Dahlia Emergency

dahlia tubers that should have been planted

I was evidently wrong when I opined that the dahlias wouldn’t take any harm if they waited for another week.  I skipped out of the office on Friday night saying, “the dahlias are calling to me”; but when I got home and opened the box of tuber from Swan Dahlias, I saw a problem.  The tubers were bagged together and had started growing.  Many of them had long, ropey roots looping around the outside of the plastic bag.  And the general rule is that dahlia roots don’t like to be disturbed.

I had planned on helping out at the Lancaster Garden Club Plant Sale Saturday (sorry friends) and maybe doing a little prep work, but most of the planting on Sunday.  However, this was something that needed immediate attention.

dahlias placed
dahlias placed

Up at five, I quickly worked in another barrow of composted wood chips and placed the tubers and plants on top of the beds before the sun hit them.  Then worked as fast as I could digging in the tubers and then the plants.

The plants are from Corralitos Gardens and I had missed the fact that I was actually buying plants.  They’d looked pretty ratty when I took them out of their shipping package.  Probably my fault because I hadn’t opened them the day they arrived.  I was able to nurse almost all of them back to health, losing only one Harvey Koop and one of the bonus plants.  Sad about Harvey as he was one of the biggest reasons for that order.  It was named by/for the father of the woman who owns Hamilton Dahlia Farm that I visited in Michigan last year.  I’d ordered two and the second one is still alive, although the weakest of the remaining plants.  Fingers crossed for Harvey.

It was a little awkward to work with the mix of tubers and plants.  They had different requirements for planting.  But it will be interesting to compare performance in my garden.  Some things I did differently this year:

  • Didn’t start tubers in pots.  There were just too many and the tubers I direct planted last year were only a week or two behind when they blossomed.
  • Didn’t water in– the tubers, anyway.  Plants I treated like tomatoes.  I’ve come to respect how little water they need as evidenced by the way they sprout vigorously, wrapped in newspaper; or plastic for that matter.
  • The holes for the tubers are deeper than last year, 4-5″ and I’ve filled them in only part way.  I’ll add dirt as I see the sprouts peek through.

One thing that made the task go quickly was the uncharacteristic planning work that I had done.  With this many colors and sizes, I needed to be organized.  All of my orders were documented in a spreadsheet where I captured key characteristics:  height, bloom type, color and more.  Then I used Visio to create a rough map of where I would put the dahlias, using cut-and-pasted pictures from the sellers.  I had to make a few adjustments while planting because of bonus plants and plants from last year that I wanted to use, but having this Visio made the job go much faster.  And it’s sorta pretty.

Visio-dahlia bed
Visio-dahlia bed

S. Williams Garden in Central MA

Late last week I saw an invite for a Sunday garden club visit to a private garden in Central MA.  I had been planning to get in two full days of work on my own garden but the words, “formal vegetable garden” attracted my attention.   In addition, I considered how much my garden reflects my efforts to integrate what I’ve liked in other gardens with my own competencies and style.  So I visited this incredible place. 

Although the plantings were equal to many gardens that I’ve visited in France and other parts of the country, it has very much of a New England feel.  You still can see the farm in the garden, and the extensive use of granite and stone walls reminds us of the character of the natural place.  I was told that the pink granite used for the raised beds in the formal garden was from a nearby quarry and matched the granite used for the foundation of the house.

I was particularly impressed by the attention to detail.  Although the gardens, both formal and informal, extended over many acres, every plant was exactly where it was supposed to be.  Near the house, no crevice between stones was left bare, just the collection and use of small ground covers and plantings was impressive.  Critter sculptures added their humor, everywhere.

Rhododendrons extended for what would easily equal multiple city blocks, but were mostly over, and roses were tucked sweetly into mixed plantings or trained against the stone walls.  The roses were also mostly over, I would like to see them in June.  Impressive displays of daylillies, in masses the way that I like them; hydrageas; and hosta vied with rare specimens and dramatic designs for attention.

With so many lovely plantings, ironically, my favorite feature was the chicken coop!  The roof was actually a shallow pan, waterproofed, and holding a pretty collection of succulents.

Lancaster Garden Club Plant Sale

I recently joined a local garden club, with apologies in advance as I don’t have much time to volunteer.  However, I did find time to help with setup of the club’s first ever plant sale on Saturday.  There were so many capable people there that I found time to take some pictures and videos while waiting for someone to tell me how I could help.  I’ve put them together here. 

[wpvideo idw9sEcp]The Choice plants included some really nice woodland flowers; I didn’t buy because I’m still working on cleanup of the garden adjacent to the woodlands.  Hopefully it will inspire me to get the poison ivy cleaned out and to create some growing places for special plants like these.  Assuming the volunteers will have energy enought to do it again; I could tell that it was a lot of work!