I just returned home from Everett, where I exhibited and judged at my third dahlia show of the year.
The siren call of the hundreds of beautiful blooms all in one place is impossible for me to resist. Besides the sheer “eye candy” at each show, attendees have the opportunity to ask questions, listen, observe and learn from the best growers and hybridizers in the world. Conversations are always rich, on topics that range from how they started growing dahlias to what works best in their gardens, depending on regional conditions.
Many of these people, when just starting out, were faced with the challenge of finding the perfect space to plant their first tubers. Some people managed to find space for them in existing gardens, but more often than not, lawns and yards have been sacrificed as an offering to the dahlia gods. I remember when I told my husband I wanted to till up a patch of grass just below our deck in the back yard — he looked at me in disbelief and said, “You want to what? Are you serious?” Using my very best persuasive tactics, I was able to assure him that he would thank me in the long run, because he would not need to tend so much useless grass. He knew that I would not be dissuaded and he threw up his hands and went to buy gas for the rototiller. Today we have six 4-foot by 8-foot dahlia beds, and it takes him half the time to mow. Just say thank you, dear.
Over the past several years, as a member of the NCW Dahlia Society, our tuber sales have steadily increased every spring. In 2014, we hit record levels with our sales and as a result, we are seeing dahlias popping up all over town. People in North Central Washington have learned that dahlias are not too hard to grow and they look great in home gardens, flower beds and landscape plans. They have discovered that the variety of colors and abundance of blooms are a great complement to other flowers and shrubs and if they treat their dahlias like annuals, they don’t need to dig the tubers each year — they can just start over each year with a new batch of tubers. On my own daily drive home, I see at least four homes with dahlias in their yard, just in the last half-mile.
The joy that so many dahlia growers experience may be reason enough to keep planting dahlias in their yards, but some may even consider exhibiting or competing. Our regional fairs welcome dahlias in their floriculture exhibits and anyone can take part. The Chelan County Fair will be Sept. 4-7 and rules for exhibiting in the floriculture section can be found at co.chelan.wa.us/fa/fair_schedule.htm.
The NCW Dahlia Society has their annual show at Pybus Market Sept. 20-21, where exhibitors have the chance to win ribbons and cash awards. This show is free to the public and there is no charge to exhibit. There is even a junior class of exhibition in which kids 16 and under can compete. NCWDS members are always present to help novice exhibitors to stage their flowers. Information and show rules for exhibiting are at ncwdahlias.org/documents.
Hope to see you at the fair, the show or in your own backyard, tending your dahlias.
Linda Holmes-Cook blogs regularly at ncwdahliasociety.blogspot.com.