias are mostly larger than other widely used wedding flowers, you'll need fewer of them," notes Colleen Hunter, owner of Lynch Creek Floral in Shelton, Washington. (If that surname seems familiar, there's a reason: Colleen is Andy Hunter's mom, and both her business and his grew out of the same market-garden venture that began when Andy was a kid. But that's another story, for a later blog.)

"The real way to save is to use locally grown dahlias in their season," Colleen points out. Most people with a bit of flair can manage the flower arrangements and table decorations with dahlias, which are easy to arrange, hold up well and provide amazing color, from sweet pastels to arresting deep tones. Dahlias don't lend themselves to corsages and boutonnieres, but either you or a florist can create stunning bride's and attendants' bouquets with dahlias.

Lynch Creek Farm bouquets of sunflowers, statice and dahlias at the Olympia Farmers Market"The important thing," Colleen says, "is to avoid getting totally set on a particular variety, but to choose a color range and flower size and then go with what's blooming when the wedding happens. Flower farming is an inexact science, after all, and subject to the weather and other conditions." Don't scroll through dahlia sites and decide on a specific variety, she advises.
Instead, go to the dahlia farm, choose colors and forms you like, and arrange for the quantity you need. If the specific variety you saw in flower when you visited has finished blooming, another that's similar will be available to take its place.

Lynch Creek Farm's booth at the Olympia Farmers Market
"And farmers' markets are great sources," Colleen adds. Most markets of any size have dahlia growers with bouquets of dahlias for sale, and you can talk to the vendors and find out what's likely to be in bloom when the wedding happens. You can walk into the market and acquire luscious bouquets that go straight from the wrapper to a vase for the church or other wedding site.

If you're a do-it-yourself person, you can create your personal flowers and floral arrangements at amazing savings. At Lynch Creek Farm, owner Andy Hunter estimates a $1 per stem figure for large sales — dahlias by the bucket. If you, or someone you know, grows dahlias, you've got it made. If not, no matter where you live, you're likely close to a good dahlia source. Check the American Dahlia Society website for a directory of growers in your state or region and arrange for dahlias from a farm near you, and you'll have the pleasure of knowing your wedding flowers weren't shipped from some other hemisphere.

The color and impact of beautiful dahlias can extend to the surroundings for your wedding. Now's the time to acquire and plant dahlia tubers for your wedding this summer or fall. If you plant dahlia bulbs in large pots, you can move them to the wedding or reception site to create the ideal entry to your wedding event. If you'll be entertaining guests at home, treat your garden to an infusion of dahlias in the colors and forms of your choice. In either case, you will have dahlia plants for the rest of the season. Best of all, when you restart them in future springs, you'll have not only gorgeous anniversary flowers but lovely memories as well.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Dahlia Weddings: Savvy, Seasonal, Sumptious

Alderbrook wedding with dahlias
If you're planning a wedding in August or September, dahlias are great flowers to feature in your landscape, as well as for boutonnieres, corsages, the bride's bouquet and flowers to decorate the spaces for the wedding and the reception.

Dahlias begin their prime blooming period in August, the month that ranks second only to June in popularity as a wedding month. And they bloom through September until the first frost, so a September wedding is a great choice for dahlia decorating as well.

Nosegay by Lynch Creek Floral
Dahlias combine nicely with other late-summer flowers like late lilies, early chrysanthemums, phlox, asters, zinnias, hardy fuchsias, hydrangea and various everlastings. And they join forces beautifully with more formal, traditional florist flowers like roses and orchids, a nice low-cost way to add more blooms to the more expensive options.

Right now is the time to plan your late-summer ceremony. If it's to be a garden wedding or an outdoor ceremony or reception, there's time now to choose and plant dahlia tubers in your wedding colors. Imagine walking down a path flanked by beautiful dahlias in glowing summer colors, or in cool, serene creams and whites tipped with lavendar or pink. If the venue is away from home, you can plant your dahlia bulbs (tubers, actually) in pots that you can lift from the garden row and nestle in color-coordinated containers strategically placed at your event. Growers' collections of dahlia tubers (Lynch Creek even has a beautiful wedding collection) make it easy and economical for you to plant a harmonious range of varieties.

Lynch Creek's Wedding CollectionChances are, no matter where you live, you're not far from a dahlia grower who sells cut flowers, and most will welcome you to visit the gardens in advance of your wedding, choose varieties and place your orders. One way to locate growers in your area is through the American Dahlia Society website; the home page includes a link to a directory of local organizations.
Dahlias' range is wide; as we saw in recent blogs, they flourish in the long days of a sub-Arctic summer in Alaska, and they bloom beautifully in much of the American South as well.

