To see the full original newsletter with all the photos click here to get the pdf: December 2018 Newsletter
NEXT MEETING: Dec. 11 AT 6:30!!!!!! Program: HOLIDAY PARTY!!!!! Bring a potluck comestible to delight your fellow DCSer’s, a imminently stealable gift relating to gardening (@$10), maybe a few decorations to spiff up our meeting space, and don your glad rags. It’s time to party down.
THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO LOU: Thanks again to Lou for reprising his inimitable wisdom about digging up and storing tubers! First off, Lou admonishes to keep a label with the tuber clump ALL the time; tubers all look alike when separated. Process one clump all the way through before starting another: dig, clean, divide, Clorox bathe, label, dry and store. Instead of deadly Captan, you might try dipping your exposed edges in Cinnamon! Costco and Rainbow have good prices on this holiday favorite. Keep your tubers in a cool but not cold place until spring. You, your friends, your neighbors and your Dahlia Society of California NEED your extra treasures.
DAHLIA DELL DOINGS: We all agree that the Dell went from glorious to frumpy early and fast this year. Lou and Pat have cut down their clumps and started to pull up the roots for the cutting table in the greenhouse. Sue has begun yanking baskets on her hillside only to fill the spots with gloriously blooming replacements from her home! Wow. The last few Saturdays, Deborah has led clinics on how to make cuttings from the sprigs coming off the trunks of declining bushes. Loren, Steve, Helen, and David followed John P’s masterful lead in potting up the shoots in 2×2”s and perlite mix. We smelled smoke. Adding to the smoggy particles in the air from the Paradise Fire, some crazed being has been malevolently setting off dangerous fires in Golden Gate Park—7 since October (Devi’s note: He’s been caught). Very disturbing. Our beloved artist, Kevin Woodson, almost waited too late to glean a few final straggler blooms to immortalize with his talented brush. He especially swooned over late-blooming Sandia Brocade, Rhonda and Hollyhill Black Beauty. On most days we have a group of transients sitting on the benches below the Conservatory stairs. A tourist was overheard exclaiming, “ I didn’t know dahlias smelled so much like marijuana.”
INTERNATIONAL DAHLIAS: Jim Barrett reports that on his trip to Japan they visited a wonderful flower farm, Tomita, in Nakafurano Hokkaido. Although the farm is famous for its lavender and geraniums, Jim spotted late season dahlias—singles and collarettes—right in the parking lot! Thank you, Jim, for sharing your discovery with us.
LET THERE BE LIGHT! Dazzling Dahlias at the Autumn Lights Festival
By Kristi Whitfield (San Leandro Dahlia Society)
In late September, our society was invited to set up a light display in the dahlia garden (where I grow) at Lake Merritt for the Autumn Lights Festival. The Autumn Lights Festival is the annual fundraiser for the non-profit group that helps fund improvements at the garden. In 2017 the festival raised over $100,000 for future projects. It runs for 3 consecutive nights in mid-October and features artists who specialize in illuminated art pieces.
We had about two weeks notice and that didn’t give us much time to pull it off. I put out the word before our October meeting that I needed lights (and help), and many members stepped up to contribute. Deva Lowenthal, Marilyn Fong and Dawn Watts all brought lights to the meeting a few days after I sent out the email request for help.
The day after the meeting was setup for the festival and I was relieved that Deva and Beverley Dahlstedt agreed to help. I brought some lights, Deva brought some lights and John Morton had dropped off some lights at the garden before we arrived. We found his lights hidden in the nearby bushes. We agreed on an idea and started stringing the lights. Our design/plan was to wrap 11 stakes with lights and then attach some lighted round baskets to the tops of 4 stakes to resemble ball-shaped flowers. My plan was to run them all on a single wire and plug them in to the long extension cord I brought. While we were getting organized, a festival worker dropped off our Honda generator.
Not long after we started, Sue Gregori rolled in on a utility cart driven by one of the festival workers and unloaded a half dozen boxes of lights, electrical supplies and other design tools. It was like a miracle. It ends up she’s an expert in outdoor holiday light displays and had all the know-how and equipment to pull it off. She quickly sized up the situation and explained how my design was destined for electrical burnout or fire and redesigned the display so it would be safe and functional. She brought almost all the electrical infrastructure we needed to make it work. She also brought some circular metal baskets that we used for the flower balls. At that point, we were only missing the right gauge of long extension cord, but we pressed on with the light stringing.
