Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Hey, Dahlia Growers, Who's Got Flowers?

Baby red in pot 6/29/11
Here in the Pacific Northwest, where spring has been late and cool, the dahlias are up and growing beautifully now. But we suspect that some of you folks who live in milder climes may already be enjoying dahlia flowers.

We'd love to know how your dahlias are doing, and to receive photos if you'd like to send them. It would be nice, in some of our summer blogs, to include comments about the challenges you've faced, your biggest successes, your favorite dahlias, and why you like them best.

As a blogger for Lynch Creek Farm, I'm dahlia-challenged. We live on a slope with a large pond behind our house, so in addition to all the slugs (native and introduced) for which our part of the world is famous, we've got huge herds of snails that march their way up from the damp edges of the pond into the garden. Every year these dahlia pests managed to eat my dahlias as they emerged in the spring. Finally I gave up; why kill a perfectly nice dahlia tuber and provide a meal for freeloading slugs and snails?

Baby Red
This year, I decided I couldn't really blog dahlias without growing dahlias, at least a couple of dahlias. I chose Baby Red, a mignon single, which, if it survived, would go with the geraniums and other flowers on my front porch. So far I've foiled the slugs and snails by planting my dahlia tubers in pots and a disgusting killer kind of slug-killer that I wouldn't dream of putting out into the garden where birds or the neighbor's cat might get into it. So much for my organic principles. Baby Red is about five inches high, surviving far beyond the point where any dahlia of mine has managed to survive up to now.

That's my dahlia story so far. What's yours? You can use the comment box OR (especially if you have photos to share) e-mail We look forward to hearing from you.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Lynch Creek Dahlias Hit Parade: 2011 Best Sellers

Gay PrincessJabberboxCornel
AmorousMidnight MoonExcentricIt's June, the selling of dahlia tubers is over for the summer, and now it's time for the Lynch Creek Farm version of Your Hit Parade.

I know. You've got to be really old as dirt to remember Your Hit Parade, with Dorothy Collins, Russell Arms, Giselle MacKenzie and Snooky Lanson singing the big tunes like Canadian Sunset. So maybe it would be better to compare it to the New York Times Best-Seller List.

Anyhow, Andy and Nathanael in the Lynch Creek Farm office offer their review of the top performers in the 2011 season's sales. But before we start listing dahlias, a couple of caveats. One: you'll see two positions for each listing. The first is the overall end-of-season position; the number in parentheses is the position prior to Lynch Creek Farm's half-price sale. Another: sales are to a degree limited by the number of tubers available. A new introduction with a limited number of tubers available may place far lower on the list than it would if it hadn't sold out early in the season. Wider variety is an incentive to shop early (you can pre-order as early as August). Half-off sales are an incentive to shop late. We'd suggest doing both.

But we digress. Here's the list:

  1. (3) Cornel: dark red ball dahlia, 4-5 inches across, beautiful close petal structure.
  2. (5) Jabberbox: peach-colored formal decorative, 2-4 inch flowers, plentiful bloomer.
  3. (1) Gay Princess: pink formal decorative with fimbriation at petal tips, 4- to 6-inch blossoms.
  4. (8) Excentric: soft pink informal decorative, 4-inch blossoms with yellow at base of petals.
  5. (2) Midnight Moon: showy formal decorative, white with lavender tips, 4- to 6-inch blooms.
  6. (6) Amorous: formal decorative, 2- to 4-inch soft orange flowers with burgundy spatters.
  7. Puget Sparkle: bright red formal decorative, 4- to 6-inch blooms, great for cutting.
  8. Fire Magic: fuchsia-salmon-mauve blend, semi-cactus, six-inch blooms on great stems.
  9. (11) Kasasagi: beautiful little flame blend pompon dahlia, yellow with red.
  10. (9) Bodacious: red dinner-plate dahlia with yellow tips, a giant show-stopper.
  11. Wildcat: firework-bright red-and-yellow miniature semi-cactus, 2- to 4-inch blossoms.
  12. (4) Myrtle's Folly: showy orange-mauve-purplish laciniated dahlia with 7-inch blooms.
  13. (10) Miss Delilah: lavender-pink formal decorative dahlia with 6- to 8-inch blooms.
  14. (7) Swan's Sunset: a show-stopping giant informal decorative with yellow tips on red petals.
  15. (12) Elma Elizabeth: deep purply-pink dinner-plate dahlia with nearly ball-shaped blooms.

