It's a bit of a hike to the back field at Butt's Berry and Flower Farm where the dinner plate dahlias are grown. Rose Oldham suggests we might even want to take our car and drive out there.
As we crest the hill, the huge field of dahlias comes into view.
Ahead of us, on the dirt road, we see that one of the summer hands is using a bike
to make the same trek to the back field.
Suddenly the sun comes out from behind the clouds and it is bright blue sky and dahlias as far as the eye can see!
The dahlias we have come particularly to see are the "Dinner Plates" which, as the name suggests, are blooms the size of a small dinner plate.
Put just one of these flowers in a vase and you already have a floral arrangement with a big impact.
This striking dinner plate streaked with magenta and maroon caught my eye immediately.
This is Dahlia 'Bristol Stripe'.
In the field there were rows of different shades of pink and lavender.
Dahlia 'Otto's Thrill'
Close-up of Dahlia 'Otto's Thrill'
Though I have always read that taller varieties of dahlias need some sort of support, none of the dahlias were staked. I asked Rose how the get away without staking the flower-heavy dinner plates.
"We plant our dahlias close together; about 12" apart. In tight rows, the dahlias seem to hold one another up. Another thing we do is to hill the young plants up with the tractor. I think this has to help as well", she replied.
Now you at home may not have a tractor, but you can still hill up taller dahlias to give them added support.
Dahlia 'Cafe au Lait' is a creamy mix of pink and pale peach.
Opposite the row of hot pink Dahlia 'Otto's Thrill' is a line of creamy-yellow flowers striped with red.
Dahlia 'Lady Darlene'
Dahlia 'Lady Darlene'
The flower petals swirl up from the centre like flames.
The field also boasts every hot color from tangerine to red.
If you want to grow dahlias, here is some brief pointers for storing them over winter in a northern garden zone:
To overwinter the tubers, wait until frost has blackened the foliage and then dig deep beneath the clump. Lift the tubers carefully avoiding any possible damage to the neck near the crown. Each mother tuber can yield as many as 10 more tubers by autumn.
Use a sharp knife to slice the young tubers from the crown. Discard the "mother" along with any baby tubers showing signs of damage. Bring the tubers indoors and wash the soil from the tubers. Allow them to dry for 24 hours. Use a permanent marker to label the tubers for easy identification in spring. Place them in cardboard box and fill it with dry wood shavings or sawdust. Store your tubers in a dry place that stays above freezing temperatures for the winter. (A cold cellar or heated garage will work well. A basement may be too warm. )
Dahlias are not all that is grown on the farm.
When we first arrived family patriarch Ross Oldham was setting off to pick
the last of this summer's strawberries.
There are also pumpkins and a variety of vegetables.
One final crop that I have yet to touch on are flowers that are perfect for drying, like these maroon strawflowers:
They have a fresh, new-mown-hay scent, hence the common name "Strawflower". More about
Strawflowers in an upcoming post.
Everlasting flower or Statice (botanical name Limonium) is an old-fashioned annual
that you simply hang to dry.
Have you ever seen these rather wacky looking flowers before?
These are an annual called Amaranthus Cruentus.
These similar, but pendulous flowers have the common name 'Love Lies Bleeding'. The botanical name is Amaranthus caudatus.
Amaranthus caudatus: A Victorian favourite, Amaranthus caudatus is great in fresh and dried floral arrangements. It is an annual flower that requires full sun and is quite happy in rather poor soil. As a seedling it likes moist conditions, but the mature plant is quite drought tolerant. Height can be as much as 3-5 feet. One word of warning: Amaranthus caudatus is quite the self-seeder and is considered invasive in some places. To avoid problems, harvest your Amaranthus caudatus before it drops its seed. Otherwise you may be weeding it endlessly next spring!
Finally, I would be remiss if I did not also point out that the farm also produces
gorgeous delphinium each June.
More Information and Links:
Butt's Berry & Flower Farm
5838 5th Line
Delphinium, dahlias, and a variety of other flowers are grown on the farm. Orders for special events such as weddings are welcome.
There is no catalogue at this time, but dahlia tubers are available for purchase each spring.
The farm also produces a wide range of vegetables, pumpkins and berries.