Did you know that the dahlia is the national flower of Mexico?
The native dahlias found in the mountains of Mexico and Guatemala are the genetic source for the modern hybrid dahlias we grow today. While busy conquering the Aztec nation, 16th-century Spanish conquistadors pursued numerous side explorations that led to the discovery of the New World plant life. Botanists accompanying the soldiers discovered what is sometimes referred to as the tree dahlia (D. imperialis). The hollow stems of these plants, some growing to over 20 feet, were often used for hauling water or as an actual source of water to traveling hunters. In fact, the Aztec name for “tree dahlias” was “acocotli” or “water-cane.”
About 200 years passed before dahlia seeds, roots, and plants found their way to Spain and other parts of Europe. The Madrid Botanical Gardens named the genus for Andreas Dahl, a Swedish botanist, and student of Carl Linnaeus. Initial breeders of dahlias were more interested in the dahlia as a food source since the blooms at that time were not particularly noteworthy.
In 1872 a new box of dahlia roots was sent from Mexico to Holland and the only surviving tuber produced a brilliant red bloom with petals that were rolled back and pointed. Immediately dahlias regained their place on the benches of plant breeders who began to successfully combine this new variety (D. juarezii) with parents of early varieties. These progenies have served as the parents of today’s hybrids. Breeders today propagate new cultivars using various techniques and creating fantastic new colors, shapes and plant habits that perform well in the garden.
Dahlia is a genus of tuberous plants that are members of the Asteraceae (or Compositae) plants; related species include the sunflower, daisy, chrysanthemum, and zinnia. There are many species of dahlia in a range of colors and forms with hybrids commonly grown as garden plants. The flower varies in size and form. Each flower can be small or large, ranging from 2” in diameter to up to 15 inches. The largest flower form is informally known as a “dinner plate” dahlia.
The American Dahlia Society (ADS) categorizes today’s dahlias into various groups based on size, form, and colour.
There are several ways to enjoy your first dahlia. Most garden centers, home improvement stores, and mail order sources sell dahlia tubers (a thick, underground stem or rhizome) as well as blooming potted plants. A tuber looks like a sweet potato that grows under the soil surface and sends up strong stems. Additionally, almost every dahlia society has tuber and plant sales and they welcome guests to those events.
When to plant
Your tubers can go directly into the ground in the spring when the ground is warm and there is little chance of frost. One good guideline is to plant at the same time as you would a tomato. If you want blooms as early as possible, you can start the tubers indoors in good light about a month before planting time. By starting early you could have a small plant ready to transplant at planting time.
Where to plant
Dahlias require a site with good drainage and partial to full sun. Mono-culture and combination containers are also an increasingly popular way to grow dahlias.
How to plant
Most dahlias need to be staked to avoid falling over at maturity. Best practice is placing the stake prior to planting to avoid damaging the tuber and roots system. Tomato cages can also be a simple approach to staking.
Plant the tuber according to the package directions with the “eye” on the tuber facing up. The eye is the point on the shoulder, or crown, of the tuber from which the plant grows.
If you are buying potted plant dahlias, simply transplant into a prepared garden bed or decorative containers.
Protecting your plants from pests
Small dahlia plants are susceptible to slug damage. It is a good idea to manually remove slugs or to protect them with a slug bait or traps.
Japanese beetles seem to enjoy dahlia blooms just when they are ready for a bouquet. One of the best methods of control is to manually remove the beetles and drop them into a bucket of soapy water.
If other insects such as earwigs, thrips, or aphids become a problem, and you want your blooms to be “perfect” then you might want to consider using an insecticidal soap.
Deer problem? Dahlias are low on the deer’s list of favorite foods. While dahlias are not “deer-proof,” they are deer resistant.
Watering and fertilizing
Dahlias do not need a lot of water; in fact, excessive watering early in the season can lead to rotting. Best practice is to monitor the soil moisture especially if the local rainfall is less than one inch per week. In containers, Dahlias will require more water because of their limited soil volume.
Dahlias will generally benefit from regular treatments with a water-soluble or granular fertilizer. Traditional wisdom for dahlias is to treat with a high nitrogen fertilizer early in the season and then transition to a bloom-type fertilizer (lower nitrogen and higher in potassium and potash) in the middle part of the season. You should stop fertilizing later in the season or about the first of September.
End of the season
Go to the American Dahlia Society for this article on how to harvest and store your tubers.
Thank you to the National Garden Bureau and the American Dahlia Society for information in this article.
- Kristin Ego
Pantone features Ultra Violet for 2018As part of a yearly tradition renowned across several design-centric and creative industries, Pantone has announced that Ultra Violet will be its 2018 Color of the Year. Each year's decision is based on comprehensive trend analysis and a specific theme - this year, Pantone looks out toward the unknown and undiscovered.
