Five years ago, I vowed not to buy flowers from a florist or grocery. I've pretty much stuck to that promise. In addition to walking out into our fields and harvesting wildflowers to my heart's content, it seems I have stumbled into growing a cutting garden of dahlias and zinnias. It takes remarkably little effort and returns an immense amount of pleasure. It makes me crazy happy.
This is the first year that I have grown dahlias, encouraged by my niece Laura who sent me three tubers back in the spring that she shared from her collection. I also ordered three tubers from Floret, a family-run farm located in Washington's Skagit Valley. This handful of tubers grew into massively producing plants, yielding more than 100 beautiful blooms each.
Every morning from mid-July until mid-October, I could walk out to the raised bed in front of the guest cottage and harvest a dozen dahlias – each one more beautiful than the next. I'd "arrange" them in a canning jar and give them away as thinking-of-you presents. (They were very well received!)
Because they cannot survive our freezing winters, Ed and I dug up the dahlia tubers this weekend. I wasn't sure what I would find when Ed stuck his pitchfork in. In the place of the single tuber that I planted back in May, we pulled up tangles of tubers, at least 50 in total. I've washed the dirt off of the clumps and are leaving them to dry out for a day or two before preparing them for winter storage in our dark and cold basement. If you are interested, Erin of Floret has a terrific video about how to dig, separate and store dahlias. You can find a link here.
Now let's talk zinnias. They were out of control this summer and I loved it. I had saved seeds from last year's flowers and planted them rather thickly in front of my garden gate. Because they were growing so densely, I gently uprooted several dozen stems when they were about a foot tall and transplanted them into the cottage garden. They flourished.
I suspect that my original seeds were not open-pollinated varieties; that they were hybrids. So my individual flowers did not necessarily grow true to the originals. But what they lacked in perfection, they make up for in profusion – attracting a plentitude of pollinators. (Try saying that three times!)
When we got back from our recent trip, I harvested a hundred or so zinnia flower heads. They are now drying on a tray in the laundry room.
Once totally dry, I'll gently pull the seeds from the heads and save them for next spring.
Let me know if you want some dahlia tubers or some zinnia seeds. Then you too can be crazy happy!