To see the full original newsletter with all the photos click here to get the pdf: July 2021 Newsletter
NEXT MEETING: July 13, 7 PM via zoom. Our topics will be first blooms, disbudding, deadheading, bugs and fertilizing.
Time: July 13, 2021 07:00 PM Pacific Time (US and Canada)
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Meeting ID: 874 1872 5097
FIRST: FIRST APPEARANCES: How wonderful to see first blooms. Skip to My Lou delighted Debby F. Maggie delights in her jaunty collarette. Craig proudly posted his first array of orange and yellow beauties including this fabulous Trooper Dan. Flashing first bouquets, thank you Meredith, Curtis and Monique. Stunning vets at the VA, Bob P sets out the first blooms. Later he will send in bouquets to the shut-ins. So thoughtful. Kevin assures me that first bloom has already occurred at Wolf Lane in Bernal Heights, and many plants are full of buds. He invites anyone to stop in and check out his community garden. Just GPS Wolf Lane.
MUCH ADO OVER MULCH: During this latest drought, mulching your dahlias will help with water conservation as well as weed suppression. Christine recommends rice straw mulch as opposed to hay straw, because it is lighter and carries fewer weed seeds. Rice straw composts faster, so it adds nutrients to your soil as it breaks down. Those brown treated wood chips last forever. They are tough on a garden but they will hold in moisture. Christine bought hers in Vallejo.
Read more at Gardening Know How: Straw Mulch In Gardens: Tips For Using Straw As Mulch For Vegetables https://www.gardeningknowhow.com/edible/vegetables/vgen/straw-mulch-for-vegetables.htm
MADE IN THE SHADE: Woofff! Who turned on the heat? Tripple digits in some Bay Area spots have daunted growers and sizzled their poor dahlias. What’s a dahlianeer to do? Make some shade. This can be as easy as affixing an umbrella to a sturdy stake. Check out the umbrella action at Casa Peralta. Or go big! Ken M covered his whole mountain top. Here’s a flash back to DJ’s 12’ high back yard tarps. Sunscreen tarps come in different levels of sun blockage. Decide what’s right for you. Jon flies a parachute across the top of his geodesic dahlia dome, allowing the sun to flow in all around the sides. Serge added fine misters atop each stake which sprayed cool clouds for 5 seconds every hour. Be creative. Let us know what solutions you’ve devised.
SHOW IT OFF! Will we have a dahlia show this August? That’s still up in the air. However, people have been asking about the appropriate competition containers. Your mantra should be: SHALLOW AND HEAVY. Dahlias must be shown with at least their first set of leaves. Sometimes the stem is very short. You want the bloom and the leaves above the edge of the pot, so a container which is just slightly higher than the pin frog is ideal. Depending on size, dahlia blooms can be very heavy; long stems can leverage tipsy vases into water bombs. So the heavier a container, the more large, beautiful, full dahlias you can arrange in it. Shop Salvation Army or garage sales. Pin Frogs: the sharper the tines the better they hold. The hardware shop in Japan Town sells gorgeous kenzans—all shapes and sizes. They are expensive but real quality. Craft stores like Micheals and JoAnns sometimes carry them, too. Some pin frogs can now be bought on line. I put my pots through the dishwasher to make sure the surface is really clean. Then I use aquarium cement to permanently affix the pin frogs to the container. Let them dry at least 48 hours to assure a permanent seal. Using floral clay to make temporarily adhered frogs usually results in unhappy accidents over time. If you check out the 3 containers in the pictures you will note that one is shallow but light; one is heavy but only mediumly shallow and one is not heavy and not shallow but is so whimsical that it was too much fun to pass up. Note also the variety of pin frogs. The small brass super sharp ones have the most versatility. Consider putting 3 small ones in a larger container rather than one big one. If you’re going to put dahlias in a big vase, consider weighing down the vase with some rocks or colorful glass balls in the bottom to counterbalance the weight of your blossoms. Lastly, use indelible ink and put your NAME on the bottom. In the melee of show breakdown, sometimes containers get mixed up.
