Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Brilliant Dahlia Bouquets Brighten Farmers Market

Nathanael marketHead down the south row at the Olympia Farmers Market and Lynch Creek Farm's display of dahlia bouquets will catch your eye with brilliant color and texture.

Dahlias have a cell structure more like spring flowers and lilies than most late-summer flowers. The high water content in the florets that make up dahlia blossoms catches and refracts light, and the intense color of many of the dahlia varieties is eye-popping. Look carefully at most dahlias and you'll see that some of this intensity comes from shading and sometimes streaking of analogous colors.

The Lynch Creek Farm crew picks and conditions dahlias at their best and brings them to market Thursday through Sunday each week from the beginning of August to first frost.

Kate selling
In the fields at the Farm, the Lynch Creek gang also raises statice, zinnias and sunflowers, so the market bouquets may include these bright blooms as well.

Customers can choose from among a rackful of pre-made bouquets or, on the other side of the booth, pick out stems of their favorite varieties and invent their own combinations. It's the kind of activity that draws onlookers into the action.

While the market is a major outlet for the dahlia flowers this time of year, weddings and other events claim their share of the blossoms from the Farm's fields.

Kate and bouquet
On a recent weekend, the coolers at Lynch Creek Floral, Andy Hunter's mother's business in downtown Shelton, were packed to the brim with centerpiece bouquets of dahlias for a major banquet at Saint Martin's University in Olympia, as well as dahlia bouquets for weddings and a funeral. Once regarded as only a garden flowers, dahlias are now a florist's standby.

Meanwhile, at the market, it looked like every second shopper had corralled a bouquet of Lynch Creek dahlias. They were flying out of the market in a glorious profusion of color.

And all the while, back in the fields, the leaves of the thriving dahlia plants were transforming sunlight and water and nutrients into fat dahlia tubers, ready for harvest this fall and planting in dahlia lovers' gardens next spring.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Dahlia Fields Are Drop-Dead Gorgeous

field pastelsAll over the country, people are complaining about the weather.

Mostly it's the heat, but in Western Washington it stayed cool through July, and despite the fact that elsewhere there were droughts and firestorms and tornadoes, the local whining was horrific.

Everywhere, that is, except for Lynch Creek Farm. The Farm crew was loving the weather.

coral semicactus
Some strange combination of a cold spring, a cool early summer, and a warm (not hot, just warm) dry August has worked together to produce the most stunning displays of dahlia flowers anyone at the Farm can remember. The moist early growing season brought on strong, healthy plants and abundant buds; the dry blooming season means perfect blossoms.

And then there are just the natural characteristics of dahlias that make them so beloved by growers: their terrific stems, the wide variety of forms, and colors that simply glow. Brides have flocked to the farm, and there have always been plenty of their chosen varieties to fill their orders.

If you're in the South Puget Sound area, check out the dahlia bouquets at Lynch Creek Farm's booth at the Olympia Farmers Market (10-3 Thursdays through Sundays) or phone the farm at 427-8145 to arrange a field visit.
Best of all, in this Perfect Dahlia Year, is the result we can't see yet. This optimal growing season means wonderful, strong dahlia tubers are forming underground. When the flowers and plants succumb to the cooling temperatures of October and the tubers are dug for storage, they'll be in the best condition possible.
This year, Lynch Creek has an early-bird offering so dahlia lovers can make sure they get their first choice of varieties for planting next spring. Check out the online catalog and reserve your favorites now.

north field

Friday, August 19, 2011

Some Hints for Showing Dahlias Successfully

Dahlias at Mason County FairOver the years, dahlia shows have reflected popular taste. Early exhibitions featured new forms and colors as growers experimented with this horticultural discovery from Mexico. Through much of the 20th Century, size was the biggest factor as the so-called "dinner plate" dahlias grew ever larger and more dramatic.

Today, form is generally the largest point category for judging dahlia blooms. it's followed (in descending order) by color, substance, stem, foliage, condition, and staging and bloom condition.

Dahlia show foliage problem
Dahlia shows feature categories for single blooms, multiple blooms of one variety (usually triples, all of which should be uniform in size and color), and collections of five or more blooms of one kind. Entrants are expected to name the varieties of their entries, while in county fairs it's often sufficient to enter blooms by category or just labeled "dahlia." (Note: to identify your dahlias correctly, be sure when you plant your dahlia tubers in the spring to label the site with the name or variety number.)

