Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Planning a Summer Wedding? Think Dahlias!

Dahlia bouquets are perfect for weddings.
If you are thinking about a summer wedding, think dahlias.

Few flowers make as bold and beautiful a statement as dahlias, or come in as wide a range of colors. From bright and bold to pale and pastel, there are dahlias for you. They show up in every hue but blue, and they blend with other flowers beautifully in bouquets, nosegays, formal arrangements and informal bunches. They even make great wedding cake toppers.

The dahlia "Just Married" tops a wedding cake.
Dahlias are comparatively inexpensive and abundant, but they don't look like you're cutting corners. Their luscious colors and wide variety of sizes and forms lend themselves to formal, informal and casual settings.

In much of the southern part of the country, dahlias are just about to bloom and will extend through the summer. In the northern areas, they begin blooming in mid- to late July and continue through the first frost. In August, a prime month for weddings, they're in full production.

Dahlias show off at outdoor weddings.
In fact, it's not too late to buy dahlia tubers (they're on sale now!) and plant them for a garden wedding in August or early September, when the weather's at its most stable.

Colleen at Lynch Creek Floral loves dahlias as wedding flowers. She creates great hand bouquets for the bride and/or attendants, uses pom pons for bouttonnieres, creates sweeping side arrangements with them, and tucks them into garland and floral arches. Dahlias are especially stunning outdoors, where their high water content and unique cell structure pick up sunlight so that they positively glow.
Visit the Farm for choices.

If you live in the South Puget Sound area, you can arrange for wedding dahlias at Lynch Creek Farm. Contact the Lynch Creek Farm crew through the e-mail connection on the Web site or by phone at 1-888-426-0781 toll-free or 1-360-427-8145 from the local area (Olympia, Tumwater, Lacey, Shelton). You'll be welcome to visit the farm, look at the fields of gorgeous dahlias, choose and order the varieties you want for your special day.

Whether you're a do-it-yourself enthusiast or have already selected a florist to provide your flowers, you'll be delighted with dahlias for your wedding.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Lynch Creek, Olympia Farmers Market are BUSY!

Customer Linda Shrum shows off her selection of new dahlia tubers.
It's the ideal time for planting dahlias in the South Puget Sound area of Western Washington, and the Lynch Creek Farm booth at the Olympia Farmers' Market is selling dahlia tubers hand over fist as gardeners prepare for the new dahlia season.

The market's a colorful kaleidoscope of fresh flowers,
tender new plant starts, produce, meats, fish, dairy products, baked goods and fresh eggs. You can enjoy Indian, Chinese, or Bavarian cuisine or local seafood specialties at tables under cover while you listen to live music. Browse for seeds and salsas, artisan jewelry and lathe-turned wood items, handmade soaps and handmade papers, fruit trees, perennials and, of course, top-quality dahlia tubers.

Cut dahlias are spectacular in late summer at the market.
The crew from the Farm will offer dahlia tubers at the market through late May. You'll find colors from lemon yellow through the warm tones of bronze, apricot, peach, pink and red all the way to purple and lavender, with forms from petite pom pons to dinner plates. Whoever's manning the booth will also provide helpful growing information; just ask.

After a break for tending the growing dahlia plants, Lynch Creek will be back at the end of July when the first cut flowers are ready from the dahlia fields. From then until frost, you'll find luscious colorful dahlia bouquets and an assortment of other flowers (statice, zinnias, and golden sunflowers) in ready-made bouquets or by the stem so you can create your own combinations.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Lynch Creek Picks: Gorgeous Bargain Dahlias

Each week from early spring until planting season, the gang at Lynch Creek Farm picks a few favorite dahlias that produced tubers a-plenty last fall to feature. This week's picks offer a palette ranging from intense color to luscious pastels. And because the Lynch Creek Farm staffers are such great folks, they knock down the prices to make these beautiful dahlia varieties even more 

Cornel is a mainstay at the Farm, a deep red ball dahlia with superior petal structure that provides a focal point for late summer and autumn bouquets. Four-foot plants produce long-lasting four- to five-inch blooms on amazingly long, strong stems. Cornel blooms comparatively late in the season, but the Lynch Creek crew calls it well worth the wait.

Coralee is the perfect flower for summer bouquets or weddings. A light blend of lavender and cream with overtones of pink, its formal decorative blooms are four to six inches across. The crew at the Farm calls Coralee a great all-around dahlia, good as a cut flower and garden flower as well, in a very desirable color. It grows on a 3.5-foot plant with plenty of blooms.