KasasagiFire MagicPuget Sparkle

Myrtle's FollyWildcatBodacious
Elma ElizabethSwan's SunsetMiss Delilah

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Dahlias Are Up, and It's Time to Weed!

Arturo and Artemio weedingIt's a sunny day in Lynch Creek Farm's dahlia fields, where thousands of healthy young dahlias have sprouted and begun to grow. So some of Lynch Creek's year-round staff are in the field, weeding.

This time of year, someone's sure to be out in the rows of dahlias, grubbing out the opportunist weeds. Weeding is essential to the well-being of Lynch Creek's fields and your garden, and to the propagation of beautiful dahlias, for many reasons:

Dahlia sprout
• Eliminate competition. Dahlias don't like crowding, and weeds compete for light, space and nutrients. Later in the season, the full-sized dahlia plants will essentially shade out the weeds, but when they're just emerging, they need the benefit of the sunlight and the moisture and nutrients in the soil for maximum growth and bud development.

Even if your dahlias are planted in mixed beds, they'll need the benefit of space when they first emerge from the ground. Some gardeners who like the look of the densely planted cottage-garden borders, for instance, will start their dahlias in pots and transplant them into their space in the garden (with nice rich soil amendments) once the dahlias are several inches high.

Young dahlias
Prevent disease. Keeping the dahlia garden weed-free and debris-free will help eliminate the development of fungus-disease spores, vectors that help spread viruses, and bacterial growth that can easily spread by contact. Some of the beetles and other critters that prove harmful to your dahlias will start the season chewing on the weeds and then transfer themselves to your dahlias.

Eliminate hiding places for pests. Dahlia pests like snails, slugs and earwigs like shady, moist places to hang out when they're not gnawing on your plants. Ground-hugging weeds give them shelter from which they can emerge to devastate your dahlia plants, especially when they are young and tender. In a damp spring like this year's in the Northwest, there's an overabundance of slugs and snails, so keep an eye out; if your garden's too big for hand-plucking or stabbing, you may need to resort to bait. (See February 22-24 blogs for more information.)

Arturo and Artemio weeding
For this reason, it's also important to make sure you don't have a lot of other debris in your garden and its immediate environment. Piles of pulled weeds, woody debris, even buckets and stacks of pots provide safe harbor for the creepers, crawlers, chewers and maulers that you don't want anywhere near your beautiful dahlias. Besides, a debris-free garden looks better.

Keep on weeding. In most climates, you won't need to water until your dahlias are a foot or so high at least. Keeping the watering to the minimum you need to keep the plants healthy and growing is not only cost-effective, but it keeps the slugs and bugs at bay as well.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Dahlias Part of Dalia's Quince Años Event

Dalia Martinez and her priestDalia and her bouquetWhen Dalia Martinez, the daughter of Alejandro and Guadalupe Martinez, celebrated her Quinceañera, beautiful dahlia flowers were part of her celebration.

Not only is the dahlia (Dahlia pinnata) the national flower of Mexico, but it's Dalia's namesake flower. So Lynch Creek Farm and Lynch Creek Floral teamed to provide Dalia with a lovely bouquet of dahlias and roses that she used in a part of her ceremony.
Communion at Dalia's Quinceañera
The Quinceañera, or Quince Años, celebration is an important ceremony in the lives of girls in many parts of Latin America and, in the United States, those whose cultural heritage is Latin American. It celebrates the transition from childhood to womanhood, and in the rites of the ceremony, the fifteen-year-old girl takes her place in the adult community.
Dalia and her padrinos
Her family and her padrinos, or godparents, present her with gifts symbolic of her transition, including a tiara, symbolizing her princess status; a rosary and a Bible, symbols of the faith; a scrapbook and pillow as recuerdos, souvenirs of the day. She may also receive a sceptre with which to reign over her special day; jewelry, often a holy medal; and a last doll, symbolizing the putting away of childhood's toys. She carries a bouquet, which is usually of silk flowers to be saved.

