How to add Dahlias to Your Garden

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As peony madness fades with the summer heat, it’s time to hail the beauty of dahlias. Dahlias are an easy addition to any existing garden and offer a large range of colors, petal shapes and sizes to fit your desires.  Also, planting a tuber around the frost free date will provide you with beautiful blooms in July and August, a quick, and bountiful payoff not often common in the garden.  There is a bit of maintenance of digging and storing tubers over the winter in very mild climates like zone 9, but you should have no fear in planting these in your garden and will have a great time selecting the varieties to add.

Dahlia 'Cafe au Lait', Cotinus coggygria 'Royal Purple'- How to add Dahlias to Your Garden, Thinking Outside the Boxwood

How to add Dahlias to Your Garden, Thinking Outside the Boxwood

 

 

 

WHERE TO PLANT:

Since you can add tubers to an existing garden, you have lots of options to place dahlias. Look around your home to see if you have any of the locations below that meet the full sun and well-drained soil requirements, if you do then move on to selecting the varieties you want to order!

 

- In a perennial border, or in an existing bed at your home. Looking at the existing foundational plantings around your house, see if there are spaces you can place a few dahlias.  The taller varieties are great in the background or mixed near taller plants, while place some of lower varieties in the front.

How to add Dahlias to Your Garden, Thinking Outside the Boxwood

This is a client’s front yard perennial bed. It is located behind a boxwood hedge and is filled with a mixture of blue/purple perennials. We have a few containers spaced through the bed to add seasonal color, along with these cafe au lait dahlias.  

 

 

- In a container. Anyone with a front porch, stoop, balcony or patio that gets full sun can do this option.  Use the taller varieties (30-40 inches) as the “thriller” in your container.  Or fill an entire container with the shorter varieties (20-24 inches).

How to add Dahlias to Your Garden, Thinking Outside the Boxwood

This is a garden created by Deborah Silver from Detroit Garden Works I visited a few years ago with the Association of Professional Landscape Designer (APLD). Deborah added dahlias with other perennial and annual flowers in these large containers. You can also do in smaller container, with 1-2 of each plant variety. 

 

 

- With your Vegetables. Pollinators love dahlias and so will your vegetables. Since you are already in with the vegetables watering, feeding and harvesting, this is an easy location to add some dahlias. You can add these along the edges our outside the fence line. This is a great place for the taller varieties.

How to add Dahlias to Your Garden, Thinking Outside the Boxwood

Here is a client’s vegetable garden which features a pollinator and cutting garden  inside the vegetable garden. To the left of these dahlias there is a swing and the dining table in the center allows the homeowners to enjoy the blooms while they are still in the garden. 

   How to add Dahlias to Your Garden, Thinking Outside the Boxwood  

Here is a harvest of both the dahlias and vegetables from a client’s garden. Fresh food and flowers for dinner is a great combo. 

 

HOW TO PLANT:

The best place to plant is in a location that gets full sun and well-drained soil. Since you are planting these for the blooms, provide lots of organic matter when planting and weekly feeding once buds appear for the best blooms.

 

How to add Dahlias to Your Garden, Thinking Outside the Boxwood

SELECTING THE VARIETY:

I mentioned earlier there is a wide variety of distinctive features to dahlias, giving you lots of options in color, petal shape and size to select. Two great sites for selecting which colors, shapes or varieties you like are the following;

The National Dahlia Collection – This site provides you with a vast listing of dahlias that helps you see the options in shapes and colors. Broken down into; ball, cactus, collerette, decorative, dwarf, pompon, semi cactus, waterlily, miscellaneous.  -  https://nationaldahliacollection.co.uk/selecting-dahlias

Floret Flowers – A specialty cut flower grower extraordinaire in the pacific northwest, she is a big fan of dahlias, and shares all favorites with successes and failures in beautiful flowers.

 

 

HOW TO BUY:

Since dahlias are typically planted from tubers, online ordering is very easy and offers a large selection. You will want to time your ordering to get the best selection – think early January to place a preorder for spring shipping. But you can start pre-shopping suppliers now for your selected varieties and confirm when they expect to start taking dahlia orders.