Ginger Snap
Ginger Snap pleases growers with abundant flowers on a leggy four-foot plant. Four- to five-inch waterlily-shaped blooms are blended butter-yellow and gold hues like late-summer sunshine. Abundant lateral growth on the plants provides dozens of blooms all season. Ginger Snap is equally useful as a garden feature or a cut-flower plant.

James Albin
James Albin bears quantities of large, bold, true yellow dahlias of the formal decorative type. Blossoms are six to eight inches across, striking in the garden at 4.5 feet, and good for cutting as well. Wind and rain can damage this one late in its long blooming season, but it's a true standby for dependable form and color.

Tempest has intense tones of coral, orange and red in a formal decorative dahlia with blooms four to almost six inches across. While its stems aren't long, it's still a great cut flower and its color makes it a brilliant addition to the garden border. Plants grow to four feet and bear lots of blooms.

Maarn combines incredible color with long, strong stems, making it a must-have for cut-flower use and a stunner in the garden. Andy calls it "easily the best orange" at the Farm; its soft color makes it super in mixed bouquets. Another formal decorative dahlia with a deep round shape, it's about five inches across. Plants grow to four and a half feet.

Midnight Sun
Midnight Sun shines bright in the garden. Showy bright yellow formal decorative dahlias show peachy overtones accented by dark foliage. An exhibitor's dream, this is an incredible garden dahlia. Blossoms are four to six inches across; plants grow to three and a half feet. Fully mature blooms sometimes appear darker in the center.

Kasasagi produces "tons" of two-inch flowers each season on a three-foot bush. An attractive pom pon dahlia, it combines red and yellow in a neat round bloom and is always popular for cutting. Its color makes it a desirable border plant as well; it's no wonder Lynch Creek has a hard time keeping it in stock.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

In Loving Memory of Len Hunter

Len Hunter
Things are slowly returning to normal at Lynch Creek Farm, but with a difference.

The Farm, quite literally, has lost its founding father.

Leonard Hunter—the forester who worked weekends growing vegetables with his kids and taking them to market, who saw the kids off to college, and who was there to be supportive when one of them came back to grow the little family business to a nationwide supplier of decorative evergreens for the holidays and dahlia tubers for summer gardens—died in Shelton April 10 after an extended illness.

Len, Andy, Rob and Jim harvest potatoes
in the early days of  Lynch Creek Farm.
Len grew up in upstate New York, and came to Shelton to work in timber sales for the Olympic National Forest. He met and married local girl Colleen Shrum. As their three sons, Rob, Jim, and Andy grew, the Hunters decided to start a market garden to keep their boys busy. They sold their abundant produce at local farmers' markets, first Shelton, then Olympia. The Lynch Creek Farm operation morphed over the years as Andy and his brothers grew up, adding a significant floral component and, at the end of the season, Christmas wreaths

As the wreath business began to grow and Len retired from the U.S. Forest Service, he involved some of his friends making wreaths, and a mail-order business began. Len made daily treks, often multiple daily treks, to the post office to mail wreaths and swags. Soon Lynch Creek Farm went online with its wreaths, centerpieces and other seasonal evergreen decorations. And Len the forester couldn't have been prouder as it grew, even when it took over his workshop, his storage buildings and his entire backyard. For a few seasons, he even signed on as cook, turning out hearty midday meals for the Lynch Creek Farm management team. Pot roast, spaghetti, pork tenderloin: Len drew on experience he'd racked up years before in the Forest Service.

Len did mail duty at Lynch Creek Farm and served for years as the messenger who brought in the muffins and pastries from the European bakery in Olympia each morning to Colleen's Lynch Creek Floral, by now a mainstay among downtown Shelton businesses.

Len loved historic logging photos, too.
In New York, Len acquired an appreciation of antiques, and in early retirement, he delighted in acquiring and restoring antique furniture, specializing in golden oak. His love of antiques included an abiding interest in antique tools, and not surprisingly, he specialized in hand tools from the early days of forestry and logging. He was generous in displaying his logging memorabilia and explaining the uses of the old tools to onlookers. Long a member of the Pacific Northwest Tool Collectors Club, he was quick to take off on the trail of an interesting misery-whip handle or an ax blade for his collection. 

