To see the full original newsletter with all the photos click here to get the pdf: December 2020 Newsletter
NEXT MEETING: Alas, due to Covid, we will share no holiday party in December. We will skip a zoom of group wassail and proceed to Zoom on January 12. Your benevolent society wishes all of you a safe season of gratefulness. Until 2021!
DIVIDING: BACK TO THE FUTURE: Thank you, Erik, for putting together such a nostalgic Power Presentation of DigOuts of our Past. We saw pictures of many venerable dahlianeers no longer with us. Really touching. Erik’s slides showed the danger of leaving clumps in multiple years: they grow HUGE, heavy and difficult to divide. Erik’s photo of The Ideal Tuber, shows exactly where the tuber was cleaved from the stalk, a substantially thick neck, a plump body and a clear label. Erik reprised the milk carton technique of slicing a side flap on a half gallon or quart carton. Check out many great YouTube videos showing how to look for the eyes, where to cut, how to store. How fun to see so many faces, especially to those of us who have been so long isolated. Devi participated and knit at the same time—like Madame DuFarge encrypting harvesting secrets.
GLORIOUS TEPMPTATIONS: Commercial Growers are releasing their 2021 catalogs now. DSCers report that they have had good luck with Swan Island, Delightful, Lobaugh’s and Clearview. Two Commercial Sources for rooted cuttings like Corralitos used to sell are Cowlitz River and Stonehouse. Get together with a couple friends; order together to save on shipping charges. Think of all the money you haven’t spent at the barber or going to fancy restaurants or taking glorious trips abroad. Cruise the catalogs and buy some new and cool dahlias. Steve reminds us not to succumb to the dulcet persiflage of hyped advertising; use your ADS Classification Book to choose wisely. Look at last year’s Fabulous Fifty, or the 14 dahlias that exceeded 100 blues and higher. You can’t go wrong with these strong varieties which have won across the country. Go back to our March 2020 newsletter to review the PSW Winners Sliced and Diced. This lists all the major winners from 2019 in each category. These are great recommendations, too.
CANBY TRIAL GARDEN: Click on this link to learn about what Trial Gardens are and about the Canby, Oregon one specifically. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aEFheNTCW-8&feature=youtu.be
Please let me know your favorite dahlia YouTube spots during these mud months so we can share with your fellow DSC members. Dahlia.firstname.lastname@example.org
MUD MONTH MENTAL MULCH: Each month through April we will share pictures of amazing dahlias from 2020. Thedahliaaddict.com can help you identify who is selling which varieties and for how much $$$. Delight yourself with leisurely browsing and buy some to delight everyone next summer.
LATE SEASON CUTTING TECHNIQUE: Curtis Maxwell sends in this report of how he is taking and making late season cuttings so as not to loose some of his valuable dahlia stock:
I have never taken late season cuttings before and I used the technique described in the June Bulletin on page 34, entitled “Special Propagation ….”.
It is basically cutting a leaf node just above and just below the stalk, and rooting it in a manner similar to the way we take cuttings from sprouted roots in a greenhouse cutting bed. I split some of the nodes into two, and some, I left both nodes on the stalk. They both seemed to root ok. I think that if the stalk is pretty thin, that is near the top of the lateral, it is safer to not attempt to split into two.
I am attaching three photos, first on just the day I placed my stem cuttings in my rooting tray, the second on the morning of the fourth day (already seeing small sprouts!!)b and the third photo on the eighth day, after I had trimmed off the leaf sections. They were already starting to wilt, just as described in the bulletin article. I must admit, I am surprised and thrilled by my success so far.
My rooting tray was filled with very soggy seed starter mix, and set into another tray holding water that can seep into the upper tray. I set them on a standard 10 x 14 heating mat under thermostatic control, set at 70 degrees. Covered the trays with a plastic cover to hold in the moisture, covered that with a cloth to keep out the light. Once the sprouts began to show (day four), I put them under artificial light, and begin to allow the rooting medium to dry out slowly. I will continue to bottom water for awhile I think. Must take care to avoid damp off.
Thank you, Curtis, for great descriptions and good photos.
DELL DOINGS: What a total force is our Lou: all dug out already despite not being able to bring his vehicle to the Dell. So not only did he dig everything up, he had to hump the clumps out in a wagon! Likewise, Sue is 1/2 disinterred. Her lovely gopher baskets make stacking easier for hauling out of the park and storing until she can divide. Sue stacks her clumps in her laundry cart, often making multiple trips early in the morning. Such dedication. Erik has dug. Pat’s are all cut down and hardening their skins before exhumation. While waiting, Pat has been weeding Lou’s entire section!!! Our Sainted Patricia, indeed. On the last Saturday in November, Deborah and Mui disbuded Belle of the Ball, Wyn’s King Salmon, AC Ben, Pennhill Watermellon, Bloomquist Candy Corn and Jeff, Elsie Housten, Hollyhill Showtime, Snoho Storm and of course, Jessica. Sarah joins the ranks of Dellions who educate the public. She is very patient, clear, and correct. Mui routinely disappears into the big dahlias, as she plucks brown leaves and weeds. Segway tours are back. An enterprising uni-wheeler has been giving lessons around and around our Dell. In fact, our little corner of heaven has become the go-to protected velodrome for toddlers to master bicycle skills. We witnessed a rollerskating lesson! Imagine my surprise as I hiked into the park pulling my little red wagon. A fire crew practiced maneuvers on a monster hook and ladder rig, taking advantage of the glorious weather and wonderful vista.