CONSIDER SPONSORING? Whether for this year’s show or next, start thinking about a category you might want to sponsor. By offering to underwrite $10-$50 or more prize money, you could encourage competition in certain directions. For example, in 2019 Chad and Tom put up $50 for the Largest Dahlia in the Show. Lou Paradise usually sponsors Best Paradise Introduction. Paula loves orange dahlias so she sponsored that category many times. Picking up the flag, Tara pledges for Best Bloom with Purple in it. As many of you know, right now there are only 15 official ADS colors; however, we have more than 8 competitive blooms with at least 3 colors—tricolors! That might be interesting to support. Since Lucy disinterred her once-extinct Kenora Fireball, Deborah would sponsor Best K. Fireball for $20 if we have a show. And how about dahlia photographs? We usually have 4 categories: Mug shot, Dahlia Garden, Kids/ Critters, and snapshot. You could sponsor one of these or would you like to see shutterbugs extend themselves in another direction? Usually we like to know about all these sponsorships in NOVEMBER so growers can start shopping for appropriate potential winners as soon as the commercial sites open. It’s a great way to participate and encourage your fellow dahlianeers.
OWL UPDATE: For those of you following Len’s saga about cataloging the contents of his owl houses, good news! Len reports not only did four of 5 eggs hatch, but all 4 owlettes are thriving and eating up a storm. Len lugged his huge camera lens and tripod in to shoot the kids after dark. However, we have yet to see the results of the pellets on his dahlias……
THE SAGA OF KENORA FIREBALL REDUX: You may have seen this story in June’s newsletter, but many of you failed to realize that you could click the URL and see and read the whole story. Please do so; Tara did such a fine job. Lucy, Tara, Karen and Deborah have distributed many of this precious crop to DCSers already. Let one of us know if you still want to try to grow Kenora Fireball this season. Click now! If you want to comment to Tara: firstname.lastname@example.org
DELL DOINGS: Welcome to new members Cheri and Paul. After listening to Erik’s praise for our Dahlia Society of California projects, they wrote us a substantial check to continue our good works. Thank you, Cheri and Paul! Despite coming very early to the Park on a Saturday, Deborah encountered all the AIDS Memorial no parking signs, the park rangers enforcing them and many cars with vehicle and parking permits. As a result, Deborah had to park more than double the distance she usually does to trek in. All the jolting and bumping damaged her wagon; the handle almost fell off by the time she got to the Dell. How was she to get all that stuff back to her car? Hire sherpas? Fortunately, Loren rode in to the rescue on his bicycle. He figured out the problem, rode the hardware store for a special nut, whipped out his snazzy leatherman, and voila! A little red wagon fit to bounce over the streets again. Whew! Great to see Kevin and his sweetie comparing Dell growth with his 78 dahlias on Wolfe Lane. Hillary and David, avid photographers, were drawn to early blooms. Check out some of their photos after our credits. Thanks to Jenna for delivering a bunch of tubers. Tara tidied the entire petting zoo AND shot this winning picture. Whilst blending in beautifully, Sarah eradicates weeds and transplants 4×4’s into gallon pots. Indefatigable, Mui hooks up the hose and lugs buckets to hard to water dryer spots. With tiny, sharp scissors, Steve spiffs up our obnoxiously healthy Elvira.
JUBILENT JULY! Buds on everything and many blooms already! Yay! Life is soooooo gooooood! The more you disbud, the bigger your dahlias will be, the stronger your stems, the healthier your plant. Truly. Just do it. DEADHEADING: if you dead head correctly, you could have dahlias on your Thanksgiving table. Truly. When to deadhead? I like to pluck mine when the pollen begins to show, but the flowers have a few more days of vase life to delight me at home. You don’t want to wait until the petals begin dropping. Not only are they unsightly, but dead petals will encourage bacteria and bugs. Not good. Here’s a little trick to figure out how to “cut to new growth.” Take the leaf pair that belongs to the spent blossom, put the leaf pair over the top of the blossom like hands over your ears. Then look down the stem to where the next shoots—the new growth—are coming out. Cut down close to that junction. If you cut the bloom off but leave the two accompanying leaves, the dahlia has nowhere to grow. By late August or Early September, you will have a sorry scarecrow of brown twigs. DEADHEAD DOWN TO NEW GROWTH.
