Dahlias my love | Columbia Basin Herald

Dahlias my love |  Columbia Basin Herald

Moses Lake – Everything you've always wanted to know about growing dahlias will be featured on Monday.

Valerie Parrott, owner of Pieces by Parrott in Moses Lake, toured the dahlia on Sept. 25, and will take another tour on Monday. Parrott Nursery supplies many local florists in addition to its own flower arranging business. In the process, she gained a reputation over the years for her skill with delicate flowers and invited the public to see her dahlia patch. About 50 people came out last week to take the tour.

“I've been getting a lot of messages from people (to me) because they want to come see the dahlias, so I decided to just put a little event together,” Parrott said. “I called it a dahlia tour. I just asked people to come out and they could walk through the rows. I told them some different names and some tips for caring for dahlias, the different dahlias I've grown over the years, the ones I recommend for the area and the ones I don't grow very often.”

Parrott's dahlias are arranged in a colorful space next to her home on N Northeast Road. They have a very diverse array of all colors and shapes, from small dahlias to huge flowers about 14 inches long called dinner plate dahlias.

“I don't grow a lot of dahlias on my dinner plate,” she said. “Because I do my own flower arrangements, and when you get a big, old dinner plate like a dahlia, it's very difficult to put that in a bouquet.”

She added that most of her arrangements are made using spherical dahlias that are 4 to 6 inches wide.

Dahlias are the national flower of Mexico, where they grow wild. They actually start life as tubers, and are not very durable, because they cannot survive freezing temperatures. Budgies have to dig up their tubers every fall and store them until spring when it is safe to divide and plant the tubers.

“Around February or March, I will dig out my tubers,” she said. “They grow like potatoes. They have eyes at the top of their crown, and that's what will sprout and be the stem of the dahlia.

Dahlia said there's not much to look at at this point.

“I put them in a seed starting tray with a little moist soil under grow lights, and start letting them pre-germinate,” Parrott said. “I let them grow to about six inches. Then I come in and pinch the dahlias and then prepare them for planting outside. Mother's Day weekend is generally a fun time; the fear of frost is usually gone by then. After I plant, it's very easy Caring for Dahlias I placed them on either a soaker hose or a drip line.

Most growers use a stake to prevent the stem from bending, according to the American Dahlia Society website. Tomato cages are also a good way to keep plants upright.

“In the fall, it's not fun,” Parrott said. “This is when you should dig up your dahlias. Dahlias grow in a big clump; they'll have between three and 12 tubers that they've grown over the years. So they can be small, or they can be as big as a basketball .

She said that dahlia tubers cannot be left outside during the winter, otherwise the tubers will turn into mush.

“I dig them up and divide them in the fall,” she said. “What I'm looking for is a healthy tuber (without) any rot on it. I make sure I don't see any signs of diseases because dahlias are susceptible to different diseases.

One such common disease is crown gall, which causes a cauliflower-like growth at the top of the tuber, she said.

“If I find it it will be put in the trash immediately,” Parrott said.

“After I separate the tubers from the bulk, I wrap each one in saran wrap,” she said. “And I put them in a shoebox or some type of cardboard box and store them in my pump room between 40 to 45 degrees for the winter.”

Dahlias are beautiful flowers, but they require some thought and effort, Parrott said.

“They are a business,” she said. “People come in and see the flower and think, 'Oh, can I just throw away some seeds and these will grow?' I encourage people to grow one or two but don't try to grow, like, 50 in your first year. Just try to grow one or two, get used to them and then start growing some more.”

The Parrott's dahlia field tour takes place from 5 to 7 p.m. Monday at 7275 Road N NE, Moses Lake. Submission is free.

Joel Martin can be reached at jmartin@columbiabasinherald.com.


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