HOW IS YOUR GARDEN GROWING? The Gregorys report that they’ve begun cutting down their humongous tin feeding troughs and collecting their last bouquets. Paula shows how she uses pots instead of tin foil to protect her stalks from any mythical rain we might experience. The weather has been so fine the some of her dahlias under 5 gallon containers have sprouted enough to take late season field cuttings. Look at her wonderful pillows!
COOL DAHLIAS TO DROOL OVER: Check out these amazing beauties!
DECEMBER DECISIONS: To Dig or Not to Dig. To Divide or not to Divide. These are the big decisions right now. So far, it’s been a dry winter. I like to leave my BIG A and AA’s in for a second year to establish a major root ball. They bloom earlier and with more profundity in their second year. I also like to leave rarer cuttings in for a second season as the earth seems to keep them healthier than my preservation methods. The advantage to this is that in the spring (Feb, March, April) if there are multiple shoots emerging, I can always “field divide” them by taking a few tubers or cuttings out and leaving the rest healthily in place. The disadvantages are the risk of rain, rot, animal incursion, and not being able to reinvigorate the spot with ample compost. Paula covers her earthen treasures to minimize rain exposure. I pop 1-5 gallon pots over the top. Not very attractive, but effective. Some people put potted plants atop the pots to avoid a plot gone to pot and mitigate the dreary brown dirt.
If you do choose to divide, be vigilant about keeping the id tag with your clump at every step. Dahlia tubers are indistinguishable; you would be heartsick to have a clump with no name. Devorah reports that she uses both a bleach bath followed by a sulfur dip before she lets her tubers dry for a day. I use vermiculite for keeping the tubers from touching; Lou beds his down in guinea pig shavings; Sue sinks hers in sand. People with huge gardens have special rooms, temperature controlled, where they store boxes in alphabetical order. Wow. I stash mine in cardboard boxes in the garage under my house; it’s the coolest, but still best protected area I have.
LONG DIVISION, SHORT DIVISION OR NO DIVISION: If you only have a few clumps, I recommend the cardboard box method. Put a shovel full of garden dirt in the box. Carefully dig out your clump maintaining as much dirt around it as possible. Cover with one or two more shovels full. Close and stack in a cool dry space until the beginning of March. Short Division: With a particularly gnarly clump, slice down the middle of the biggest stalk. Cleave your clump into half or thirds. That’s enough. Don’t jeopardize sure things for the potential of smaller, more uncertain possibilities. Long Division: this is tuber surgery, painstakingly dividing all the segments with eyes. Many people just keep the larger tubers with fat necks. I immediately pop the smaller tubers into milk cartons and put them in a warm spot to germinate NOW. You’d be surprised to see how many of these yield wonderful plants even though they are smaller than your little finger.
MINE FIELD: After you dig out, does your plot look as though bombs have exploded everywhere? This is the perfect time to add mulch: grass clippings and leaves. Curtis reports that the Zoo Doo mountain at the Oakland Zoo is over 30’ high. You can have as much as you can haul away for FREE. Even better, do you know someone with chickens or a dove cote? Both rich sources of defecation gold. Rabbit or llama “peanuts” are utterly heavenly. Consider a cover crop that nitrogenates. Many members of the pea family nab nitrogen from the air and deposit it at the roots. Fava beans and sweet peas for example. Certain strains of mustard actually make a soil “penicillin” inoculating your dirt against nasty microscopic critters. Or you could rake your minefield flat and sow glorious wild flowers: poppies, nasturtiums, alyssum, clover, cosmos, et. al. They don’t really enhance your soil, but they dance gaily in front of your eyes and help us bear the grey mud months.
DREAMS OF SUGAR PLUMS: What to get your favorite dahlia gardener for the holidays? I have found my favorite scissors in the Chinese shops on Clement and Irving street. These are stainless steel, with long noses and big handles for plump gloved hands. Usually under $5. Whilst cruising these amazing collections of porcelain, cook ware, strumpet stockings and scissors, check out the simple 3-pocket aprons. Also @ $5. I use one of these every time I go to the Dell. It can hold scissors, balls of twine, id tags, tangerines for snacking, pencils, and even an ADS Classification Book. Are you handy? Build a screen for sifting out rocks, glass, junk, and grubs. It’s a great way to start cleaning out your home patch. I also use mine when I’m dividing tubers, to sift off soil or to hold whilst I gently spray off the excess dirt. A sturdy screen has to many uses. Gopher cage! Either make a couple or give the hardware cloth and zip ties to your beloved DIYer. As Karen will tell you, this is a great winter project. How about a dual bladed boxknife. It has both the straight razor and the curved hook knife. I love the latter for slashing milk cartons. Both blades retract for safety. Lastly, I love my Dremel oscillating multi-tool for dividing dahlias. I use the 3/8” blade. It makes surgical cuts effortlessly. Buy some replacement blades for a stocking stuffer. Mine has an electrical cord; Devi’s is battery operated. Either is a whizzzzzz! Alan Fischer suggests one of the gorgeous dahlia calendars put out the Washington DC Society. Go to their website to see the pix; they’re gorgeous. Because it’s only $10, buy a few! nationalcapitaldahlia.org Of course, gift certificates for dahlia tubers or rooted cuttings ALWAYS delight. Let me know if you received something gardeny and wonderful this season. We’ll read about it in January. Dahlia.email@example.com
Yours in dirt,
Photo credits: Bergman, Boley, Capps, Carpenter, Creekside, Dietz, Gaensler, Garden of Eden, Glasser, Gregory, Hunter, Lim, Maxwell, Parshall, Pentilla, Schroeder, Scuterii, Thompson
Webmaster and Membership Wrangler: Devorah Joseph
Snail Mail Godmother: Patricia Hunter