Circulatory disease and Alzheimer's increasingly impaired Len's ability to maintain his activities during the past year. He was a patient for the last weeks of his life at Alpine Way Retirement Apartments in Shelton, where his family appreciated the excellent nursing care he received.

A memorial gathering will be held at 2 p.m. Monday, April 22, at Faith Lutheran Church, at 1212 Connection Street (off North 13th) in Shelton. Len was a strong supporter of community efforts and the family has suggested contributions in his memory go to the Mason County Historical Society, the Shelton-Mason County Chamber of Commerce flower-basket project, or the Mason General Hospital Foundation.

His signature booming voice will be missed at Lynch Creek Farm. Someone else will bring in the mail and run the errands, and the business will continue to thrive and grow, but it won't be quite the same. Len Hunter was a bit of a local legend, and he'll be missed. 

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Planting Your First Dahlias: Three EASY Steps

Beautiful dahlias like these are easy to grow.
1. Choosing Your Site

Dahlias are great for beginning gardeners. It's easy to grow beautiful dahlias with no experience.

With dahlias, it's location, location, location. Dahlias grow most happily in full sun, although they'll tolerate partial shade. Large-flowered varieties need protection from wind, so try to plant your dahlias where there's a windbreak if your area is windy.

To grow successfully, dahlias need a site with fertile, well-drained soil. Because their main root structures are tubers, they are susceptible to rot when the roots are in soil that retains too much water. If your soil is heavy or clay-ish, don't despair; you can probably amend it with a little shovel work.

Andy and the gang prepare trenches for dahlias.
Dahlia plant size varies according to bloom size; dahlias with giant and medium-sized blooms should be planted about three feet apart (or three feet from other plants in a mixed bed), while small, miniature and pompon dahlias can be planted two feet apart.

2. Preparing the Soil

If your soil is heavy or clayish, spade in sand and peat, composted wood shavings, or other high-fiber material. If your soil is sandy and lacks fertility, add mushroom compost, composted chicken or steer manure, worm castings, or well-finished compost from your compost pile.

Two to three feet apart and eye up!
Dig holes or trenches a foot deep. Line with good soil (see above) to support your dahlias' fast growth habits. If you wish, you can add commercial fertilizers with a 5-10-10 or 10-20-20 makeup, although many growers recommend sticking to organic garden practices with dahlias. Depending on the size of the plant, you'll be planting your tubers between 4" and 6" deep.

3. Planting Your Dahlia Tubers

Plant dahlia tubers after the danger of frost is past. In most areas that's between April and mid-June. Locate the "eye" on each tuber (it will look like the eye on a potato, and may even have begun to sprout a bit.) Place the tubers in the soil horizontally, with the eyes facing upwards.

Before you cover each tuber, pound a stake in next to it to mark the place and to support it as it grows. (Don't wait until the tubers are covered or you may damage the tuber by pounding the stake through it.)

Weeding protects young dahlias.
Dahlias are shallow feeders with many roots near the surface of the ground, so it's necessary to keep the row or flower bed weed free to avoid stunting the growing dahlia plant. (After the plants near full size, they will shade out any competing weeds and you can be a little less vigilant about weeds.) It's best to pull the weeds or use a very shallow hoe or cultivator to avoid interfering with your dahlias' root systems.

Protect your emerging dahlias from pests like snails, slugs and earwigs, too. You can bait slugs with beer wells or organic or chemical baits, go after them with stabbers or ammonia spray (salt is effective but not good for your garden), or try to use barriers like heavy layers of eggshells or copper strips. Organic soaps and neem are sometimes effective against insect damage.

Water very sparingly until the dahlias begin to bloom.

It's hard to wait, but before you know it your dahlias will reward you with beautiful blossoms.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Dahlia Lovers, Learn about Bargain Opportunities

Save on Dahlia Tubers with Lynch Creek's Weekly Features

You can save money this season and have beautiful garden flowers by late July when you shop the featured dahlia varieties listed each week at Lynch Creek Farm. 

Just Peachy is beautiful in the garden and a perfect
size and form for flower arrangements.
Each week the gang at the farm picks a handful of favorite dahlias that produced amazing numbers of tubers in last year's ideal growing conditions. That abundance in the dahlia field means great bargain opportunities for growers who want to start or add to a dahlia garden. These dahlias represent an abundance of gorgeous forms, colors and sizes. 