Typically, the event begins with a mass of thanksgiving in the girl's church. She is presented at the altar by her parents and padrinos, and is usually attended by friends, chambelanes and damas. In the course of the mass, she presents a bouquet of real flowers, usually roses, before the image of the Virgin de Guadalupe. These are left as an offering.
Dalia places her dahlia bouquet at the Guadalupe altar
At Dalia's Quinceaños mass, she presented a mixed bouquet of pink roses and dahlias in shades of rose and red, the gift of Lynch Creek Dahlias, which was designed for her by Lynch Creek Floral.

Following the mass, there's an extended party that includes food, music and dancing. As is usual at these parties, Dalia and her attendants took center stage at her Quinceañera party with an elaborate dance for which she and her chambelanes had rehearsed for months. Quinceañera is a great occasion for anyone. Lynch Creek was proud to have a small part in Dalia's big day.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Dahlia Diseases: Viruses Unpleasant Surprises

mosaic dahlia1Viral infections are among the scariest of dahlia diseases for growers and lovers of these great garden flowers. They're easily transmitted, and infected plants can be carriers while showing no symptoms whatever. And viruses can't be managed with pesticides. Whether you're a grower like Lynch Creek Farm or someone with a dahlia in a pot on your apartment deck, the idea of losing your beautiful dahlias to viruses is terrifying.

It is useful, say plant pathologists at Washington State University, to know the identity of the virus affecting a dahlia because they differ in terms of the vectors responsible for their spread, the type of damage the virus causes, and inoculum sources and control procedures. Only about a dozen viruses, they say, have been reported to infect dahlias, and only a few of these known viruses are commonly found in dahlias. Most virus transmission seems to be associated with wounds, mostly those made by chewing and sucking insects; the viruses then spread in vegetative plant parts, such as cuttings or divided corms. While they are easily transmitted by vector insects, they are organism-dependent and do not survive in plant waste, compost or soil.

dahlia with mosaic
Viruses can slow plant growth and affect the appearance of foliage and flowers. Virus-infected leaves can become spotted, streaked, mottled, distorted or stunted. The veins in leaves may lose color or develop growths. Flowers may become smaller, deformed, streaked or faded in color, or fail to develop color and develop into leaflike structures. Symptoms can be similar in various viruses, according to WSU's Dr. Hanu Pappu, who holds the President Sam Smith Distinguished Professorship in Plant Virology. Some of his research is supported by an endowment created by the American Dahlia Society at the land-grant university in Pullman, Washington.

Probably the most common of the dahlia viruses is dahlia mosaic, most often associated with the vector aphids. Of diseased plants brought to WSU Cooperative Extension sites for testing, more than half turned out to be infected with dahlia mosaic virus (DMV). Symptoms include the yellowing and stunting of new growth, according to Dr. Pappu. Additional symptoms can include mosaic (alternating islands of light and dark green coloring on leaves), yellowish spots splashed across leaves, and malformation of young shoots.

thrips, maginfied
Thrips is one of those strange words that's both singular and plural, so one bug is a thrips, as is an infestation of hundreds. Thrips are tiny, slender insects of the order Thysanoptera, so small that they're hard to see, mostly under 1/20 inch in length, with fringed wings. They're poor fliers but can catch and float on the wind.

aphids on rosesAphids, which are small, soft-bodied insects with long, slender mouth parts, live on the fluids they suck from plants. Almost every plant has one or more aphid species which occasionally feed on it. They are considered among the most destructive of insects among garden and market plants.

Both thrips and aphids feed on the undersides of leaves and thrips also attack the buds of late-season dahlias, causing rot. Controlling these insects will help prevent the spread of viruses in dahlias.

At this time, viruses cannot be controlled with pesticides. Dr. Hannu and others in the plant pathology field are looking at possibilities, and at Washington State University, there is discussion of starting a program which would involve treating virus-infected plants with chemotherapy. However, for the time being, getting rid of a virus-infested dahlia plant is the only way to prevent the spread of the viruses.