In the display vase or bottle, single blooms should be of a height proportionate to the size of the bloom. Side buds should be removed well before the flower is cut (this is called disbudding) to display an adequate stem with leaves visible above the mouth of the container.

It's important to read the show schedule or fair premium book to find out such things as whether you're expected to provide your own containers and, if so, what size they are to be. You should also be able to place them in the correct dahlia category (by size, or type, or color, as required).

Proportionate stems
Flower arrangements at dahlia shows, as opposed to the categories in general flower shows and fairs, are often limited to bouquets, baskets, and large-scale standing arrangements. There may also be dried-dahlia and corsage categories.

When showing dahlias, it's important to cut the blooms after they've opened fully -- but only just after opening, so that they retain their fine form through the duration of the exhibition. To help them last well, condition them by standing them in deep, slightly warm water that contains a supplement to extend blossom life.

Showing your dahlias is fun. It also gives you a chance to compare your flowers with those of other growers. And of course, it introduces you to new varieties of dahlias you might want to add to your garden next year.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Show Off Your Beautiful Dahlias at Fairs and Shows

dahlias, Mason Co. FairAugust and September are fair and flower-show times in much of the country.

If you planted dahlia tubers this spring and are enjoying a bounty of beautiful dahlia flowers, you might consider entering some of them in competitions.

There are several sorts of events that offer the chance to showcase the best of your dahlias. County and parish fairs virtually all include a horticultural department, and in late summer, there are lots of dahlias on exhibit at county fairs. The categories in such events are often general: "dahlia" may be as specific as it gets.

Purple winner Mason Co Fair
These shows are often good places for novices to begin exhibiting their dahlias. Entries usually include single flowers, with other categories for blooms of a single variety and for collections.
Regional and state fairs, held in late summer or early autumn, may be a next step; they, too, often have open categories in horticulture.

Flower shows lack the critters, quilts, cookoffs and carnivals that fairs include, but they give the novice exhibitor a chance to rub elbows with people who know their dahlias and they're great places to pick up advice on producing beautiful blooms.

Both types of shows often include competition in flower arranging as well. Categories may include arrangements of a single variety, multiple varieties or even multiple species, and arrangements based on a particular shape or theme.

Orange cactus bouquet
In all cases, you'll do well to get hold of a premium book to determine what categories you want to enter, and to find out what guidelines there are. Some fairs and shows, for instance, require growers to supply their own vessels; others insist that all exhibitors use standard vases or bottles provided by the show organizers.

Dahlia shows are held worldwide. They may be separate events or part of general flower shows. Often they are sponsored by local dahlia societies (also sometimes called dahlia circles or dahlia clubs). In Canada and the United States, there are over 70 dahlia societies associated with the American Dahlia Society. The earliest groups were founded in the late 19th Century.

If you're not up for entering this year, visit a fair and see if you aren't inspired: the entries are beautiful, and you, too, can grow dahlias just as lovely. Need more inspiration? Check out the August preview of Lynch Creek Farm's dahlias for 2012.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Lynch Creek's Back at Olympia Farmer's Market!

market ladiesA week ahead of schedule, too!

Despite providing flowers for half a dozen weddings last weekend, the Lynch Creek Farm gang had hundreds of gorgeous fresh dahlia bouquets on sale (and sold 'em) at the Olympia Farmers' Market.

The fields at the Farm are bursting with dahlias. Each day, another variety opens its first blooms. It's been a strange year, with a cool wet spring that delayed planting, but a spate of warm, sunny days alternating with warm, overcast days has apparently been just what the dahlia fields ordered. Growth has been tremendous, foliage is looking great, and the flowers are, well, magnificent.

Grand Finale
Not only does this profligate display of green and brilliant color mean an abundance of beautiful dahlia flowers for weddings and the market, but it means that all those leaves are feeding strength into the dahlia tubers that the Lynch Creek crew will dig at season's end and prepare for buyers to purchase and plant next spring in their own dahlia gardens.

If you live in Western Washington, or plan to visit the area, don't miss the Olympia Farmers' Market at the north end of Capitol Way in downtown Olympia. It's overflowing with cut and potted flowers, herbs, vegetables, fruits, fish, meats, cheese and other dairy products, bakery goods, live music, ethnic foods, crafts and of course, Lynch Creek Farm dahlias.