Dahlias in the fieldIt's good for the environment to enjoy foods and flowers in their season. You won't be paying for jet fuel and synthetic fertilizers. And it's good for our esthetic, too. Poets probably would never have rhapsodized over roses as they've done for centuries if there had been airplanes to fly roses in from Colombia no matter what time of year it was. Good things are worth waiting for, and worth reveling in when their time comes. That goes for your late-summer wedding, and for beautiful dahlias.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Four Reasons Dahlias Are Perfect Wedding Flowers

Alderbrook wedding
Dahlias are luscious, sensual flowers that are easy to grow. Recently, they've begun to come into their own as wedding flowers. Designers Colleen Hunter and Nancy Peterson of Lynch Creek Floral call them the perfect wedding flowers. Here are some of the reasons:

1. Dahlias are Seasonal.

It's good for the planet to use things in their season. Dahlias just happen to be at their prime in the summer and early fall, and August is second only to June in popularity for weddings. This means that even in the more northerly parts of the country, dahlias will be in season for a lot of weddings. And they bloom through September until the first frost. If you're planning a late-summer wedding, there's time now to choose and plant dahlia tubers for a garden wedding or reception.

2. Dahlias are Affordable!

You can plant dahlias for your wedding or reception site AND have glorious bouquets for less than it would cost to have more traditional flowers. Most florists are happy to work with dahlias, which have great substance, and are generally more showy and far less expensive than other flowers. If you're a do-it-yourself person, you can stretch your wedding budget even farther. And if you don't garden, chances are you're near a good dahlia source and you'll have the pleasure of knowing your flowers weren't shipped from some other hemisphere.

3. Dahlias Come in Almost Every Color.

Dahlia nosegayDahlias come in any color you might want, from purple and lavender to pink to vivid red, yellow and orange. And they come in varying shades, from white and palest pinks, lavenders and yellows to rich bronze, apricot and rose to deep, intense purple, burgundy and red. Okay, there aren't any blue dahlias—but there are plenty of dahlia hues that work with blue. And the wide range of dahlias means you're sure to find just that exact color you want.

Great photographers like Amy Cooper of Cooper Studios, whose work you can see below, love dahlias because of their color and form, and because their cell structure refracts light, so they show off in portraits and stills.

4. Dahlias Come in All Sizes, Shapes and Forms.

Arrangement with dahlias photographed by Cooper Studios
You can buy or grow dahlias small enough for boutonnieres, corsages and flower girl bouquets and, within the same species and color ranges, striking dahlias big enough for massive floral baskets or free-standing bouquets. You can have dahlias for personal flowers, the bride's bouquet, and church or hall and table arrangements, and you can plant dahlia tubers to have colorful, elegant dahlias in pots or flower beds.

In a series of postings to come, we'll talk about specifics in all these categories. If you, or someone you know, has a wedding in the future, or if you just like to see beautiful dahlias, come on aboard!

Monday, March 14, 2011

Dahlias Near the Arctic Circle? YES!

Sonja Benson's dahlia garden
Sonja Benson's dahlias growingWe thought it was pretty neat when Shiloh McCabe shared photos of her luscious dahlias grown in Anchorage, Alaska. But 370 miles farther north, Sonja Benson and her fellow dahlia lovers grow bunches and bunches of beautiful dahlias in Fairbanks, north of the Alaskan Range and not all that far from the Arctic Circle.

Sonja Benson's dahliasIt takes some doing, Sonja admits, to get from tuber to flower in a short season, and last year was the first time she ordered a lot of dahlia tubers (from Lynch Creek Farm!). "Before that," she says, "it was just extras from friends." She and other Alaskan dahlia growers take advantage of the long days of summer, but it's a short growing season outdoors, so they have to start their dahlia tubers in pots indoors, and find that by mid-September, the growing season's over.

In Fairbanks, she explains, the last frost is usually sometime in May, so most people start their garden plants indoors as early as February (some tomatoes) or in cold frames in April or May. "We need to get a jump on the season; we can have frost as early as August, and sometimes a fluke event in July makes us run out and cover our gardens with tarps," she explains. "I cut and pulled all my dahlias last year on September 21 after our first hard frost. Because I didn't get them started till late April, there were some that never bloomed. I found the differences in the plant heights from what was stated in the catalogue very interesting—our cool temperatures but very long days had a different effect on different varieties; some were gigantic!"

To store her dahlia tubers and protect them against the cold of an almost-Arctic winter, Sonja puts them into her basement crawlspace, wrapped well in newspapers and grouped by variety in plastic grocery bags, loosely tied. "That has worked in past years and I'm hopeful for this one," she says.