Among the current features is Just Peachy, a semi-cactus type with good, strong stems and a nice growing habit. Its nice five-inch size — big enough to be visible, small enough to be manageable — makes it ideal for flower arranging.

Savings on the week's picks are up to 50 percent per tuber, and at Lynch Creek Farm, you are assured of high-quality, healthy dahlia tubers. You can sign up for e-mail notification of these and other bargains on the home page of Lynch Creek Farm's Web site.

Save on Overstock Tubers on Lynch Creek's Web Site

Evé Munguia gets ready to divide the tubers of
healthy growing stock.
You can shop from the whole range of overstock dahlia tubers by going directly to the overstock list of dahlia tubers on the Farm's dahlia Web site. These are the same high quality tubers you'll find in the general catalog and in the Lynch Creek Farm booth at the Olympia Farmers Market. 

Overstock tubers are simply those tubers that the Farm has in abundance. Some are attributed to plants that just did amazingly well during the previous growing season. Others are the result of a larger stock of plants in the field for the flower market: those dahlias with good keeping quality, strong stems and abundant blooms. 

Lynch Creek Farm grows dahlia flowers for its Olympia Farmers Market stall,  for Lynch Creek Floral in Shelton,  for Whole Foods and for weddings.  Each plant makes numerous tubers during its growing season, so when the season's over and the tubers are dug for storage, there are more tubers available for the coming season.

Take Simple Steps for Chances at Free Dahlias!

Dahlia fields at Lynch Creek Farm.
It's not hard to be in line for chances at certificates for free dahlias. Just "like" Lynch Creek Dahlias on Facebook to be in line for a free dahlia gift certificate. Awards are made monthly; there are certificates for up to $50 available. (And don't worry; if you've already "liked" Lynch Creek Dahlias, you're already in the running for free dahlia tubers.) 

Those who "like" the Farm on Facebook are also in line for future prizes as well. Drawings for this season's dahlia contest begin June 1 and will take place for four months.

Want to increase your chances for a win? Double the odds by going to the right-hand side of this blog and becoming a "follower." You'll be entered again, and you'll have the added advantage receiving the blog regularly so you can stay tuned to the progress of the farm's beautiful cycle of planting and harvesting, with great tips for growing beautiful healthy dahlias and the opportunity to share your own comments and successes.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Check Out Featured Dahlias for Bargains

Colorado Classic
A phenomenal garden doesn't have to cost an arm and a leg.

You can have summer show-stopper flowers for a modest price when you start with dahlia tubers, and when you start with dahlia tubers on sale at Lynch Creek Farm, it costs even less.

This week's features: Glorious pastels!

Colorado Classic: Andy loves this one for use in wedding bouquets. An informal decorative dahlia, it has lavender-pink and white wavy petals that recurve toward the stem. "A stunner," Andy says. "It has wonderful petal structure and an amazingly long stem for cutting." Colorado Classic grows on a five-foot plant. Its blooms are classified as "small," measuring four to six inches across. While it is hugely popular as a cut flower, it's beautiful in the garden as well.

Excentric: A terrific late cut flower, Excentric has incredible color. To call it pink is to oversimplify; it has overtones of peach and lavender with a suggestion of yellow in the center of blooms that look upward. A shorter plant, Excentric grows only three and a half feet tall and looks stunning in a mixed border.
Just Peachy
It makes an excellent cut flower with good, sturdy stems. It's classified as an informal decorative with miniature blooms two to four inches across.

Just Peachy has simply luscious peach-colored flowers in a light blend flowing from yellow to salmon to pink. The blooms are deep and four to five inches across. The gang at the Farm love it for use as a cut flower, noting it has good stems. Introduced in 1986, Just Peachy has been a consistent show winner. It is categorized in form as a semi-cactus dahlia. It's a favorite with gardeners, with prolific blooms on a five-foot plant.

Park Princess is a big, bold, bright pink flower on a sturdy little bush. Marvelous form manifests itself in spiky style: its furled petaloids pale at the tips to almost white. It lends itself beautifully to the garden border or to use in a planter. While Park Princess plants grow only about two feet tall, its flowers are four to six inches across. This one's a true cactus dahlia, a show-off you'll enjoy year after year.

