Late Summer Flowers: Where to Find Dahlias in the Seattle Area

Late Summer Flowers: Where to Find Dahlias in the Seattle Area

It's been a productive summer full of flowers all over the Seattle area — peonies, roses, hydrangeas and other explosive, bright blooms filling our parks and street corners.

Even though the official start of fall is just around the corner, and many flowers have already bloomed, you can still see one last flower in abundance – dahlias.

There are more than 50,000 registered species of dahlias, and currently, many of the flower's 20 distinct shapes and sizes can be seen in peak bloom around the Seattle area, said Roger Walker, co-president of the Puget Sound Dahlia Society.

Dahlias are flowers that bloom in late summer, marking the back of most flowers' peak season and continuing, in some cases, into October (or until the first frost arrives).

It thrives in Seattle's mild summers and high humidity, one reason the city has been named the official perennial flower for nearly 110 years.

The flower, which is usually planted in spring with warm-season crops such as annuals or vegetables, is a tuber, just like a potato. Tubers are short, thick underground stems. Thanks to their nourishing roots, tubers allow the plant to receive, process and store water and nutrients from the soil.

It is an “easy-care plant,” requiring only “sun, water and good soil,” according to the Dahlia Society. Its flowers range from small 4 inches to the size of large dinner plates.

“The good thing about dahlias is that you can just plant a few of them to add color to your garden,” Walker said. “Or you can go wild and become a dahlia showr, judge, and even a hybridizer striving to develop new varieties. There's something for everyone.”

Walker said he especially likes the variety of shapes, sizes and colors of dahlias.

They're also fairly easy to grow, although crazy models spend much more time caring for them than the average gardener. But even for the most casual gardener, dahlias are tolerant and will do great with minimal care.

When Seattle named the dahlia its official flower, the city park board agreed to an expanded display of these flowers in various city parks, according to an April 16, 1914, story in the Seattle Daily Times, now Seattle. times.

The most abundant display of dahlias in Seattle today is at Volunteer Park, said Rachel Shulkin, a spokeswoman for Seattle Parks and Recreation.

The Volunteer Park dahlia bed is maintained by the Puget Sound Dahlia Association, which also manages the beds at Big Rock Park Central in Sammamish and the Bellevue Botanical Garden.

The Dahlia Society, founded in 1976, is one of the largest dahlia organizations in North America with more than 200 members, according to Walker.

The Bellevue Botanical Garden bed has moved “several times as the garden has evolved,” Walker said, landing in its current “prime location” this year.

Walker recently hosted a garden tour, showing guests a collection of 150 to 200 dahlia plants, which change from year to year, he said.

“We try to grow varieties that will appeal to the public,” Walker said. “You'll see variegated and bicolored varieties that may not do well in crowded show competitions, but are favorites in the garden.” As for his favorite class, he said: “I won't go there.” “No favourites.”

Here's where to find blooming dahlias in the Seattle area:

Bellevue Botanical Garden

One year after Bellevue Botanical Garden opened to the public in 1992, the Puget Sound Dahlia Society installed its first display of dahlias on the grounds. The dahlias in the bed change every year, and the association grows varieties that appeal to the public. Guests can view up to 200 dahlias in the garden. 12001 Main Street, Bellevue; 425-452-2750;

Big Rock Park Central

Big Rock Park Central is a 20-acre park located in the heart of Sammamish. The garden includes dense forest cover, open meadows, a river, trails winding through the property, and of course a dahlia bed maintained by the Puget Sound Dahlia Society. 1516 220th Street SE, Sammamish; 425-295-0585;

Point Defiance Park

Tacoma's Point Defiance Park is home to an array of attractions, such as the Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium, Five Mile Drive and Trails, Owen Beach, and the park's various gardens. The Dahlia Trial Garden at Point Defiance Park is one of the largest official trial gardens in the United States and Canada, and is maintained in partnership with the Washington State Dahlia Society.

The garden includes tubers sent by dahlia growers from the United States, Canada, England, New Zealand and Australia. Each year, dahlias are graded by judges of the American Dahlia Society. Dahlias that score between 85 and 100 points are included in the association's annual rating book. It is then named and becomes available to the general public, according to Metro Parks Tacoma. 5400 N. Pearl Street, Tacoma; 253-209-5806;

Volunteer Park

Volunteer Park, located in Seattle's Capitol Hill neighborhood, features plenty of permanent landscaping and even a conservatory. From July until the first frost, dahlias bloom abundantly in the bed of the Puget Sound Dahlia Society, which members have planted annually since 1984. 1247 15th Ave E, Seattle; 206-684-4075;

If you've planted your dahlias this year, here's what to do when the first frost arrives and some tips for next season. Plus, advice for anyone who wants to start over in the spring.

Falling: To dig or not to dig?

  • Digging up the tubers and dividing them every two years will keep your dahlias healthy.
  • The Dahlia Society recommends lifting and dividing clumps of tubers in late fall. Wait two weeks after a frost kills the foliage to allow the tuber to harden and heal, then dig up the tuber, card it and store it in a cool place such as an unheated garage or porch at 40 to 50 degrees.
  • You can divide now or in the spring with a sharp knife and careful concentration. There is a swollen part of the tuber where it meets last year's stem. You need a piece of it to ensure that the tuber will have an eye (growing tip). Check your stored tubers monthly to make sure they are looking good.

Spring: location and planting

  • The Dahlia Society recommends planting only when days become warmer, which is usually early May in the Seattle area.
  • Choose a well-drained location that gets at least six hours of sun.
  • Add compost to the area before planting. When temperatures exceed 60 degrees, plant the tuber 4 to 6 inches deep on its side with the eyes facing up. If desired, use a slow-release organic fertilizer with a lower nitrogen level (the first number in the fertilizer ratio), such as 5-10-10.
  • Promote good air circulation to avoid powdery mildew by placing each tuber at least 24 inches apart. Set your stakes when planting.
  • In Western Washington, do not water until you see growth above the ground.
  • If snails are wandering around, consider protecting your plants with a hard cover or spraying Sluggo Plus as needed.
  • If you keep the ground over the winter, add 4 inches of compost in the fall or spring.

Summer: care and lots of cut stems

  • Watering is essential, especially between July and September, to produce abundant flowers. It is best to deep soak two or three times a week. For a large bed, it may take up to 1 hour.
  • Pinch the growing tips from the central stem when the plants are about 24 inches tall, and cut them just above the fifth leaf from the ground, to encourage strong stems, vigorous branching and more flowers. If you see an earwig, don't worry, it won't cause any serious harm.
  • Reapply fertilizer after one month.
  • When the flowers come, cut them, enjoy and repeat! Choose bouquets in the morning when the weather is cool. Cut the stems longer than your forearm, above the leaf, and immediately immerse them in water.

Information from the Seattle Times archives is included in this report.

You may also like...

Leave a Reply