 

If you are a bit more impatient to get blooms this year – you can check at your local garden center to see if they have some established plants growing for you can transplant into your garden. However, at this point it will be slim pickings for the varieties (if any), but worth a try.

 

 

 

Plant ID: Amsonia

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While talking plant options for our garden at home, I looked at the three varieties of Amsonia growing around our offices. I use this plant in my designs predominately for the texture of the foliage, however the flower is a strong attraction in the garden in late spring. Amsonia is the perfect plant to showcase the subtle variation between the different varieties.  The three varieties we grow are are Amsonia ‘Blue Ice’, tabernaemontana, and hubrichtti.

Plant ID: Amsonia, Thinking Outside the Boxwood,  (Left to right: Amsonia 'Blue Ice', A. tabernaemontana, A. hubrichtti)

All the varieties are great for use in a perennial garden since they grow in a good sized clumps, flower from mid-spring to early summer, have great dense foliage and with some varieites (like hubrichtti) that provide a beautiful golden fall color.  Amsonia are great pollinators that require very little maintenance once established and are very tolerant to less than ideal soil.   It should be noted that one amsonia variety is not always a substitute for another so its important to know the different between each.  Below are the details on my favorite three varieties.

 

Amsonia ‘Blue Ice’

This cultivar is growing in a cluster at the edge of our gardens near a salvaged foundation stone. This species grows low, 1-1.5 feet tall and in a 1-1.5 foot cluster with very dense foliage that does a great job filling a border. It is low maintenance, deer proof and grows in full sun to part shade.  We have been growing this cluster for about 5 years and has preformed well from day one.  This cultivar has one of the best flowers of all the Amsonia and you can see by its beautiful blue color where it gets the name ‘Blue Ice’

Plant ID: Amsonia, Thinking Outside the Boxwood, Amsonia 'Blue Ice'

 

 

Amsonia tabernaemontana

This species of amsonia is one of the taller selections. This plant reaches 2-3 feet and with much longer stalks. We are growing tabernaemontana in two locations in our gardens, and due to the amount of sun each location gets the plants vary a bit in size from the sun to more of a shady area, but has adapted well to both locations.  The flower is a pale / sky blue.

Plant ID: Amsonia, Thinking Outside the Boxwood, Amsonia tabernaemontana

 

Amsonia hubrichtti

In our garden I designed a “river” A. hubrichtti in a 35ft long band snaking through our ever changing west perennial bed. Growing between 2-3 feet tall.  I really like using this species for the extra fine foliage which is not often seen in the garden.  It is great grown in mass and also as an individual specimen.  This flower is the lightest in color of the three species almost white with a hint of blue.

Plant ID: Amsonia, Thinking Outside the Boxwood, Amsonia hubrichtti

 

Here is a comparison of the three species we are growing for a comparison. I have provided more detailed images to showcase the flowers and foliage shapes in images further below.

Plant ID: Amsonia, Thinking Outside the Boxwood,  (Left to right: Amsonia 'Blue Ice', A. tabernaemontana, A. hubrichtti)

 

The color and petals varies from each variety. By viewing just the blooms you can see the subtle changes in each of the five petal shapes.  (Left to right: Amsonia ‘Blue Ice’, A. tabernaemontana, A. hubrichtti)  It is really interesting to see how A. tabernaemontana really is the combination of the deep blue of ‘Blue Ice’ and the white/greens of  A. hubrichtti.

Plant ID: Amsonia, Thinking Outside the Boxwood,  (Left to right: Amsonia 'Blue Ice', A. tabernaemontana, A. hubrichtti)

 

You can also see the variation in the foliage shapes between the varieties below.  (Left to right: Amsonia ‘Blue Ice’, A. tabernaemontana, A. hubrichtti)

Plant ID: Amsonia, Thinking Outside the Boxwood,  (Left to right: Amsonia 'Blue Ice', A. tabernaemontana, A. hubrichtti)

 

All the photos from above were taken during the spring season (this or last week), but it helps to see the plants throughout the seasons. Below are two images of Amsonia hubrichtti from a clients home in June (green foliage) and October (golden color) to provide the seasonal progression of the plant.