FIRST BLOOMS: In Deborah’s patch Elvira pokes little pink smiles up earliest, followed this year by Hollyhill Sweet 16. The real show off has been a magnificent Clearview Cameron which compliments Jane in a deadhead arrangement. What a purple is Gonzo Grape! Wow! Lakeview Glow, Fancy Pants and Bloomquist Candy Corn now dance in the sun. Pat’s Scott’s Jeanette B is such a saucy magenta sweetie along with her darling Skipley Splish Splash. On the hillside, Sue is popping with a glorious Myrtle’s Brandy and a jaunty Eden Star. Check out the rich malevolence in Sue’s Bloomquist Vivian R. MMMM!
ROGUE NOW: Check out your bushes. Are they healthy? Good. If not, how bad are they? Twisty nasty leaves? Could you have thrips? Spinosad or Captain Jacks should eradicate your crummy thrips. Stunted plant? Miserable specimen? Pull it out! Do NOT let it take space in your garden. Throw it in the garbage—not your compost. Replace it with one of your “insurance” dahlias that you have stashed in 4×4’s or gallon pots. In the Bay Area, you still have time for glorious blooming from cuttings planted in July. (I still have a bunch, if you’ve got holes.) Check all your labels against the ADS Classification Book. I write my labels in pencil which doesn’t fade. Purportedly there is a non-fading Sharpie….. Tony uses a label maker where he punches out the letters onto a plastic tape. Very effective. Hollyhill Sweet 16 has been blooming since late May—always with open centers. I gave it a month to get better. But alas, I will dig the whole blooming plant up because a waterlily should have closed centers for at least its first 3-4 days of its existence. Sayonara 16.
DAHLIA VIAGRA? I am dousing my beauties with a calcium nitrate drench. Purportedly, CaN helps with the uptake of water and nutrients and keeps dahlia stems more turgid. CaN can also be dug into the base of each plant. Phil and Marilyn added CaN to their dahlia cocktail sprays; their dahlias look like they could eat Chicago!
People invariably ask what’s going into my dahlia cocktails du jour. So the latest dose I just filled: Spinosad via Captain Jack, half strength Stylet Oil, dishwashing soap, CaN, Green German Dahlia Food. GGDF is something Phil discovered and Maggie found for me. Dahlias LOVE it. They found it on Amazon.
DIRTY BOTTOMS? Start cleaning out the discolored leaves at the base of your dahlia bushes. These attract unwanted insects and cause decay and decomposition where you don’t want it. By removing these lower leaves you also make watering less messy and open the plant to better air flow, which thwarts powdery mildew production. Look at the back side of your leaves. Do you spot tiny snails, slugs, bugs???? It’s good to know what you’re battling. What to do with the little green spriglets down around the base? If this is a particularly valuable dahlia or a variety you really don’t want to lose, make some pot roots in 4×4” containers. They take so little room and make you so happy next year! Check out the size of the plant growing in my Trooper Dan 4×4! Sarah noted that the ladybugs have hunkered in at the Dell. Where you see ladybugs, look for aphids. If you find a bud covered in the green or black aphids, simply cut the whole thing off and toss in the compost. That way you avoid using an insecticide and encourage more ladybugs to dine on. If your lady bugs are happy, your dahlias are happy and you—of course!—are very happy.
Yours in dirt,
Photo credits: Dietz, Li, Shawarf, Smith
Membership Wrangler and Layout Mistress: Devorah
Snail Mail Benefactress: Patricia