Sonja Benson dahliasIt's work, yes, but as a relative newcomer to dahlia gardening, Sonja finds it amazing and rewarding to see the results in her expanded dahlia garden. "At the end of the season I was cutting like crazy, giving them away, bringing bouquets to work," she said. She invited friends to come out and cut their own, and laden with flowers, they looked "like so many bridesmaids," she said.

Like bridesmaids, indeed. Watch for a future blog series on dahlias as wedding flowers!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Dahlia Pests: Some of 'Em Are Bigger!

Moose ignore dahlias in Sonja Benson's Fairbanks gardenOkay, so maybe we're exaggerating just a little bit to say the moose infestation in Sonja Benson's garden in Fairbanks, Alaska, is a specifically dahlia pest problem.

In fact, Sonja says this particular mother-and-calf duo didn't bother her dahlias OR her veggies, and that for the most part, the moose don't come through until the weather cools and she's done picking her dahlias in mid-September.

The fact remains that as communities expand outward, all but the most urban gardens are increasingly subject to depredations by deer, elk, moose and other ungulates. The good news is that while we can't say they're totally deer-proof, dahlias are low on the menu ratings for most of the ungulates. Roses, peas and beans are all things they prefer. (It's just as well, because to fence deer out of your garden, you must build at least 8 feet high, and then who can see your lovely dahlias? As for elk and moose, fences are of no use at all; they just knock them down.)

For the most part, you can plant your dahlia tubers and pick your beautiful dahlias without having to share them with your larger wildlife neighbors. It's much more fun to share them with your friends, as Sonja Benson will tell us in the next Lynch Creek Dahlias posting.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Dahlia Pests: Flea Beetles Fearsome

dahlia pest tuber flea beetle E. tuberis
dahlia pest potato flea beetle E.subcrinataSay dahlia pests and the gang at Lynch Creek Farm, which raises dahlias for tuber sales and bouquets, gives a collective shudder: flea beetles.

Some years back, when the Farm crew was expanding its collection of dahlias for bouquets and sales of dahlia tubers, a contaminated tuber introduced flea beetles into the dahlia field. "It was awful," said Nathanael Hartman, Lynch Creek's go-to guy. "You'd go out there and the plants looked like they'd been sprayed with birdshot." While the philosophy at Lynch Creek is to use natural and organic pest control if possible, pesticides were the only way to quell the assault.

Two species of flea beetle are of concern in the Northwest, the tuber flea beetle, Epitrix tuberis, and the western potato flea beetle, E. subcrinata. While of most concern to potato growers, flea beetles can inflict significant damage on tomatoes, cole crops (cabbages and their cousins), other vegetables, and garden flowers, particularly dahlias, coreopsis and other dahlia relatives.

Description and Life History: The adult tuber flea beetle is tiny (1/16 inch long), oval, and black with reddish antennae and legs. The western potato beetle is similar in size but is shiny bronze in color. Long hind legs enable flea beetles to jump, flealike, when disturbed.

The beetles spend their winters in protected places such as under garden debris and along ditchbanks. They emerge in spring and feed on wild vegetation until field and garden plants are available. They lay their tiny eggs on soil around the plants, and the small whitish larval-stage grubs feed on underground portions of the host plants, sometimes burrowing into tubers. Both larval and pupal stages are completed in the soil. There are one or two generations per year, sometimes a third.

Controlling These Dahlia Pests: Fortunately, quirky Northwest weather, with alternating periods of hot and cold temperatures and intermittent rains, is sometimes a good for quelling flea beetles. Drought conditions often brings an increase in flea-beetle populations. Using organic fertilizers and cover crops make gardens less attractive to flea beetles, and trap cropping with brassicas like Chinese Southern Giant Mustard or daikon radishes can lure the beetles away from your dahlias.

Row covers can help protect young dahlias from beetle predation. Since adult beetles overwinter in garden debris, keeping debris and other bug-shelters at a minimum is useful. Diatomaceous earth has been used with success by some gardeners. Some gardeners recommend catnip as a preventive, but overall, it has not proved useful.

Beneficial predators and parasites include Microcotonus vittage Muesebeck, a braconid wasp that reportedly kills the adult flea beetle and sterilizes the female flea beetles. Commercial formulations of entomopathogenic nematodes are reported as effective controls; they attack the beetle's larval stage, reducing root damage and helping prevent the emergence of adult flea beetles.

Oils and extracts like Neem, Sabadilla, Rotenone and pyrethrins are said by some growers to be the more effective of the botanical pesticides labeled for use on flea beetles. Rotenone mixed with an oil can be very effective, and integrated dahlia pest management plans are usually better than sticking to a single approach.