We were almost done when in walked Guy Chibante with some beautiful butterfly lights and a few lighted giant flat flowers. It was just the finishing touches that we needed. He set the butterflies on top of the blooming camellias in the garden and attached the flat flowers to the big tree next to our section. I jokingly asked if he had a heavy duty extension cord in his car and amazingly he said “Yes”. A second miracle. He brought in the cord and we finalized all the connections. He turned on the generator and we plugged in the main cord. It wasn’t totally dark, but we could see that it all worked and looked pretty good.
The show opened the following night and several members were able to attend on the different nights. On Thursday night while I was plugging in, I was delighted to run into Deborah Dietz from San Francisco. She didn’t know we had a light display, but had shown up to help Kevin Woodson sell his artwork at the artist’s fair. From what I heard, there were about 10,000 people each night. It was another successful fundraising event.
I realized after we set up that I was going to be gone on Sunday for the break down, so again I called around for help. Sue, Guy and John agreed to help and got everything torn down and separated in record time on Sunday.
Many thanks to everyone who helped make the Dazzling Dahlia display such a great success! It was truly a team effort and a resounding success for the society. Good work!
Our thanks to Kristi for submitting this!
ROAD SHOW: Patrice Flack invited Deborah to share her delight in dahlias with her Te Kolon Women’s Group. Their president, Elizabeth, deployed 13 tennis canisters with rocks in the bottom for vases and raffled off 13 lovely bouquets at the end. Now they plan a bus outing for next August to tour our Dell and visit our Floribunda Show.
VISIONS OF SUGAR PLUMS: Now is the time to order yourself some snazzy new dahlias for next season. The commercial websites are opening and the choosing will be tough. Throughout the next few mud months, I’ll dangle some gorgeous new varieties before your eyes. If you see something compelling, go to http://dahliaaddict.com/ for sources. DAHLIAaddict sorts by color, size, shape, alphabetical name, and commercial grower. WARNING: the DAHLIAaddict can be addicting. Another caveat: use your ADS Classification Book to ratify how well the particular variety has performed for others. Our local Corralitos Dahlias down in Monterey sell rooted cuttings. Clearview Dahlias up in Washington sells their own originations and the tubers. Linda’s Dahlias ships lovely tubers of highly competitive types. Clumps languished at Linda’s when her husband suffered a heart attack. Their fellow dahlianeers staged a dividing party, processing their clumps so they will be open again this year. Sue reports that she got good tubers and good deals from the catalog group Longfield Gardens. Both Sue and Paula find Swan Island Dahlias reliable. Email us if you have a commercial recommendation with whom you’ve had success. When you order, let them know you live in California and would like EARLIEST shipment. You can pop your new roots in milk cartons and get them off to an early start. Maybe you’ll have blooms in May!
DECEMBER DECISIONS: Are you digging out or are you leaving in? Are you doing a little of both? Purportedly we are due some rain so I suggest putting a 5-gallon bucket over the top of any clump you wish to leave in. Follow Lou’s great directions for processing your clumps and storing the tubers.
COMPOST! Have you noticed piles of leaves accumulating on the street or in the back yard? Collect these and strew them about your dormant garden. Once your clumps are out, enrich with chicken manure. Phil and Marilyn worked 23 bags of poultry ordure into their garden last winter with phenomenal results. Consider sowing a cover crop of fava beans, mustard seed, or sweet peas: anything that plucks nitrogen from the air and sequesters it at roots. Besides, it’s always lovelier to have something to look at besides plain brown mud. Dig a few 3’ deep columns and deposit egg shells, coffee grounds, tea bags, banana peels, apple cores and other kitchen castoffs. I suggest putting a HEAVY pot over the top as you’re filling it up to keep the urban scavengers from considering your compost column as their buffet. Rats, mice, raccoons, possums and skunks skulk through the night ever vigilant for delectable nosh. Paula enlarges the previous year’s holes each winter and fills them for even bigger and better dahlias the next season. Let the worms do the rest.
WEED! Every weed you leave in will burst into 100 weeds with first rain. Last year Devorah put down weed-surpressing cloth and covered it with cardboard pieces. You can place potted plants on top to keep the installation from blowing away. Carl covered his terraces with weed cloth to keep the eucalyptus trash from poisoning his site.
Cook something wonderful to share with your Holiday Party Pals. Wrap a present that will inspire multiple larcenies to everyone’s delight. Offer to help someone at some stage of their dahlia processing.
Yours in dirt,
Webmaster and membership: Devorah Joseph
Snail Mail Mistress: Pat Hunter
Photo credits: Barrett, Bergman, Capps, Cowlitz, Dietz, Hazen, Leone, Thompson, Weismiller, Whitfield