Keith H. features another wonderful color range from pale to golden yellow, with the edges of the petaloids lightly brushed with red-orange in the center of the blooms. In form, Keith H. is classified as a waterlily dahlia. Blossoms are four to six inches across and beautifully regular in form.  Abundant flowers make it equally at home as a showy garden flower and a good cut flower.
Keith H.
Park Princess

Lynch Creek Farm Makes It Easy

If you want to get e-mail notification of weekly dahlia bargains, go the the Farm's Web site; on the right-hand side of the home page and fill your information in the "Get Dahlia Updates" space. Hit "Subscribe" and you'll receive notice of great savings opportunities and other dahlia information.

You'll also find chances to win $50 credit toward dahlias for 2014 when you go to the Lynch Creek Dahlias page on Facebook and "Like" the Farm. 

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Dahlia Plants Most Vulnerable When They're Young

Keeping young dahlias weed-free
means well-nourished plants.
Baby your dahlia plants when they're babies

Dahlias are easy to grow, but it's important not to ignore them when they're young. As with most plants, the new growth is tender. It's growing fast, but it's still vulnerable from the time it first emerges from the tuber and pushes up into the light until plants are a foot or two high. During this couple of months you'll need to be watchful.

Once the plants grow a well-developed root system, they'll be stronger and more able to ward off bugs and dahlia diseases. Healthy, thriving dahlia plants are the most resistant to bad weather, to the ravages of slugs, snails and insects, and to disease. Your dahlias should be growing in a light, friable soil with adequate organic material like well-composted steer manure or mushroom compost.

Unless you live in a very hot area, don't water your dahlias until after the new shoots emerge. Tubers in a damp environment are susceptible to rot and other disease; there should be sufficient moisture in the tuber itself to support the new shoot until it's up and growing. Then water cautiously if needed; don't let the plants dry out, but be careful to avoid overwatering. In most climates your dahlias won't need watering until they begin to produce blooms.
Snails and their shell-free cousins,
the slugs, love tender foliage.

Prevent dahlia insect damage, critter attacks

Tender new growth is most attractive to pesky critters. Slugs and snails are likely the first attackers, and they can do irreparable damage quickly, devouring the first tender shoots as they emerge from the soil. The best remedy is prevention. Make sure there's no plant debris in your dahlia bed; if you mulch, use a fine-textured product like peatmoss to avoid creating moist havens where these voracious villains can hide from the sun. You may need to resort to slug bait; there are organic varieties available. Take care that baits or liquid products aren't used where pets and wild birds can access it or track through it.

Tiny pale spots are symptoms of
insect damage. A soapy-water bath
rid this dahlia of aphids effectively.
Earwigs, thrips and aphids and other chewing and sucking insects can affect growth and development, so try to ensure that your dahlias are free of these pests. Earwigs are wizards at finding places to hide, including under rocks, in the hollow stems of bamboo stakes, and even the dahlia blooms themselves once they develop. Murder them on sight. Soapy water is sometimes sufficient to arrest infestations of aphids (greenfly, whitefly, blackfly) and other small insects like spider mites. Beetles of various sorts are major problems in some areas.

Significant insect damage on the shoots of young plants can prevent full development and blooming. Many chewing and sucking insects also serve as vectors of viruses and other plant diseases. To minimize insect invasion, encourage ladybugs and laceflies as natural controls. Neem is effective against some worms and other larval-stage attackers.

Disease resistance takes time to develop

Plant disease is most serious it it occurs in young stock, some plant pathologists note. Dr. Hanu Pappu at Washington State University, who has conducted research for the American Dahlia Society, says viral infections have the most impact when plants are infected early. "Just like us humans," he says, "younger plants tend to be more susceptible to environmental factors and pathogens and they tend to develop some tolerance as they grow older."

Pale veins and chlorotic spots on
this dahlia indicate viral disease.
Young plants afflicted with viral disease most commonly develop a "mosaic" pattern of light and dark areas on their leaves. Venal chlorosis (yellowing along the veins of leaves) or chlorotic spots (random yellowish spotting) can also be symptomatic of virus infections. Stunting and wilting are also indicators of viral diseases. Check with your local Cooperative Extension office if you're not sure. Plants affected by viruses should be destroyed before they spread the disease among the rest of the dahlias in a planted area.

Root rot is another potential problem with young dahlias. Plants that fail to thrive and feel loose at the base of the plant may be losing roots to rot. These, too, should be destroyed, and the soil around them should not be used for planting other dahlias for at least a season or two.

Chances are you can raise dahlias for years without encountering any of these problems. And taking good care of your dahlia plants while they're young is the best preventive measure you can take.