But it's all very depressing, all these pest descriptions, and there's not even the alternative of eating beetles, as one can do with snails. I'd planned to continue this series with dahlia viruses, but it's begun to seem so morbid, all these critters you can't get rid of without committing environmental damage. The back of my neck has begun to feel creepy-itchy, and I find myself eyeing my salad plate suspiciously, and wanting to rush out and cover the entire garden with insect-cloth.

So you can plan on looking for only one more reference to dahlia pests and then we'll take a break and look at some successes and suggestions that will be a LOT more fun.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Dahlia Pests: Bevies of Biting Beetles

Japanese beetle, a dahlia pest

cucumber beetle, a dahlia pest
Among the bevies of beasties that take a bite out of the delight of growing dahlias are beetles.

Which of them are the most unwanted dahlia pests? It depends on where you are. But nationwide, it might just be Japanese beetles. University of Minnesota's Jeff Gillman, an associate professor in the department of horticultural science, wrote recently that he was invited to speak on garden remedies to an audience of gardeners from all over the country at Epcot Center. When he got to the question portion of his talk, he said, the most frequent issue that came up was Japanese beetles, a major problem from the east coast to the midwest.

Japanese beetles, Popillia japonica, are half-inch beetles, metallic blue-green with coppery wing-covers. The 3/4-inch larvae are white, C-shaped grubs that do serious damage to lawns, turf grass and nursery stock, and collateral damage occurs when heavy infestations attract raccoons and Canada geese that dig up the turf to get at them. Adult beetles aren't picky; they feed on over 275 plant species. On dahlias, they may concentrate on the flowers, or skeletonize leaves, sometimes defoliating entire plants. They also hide in the convenient florets of dahlia blossoms.

Unfortunately, Dr. Gillman writes, "The first rule of Japanese beetle control is that you can't control Japanese beetles. Nobody has found a sure-fire cure yet and, if you try too hard, you're going to poison yourself and everyone in your neighborhood." Most recommendations you'll find come under the heading of "damage control," like covering valuable plants with row covers and destroying beetle eggs in lawns by allowing turf to dry out completely between waterings.

But the beetles are tough. Gillman advises. And some strategies, he says, "make the problem worse than it already is. Using a trap to lure Japanese beetles to their demise will kill a few—and may make you feel like you're doing something—but you will be attracting more beetles to your yard than you kill." And killing grubs, he adds grimly, "won't prevent adults from flying into your yard after they've hatched from someone else's."

Biological controls for Japanese beetles "just don't work that well," he says. Dish-soap spray and citrus insecticides aren't very effective and can damage dahlia foliage. Pyrethrum, an organic insecticide, will kill Japanese beetles, but it doesn't last long. Milky Spore Disease, a biological control, "usually kills less than 50 percent in good conditions," he adds. "If you're willing to go to a little bit of trouble, lose a few leaves, and use a little bit of synthetic insecticide, there is a way to protect your plants to some degree." His strategy, called "trap cropping," is to spray the beetles favorite plant—he recommends roses, but the beetle favorites are often dahlias, to judge from the blogs we see—with permethrin, and if you can get 7-14 days of clean plants, you'll kill Japanese beetles before they move on to other plants.

However, he warns, Japanese beetles "will seek revenge for their dead relatives."

Corn rootworm beetles include the western (Diabrotica virgifera virgifera) and northern (D. barberi) species. The western beetle is stripes and the northern is solid green. They are, as their name implies, signficant pests in the corn-growing Midwest. According to Iowa State University horticulturalists, the larvae feed on the roots of corn plants and emerge in July to feed on the tassels and silks of the corn. By August, when the corn is drying and the dahlias are beginning to bloom, the beetles migrate to other feeding locations and display an appetite for dahlia petals. Control of corn rootworm beetles, according to university agricultural bulletins, is difficult at best and cost-effective only when multiple pests are involved.

Cucumber beetles are pests that afflict cucumbers and melons, and incidentally other vegetation, across the country. The western spotted cucumber beetle, Diabrotica undecimpunctata, targets ornamental plants, according to Oregon State University's nursery pest bulletin. When large populations do appear they can cause leaf damage. In addition to a number of broadleaf trees, the beetles have been found guilty of pillaging among dahlias, peonies and hisbiscus. However, counsels the OSU bulletin, the western cucumber beetle rarely shows up in such large numbers that it must be controlled.

Bad enough that beetles are such greedy dahlia pests, chewing on our champions; the other issue associated with their presence is that they can serve as vectors for plant diseases, bacterial and viral. So it's just as well to do what you can, in as environmentally friendly a way as you can, to reduce or eliminate their presence.

Coming next: the vicious flea beetle, Lynch Creek Farm's nomination for the nastiest dahlia pest.