"Complex and contemplative, Ultra Violet suggests the mysteries of the cosmos, the intrigue of what lies ahead, and the discoveries beyond where we are now," reads the announcement on Pantone's website. "The vast and limitless night sky is symbolic of what is possible and continues to inspire the desire to pursue a world beyond our own."
Pantone's Color of the Year selections are intended to be reflections of the current moods, fashions and foremost concepts in the world at the time. In selecting Ultra Violet, Pantone pays homage to the artistic influences of recently departed cultural icons such as David Bowie and Prince, as well as guitar legend Jimi Hendrix, whose usage of Ultra Violet shades are still remembered today as expressions of their individuality.
"Enigmatic purples have also long been symbolic of counterculture, unconventionality, and artistic brilliance," the announcement by Pantone reads. "Nuanced and full of emotion, the depth of PANTONE 18-3838 Ultra Violet symbolizes experimentation and non-conformity, spurring individuals to imagine their unique mark on the world, and push boundaries through creative outlets."
Other brands, such as Sherwin Williams, also offer their visions of prominent colors every year. This year, the paint producer named Oceanside, a rich, blue/green tone, as its Color of the Year for 2018.
Last year, Pantone was inspired by nature to select Greenery as its 2017 Color of the Year. For more information on Ultra Violet and previous selections for Color of the Year, visit Pantone's website.
- Kristin Ego
Allium 'Millenium' named 2018 Perennial of the Year
The Perennial Plant Association has awarded the title Perennial Plant of the Year® 2018 to Allium ‘Millenium’. This herbaceous perennial, relative to the common onion, is a workhorse of the late summer garden. Bred by Mark McDonough, horticulture researcher from Massachusetts, ‘Millenium’ was introduced through Plant Delights Nursery in 2000 where it has proven itself year after year earning rave reviews. ‘Millenium’ is spelled with one “n”, as registered, but is occasionally incorrectly listed with two “n”s. This cultivar is the result of a multigenerational breeding program involving Allium nutans and A. lusitanicum (formerly Allium senescens ssp montanum), selected for late flowering with masses of rose-purple blooms, uniform habit with neat shiny green foliage that remains attractive season long, and for its drought resistant constitution.
The genus Allium contains more than 900 species in the northern hemisphere, but is perhaps best known for a dozen or so species of culinary vegetables and herbs: onion, garlic, leeks, shallots, scallions, and chives. The genus is also known for a few dozen ornamentals that grow from bulbs and sport tall stems with big globe-shaped blooms in spring. The vast majority of the genus is little known and absent from horticulture, yet possesses significant ornamental potential.
Allium ‘Millenium’ has numerous virtues to add to the landscape setting. Growing best in full sun, each plant typically produces an upright foliage clump of grass-like, glossy deep green leaves reaching 10-15” tall in spring. In midsummer, two to three flower scapes rise above the foliage with each scape producing two or three showy two-inch spherical umbels of rose-purple florets that last as long as four weeks. The flower umbels are completely round (spherical), not domed or hemispherical as they are in some Allium species. They dry to a light tan often holding a blush of their former rose-purple color. While other alliums can look scraggly in the heat of the summer, ‘Millenium’ does not let the heat bother it! Easily grown in zones 4-9 (possibly zone 3) makes it a great perennial in many areas of the country. In very hot summer climates it does appreciate afternoon shade.
No serious pest problems have been reported. Leaf spot may occur in overcrowded growing conditions. Deer and rabbits leave ‘Millenium’ alone. Alliums are sometimes avoided due to their reseeding behavior. Fortunately ‘Millenium’ exhibits 50% reduced seed production, raising less concern for self-sown seedlings.
Allium ‘Millenium’ has a fibrous root structure forming an ornamental herbaceous clump easily propagated by division. Once in the garden, ‘Millenium’ can easily be lifted and divided in either spring or fall. Cut back foliage in late fall.
Pollinators will flock to Allium ‘Millenium’! Butterflies and bees will thank you for adding ‘Millenium’ to your garden. Pair with shorter goldenrods (Solidago sp.) such as ‘Little Lemon’ that reaches one and a half feet tall. Goldenrods are late summer pollinator magnets that will offer beautiful contrasting golden yellow blooms. Another late summer re-blooming companion perennial to consider is Oenothera fremontii ‘Shimmer’ with its low-growing silvery foliage adorned daily with large yellow flowers that open late afternoon and fade to an apricot color by morning. Being tap-rooted this evening primrose is well behaved, not creeping through the garden, for which, rhizomatous spreading evening primroses are famously known. Allium ‘Millenium’ looks great backed with the silver foliage of Perovskia atriplicifolia, Russian sage, or the native Scutellaria incana, downy skullcap, with its numerous spikes of blue flowers above trim green foliage. Or simply plant ‘Millenium’ en masse and enjoy the rose-purple display!