Plant ID: Amsonia, Thinking Outside the Boxwood

 

Amsonia hubrichtti has to be one of the perennials with the best fall color.  In October the foliage turns a bight gold / yellow.  It is truly a major highlight of this species.

 Plant ID: Amsonia, Thinking Outside the Boxwood

 

Let me know if you have any other questions on these varieties of amsonia.

 

 

Greenhouse in the Spring

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Leading up to Memorial Day weekend is our busiest planting week across all clients and projects.  The weekend follows shortly after our frost-free date, which results in a buildup in the greenhouse followed by a mass clearing out by early June. The following photos show the progression of our greenhouse over the past few weeks leading up to this week and how quickly things change. I will follow up this post in early June to show the much altered state.

 

GREENHOUSE SPACE:

We order in about 5,000 perennials and 15,000 – 20,000 annuals plants for the start of the session for our own use, we are not a nursery that is open to the public. We start in February potting and organizing the greenhouse and continue for the remainder of the spring monitoring until the plants are loaded for client projects. We store these items between two greenhouses and one perennial pad. We also have dedicated space for larger shrubs and trees which is more real-time inventory system.  The photos below show our greenhouse spaces between April 20 – May 18.

 

IN THE GREENHOUSE, APRIL 20. 

This is the interior of our main greenhouse which houses are delicate perennials/succulent collection over the winter and our collection of annuals for the season. We use as much space as we can with overhead drip lines watering hanging annuals. It should be noted that we don’t use the hanging baskets as hanging baskets, rather we will take the entire 10″ basket and plant it in the ground for maximum impact.  By this date, we have been growing the annuals for 1.5 months. We plan that we will house the plants for 8-10 weeks from plug to install. Greenhouse in the Spring, Thinking Outside the Boxwood Greenhouse in the Spring, Thinking Outside the BoxwoodGreenhouse in the Spring, Thinking Outside the Boxwood

 

 

 

By this point we have moved our perennials out to the pad area.  This compact location gives us easy watering, access and ability to cover should we need during frost etc while freeing up greenhouse space for the more delicate plants.

Greenhouse in the Spring, Thinking Outside the Boxwood Greenhouse in the Spring, Thinking Outside the Boxwood

 

We have a second greenhouse that we use primarily to house more delicate perennials.

Greenhouse in the Spring, Thinking Outside the Boxwood

 

IN THE GREENHOUSE APRIL 27. 

We have reached our 2 month mark for annuals and we had a fairly mild spring with warm days and a few cold snaps. You can tell the

 

Greenhouse in the Spring, Thinking Outside the Boxwood

 

 

I love the graphic patterns in the placement of the plants on the tables. Greenhouse in the Spring, Thinking Outside the Boxwood

Below you can see how the drip lines are feeding our hanging annuals. These plants will be going into the ground, not continue as hanging baskets. This method provides us with larger plants at installation compared to a traditional flat size.

Greenhouse in the Spring, Thinking Outside the Boxwood

 

You can see the growth on the perennial pads and the additional of a few more plants from the perennial greenhouse.

 

Greenhouse in the Spring, Thinking Outside the Boxwood

Greenhouse in the Spring, Thinking Outside the Boxwood

 

 

This is a look at the perennial greenhouse looking from the other direction. We use use rice haul (the light brown surrounding a few of the plants) on a few of the perennials to keep the weeds down to a minimum.

Greenhouse in the Spring, Thinking Outside the Boxwood

 

 

IN THE GREENHOUSE MAY 18. 

By this point we had just started planting our annuals in the ground and the organization of the greenhouse gets distributed by the constant pulling for projects. The annuals in the hanging baskets are much bigger than back on April 27 and will make instant impact when planted in ground compared to traditional flats.  I took fewer photos this week, mainly because it started getting chaotic.

Greenhouse in the Spring, Thinking Outside the Boxwood

 

Here are a client’s window baskets planted and ready to load for install. We use the end of the greenhouse for easy staging, potting and loading.

Greenhouse in the Spring, Thinking Outside the Boxwood

 

By this point the center isle of the perennial greenhouse is getting tighter and tighter.

Greenhouse in the Spring, Thinking Outside the Boxwood