This low-maintenance dependable perennial will not disappoint! Blooming at a time when most of our garden begins to decline in the tired excess of the season, ‘Millenium’ offers much needed color. It is truly an all-season plant that offers attractive shiny foliage spring through summer and caps off the season with its crown of perfectly round rose-purple flower umbels!
USDA Zones 3 or 4 to 9
Allium ‘Millenium’ grows best in full sun. In very hot climates partial shade may be best.
Grows best in well-drained soils.
Allium ‘Millenium’ is a perfect selection for full-sun gardens where its sleek structure can complement many other growth habits. Cut flowers retain a blush of their summer color.
Allium ‘Millenium’ is a butterfly magnet. The plant is interesting through multiple seasons for both foliage and large, gorgeous blooms. Reseeding is much less a problem than in other alliums.
Allium ‘Millenium’ is subject to no serious insect or disease problems. Deer and rabbits usually avoid ‘Millenium’.
Martha A. Smith, Horticulture Educator, University of Illinois Extension
Mark McDonough, Plant breeder/horticulture researcher, Massachusetts
- Kristin Ego
Cacti and Succulents have definitely grown in popularity over the last decade. As more and more varieties become available they are increasingly in the spotlight. This is, of course, with good reason: not only are they easy to care for, but they can be showcased in so many ways!
Though often referred to as two distinct groups cacti actually belong to the succulent family. All cacti are succulents, yet cacti are a sub-species known by the presence of areoles (specialized sites where spines form) whereas other succulents have none.
The majority of cacti grow in deserts with low moisture, dry air, bright sunshine, good drainage and high temperatures. These desert-dwelling plants can survive for really long periods of time without rainfall. They get their moisture from dew or mist and store nutrients and moisture in their tissues.
The word “succulent” means “juicy.” Succulent plants have leaves or stems that are filled with juices, which is the stored water and nutrients that allow the plant to grow. These leaves allow the plant to withstand harsh conditions. Normally, these leaves have a glossy or leathery appearance, this texture actually helps protect them from moisture loss. Many succulents are also found in desert like conditions; however there are succulents which grow naturally in rainforests (such as a Christmas Cactus). These require semi-shade and humid conditions.
Most succulents and cacti require a lot of light. They are suitable for the sunniest of spots in your home. Be sure to turn the plants regularly so all sides of the plant get equal exposure.
If it is the wonderfully unique flowers you are after it is best to buy cacti that are already in flower because it often takes years for them to bloom. Before you buy check the plants over and make sure they are sound with no trace of rot or areas that are shriveled or dry. They should be just the right size for their pot and you should make sure that they are not exposed to drafts when you get them home.
Ensure they are planted in cactus or succulent soil which allows for good drainage. In Spring and Summer they will require a good soak, then allowed to dry in between waterings. In winter months they should be allowed to go completely dry, especially if they are in cool conditions as this allows the plants to go dormant. Most cacti and succulents like temperatures of 50-55F (10-13 C) in the winter.
During periods of active growth, cacti and succulents should be fed about once every three weeks. They should only be repotted once the roots completely fill their pot.
Cacti and succulents make great gifts, they are good for beginners or even the master gardener.
With all of the unique ways they can be planted, they are often used in home décor, and are great to give as a housewarming gift. Growing cacti and other succulent plants can be an addictive pastime, and many of the more difficult to grow varieties are considered a collectible.
Now is a great time to add a cacti or succulent to your home! With so many easy to care for varieties it is a great place for a novice to start and still great fun for the experienced indoor gardener.
We have a couple of workshops coming up which will feature succulent plants….for more details please check out our workshops.
Available for Spring 2019;
2" Assorted Succulent Plants $3.99 each
Quantity discounts are available for projects, events, weddings, etc...
$3.59 each for 25+, $3.19 for 50+ (growers assortment only - best available at time of order fulfilment)
3" Assorted Succulent and Cacti $5.99 each ( as available)
Larger pots of Agave, Aloe, Cacti, Echeveria etc are as priced in store :-)
Celebrate Canada 150!
In 2017, Canada will be celebrating 150 years since Confederation!
The time is now to start planning for a fantastic red and white flower show starting in spring 2017.
To help commemorate this momentous occasion, Ego’s Nurseries donated 500 Canadian Celebration tulips in the area at community gardens and parks for planting in fall of 2016. We are looking forward to seeing them bloom this spring!
For Spring 2017, additional bulbs will be available in a red and white theme… Dahlias, Gladiolas and soon much more.