May 2017 Newsletter

To see the full original newsletter with all the photos click here to get the pdf: May 2017 Newsletter

NEXT MEETING: May 9, at 7:30. Program: MAJOR DAHLIA SALE! Devi says they have about 300 late cuttings from the greenhouse; Deborah says she’ll have more milk cartooned beauties and Colleen says she’ll have some plants, too. If you have any excess tubers or plants, please donate them in this Second Chance Salorama. Viewing at 6:45 and buying at 7PM and after talk. Program: Deborah’s Dahlia 101. Bring friends, neighbors, family and other gardeners for a fun and informative sweep through a year of dahlias. Who will bring goodies for our expected hoards?????


Like lions on prey, we attacked the tables with first cuttings. Devorah brought a bunch of pot roots of wondrous dahlias including, Badger Twinkle, Leslie Renee, Skip to My Lou, and Kenora Jubilee. Deborah’s milk cartons of Trooper Dan, AC Abby, Sassafras, Olsen’s Folly and other temptations disappeared fast. Sue swooped down on Soc’s HG Chad tuber. Paula brought lovely plants of Juul’s Butterscotch. Chad and Tom debouched literally BAGS of tubers. WOW. How much fun to see Will Gonzalez and crew of floral artistry fame, shopping for our favorite flower. Redwood formed a buying consortium and carted home boxes full. Last year Tenaya bought seven plants at our sale. They bloomed so prolifically, she wanted to know how to divide her clumps for more. Both Devorah and Deborah promise that our May meeting will entice with fabulous varieties that were too young to bring this month.


Deborah led a discussion about the differences in planting tubers, cuttings and milk cartons. Most people agreed that it is better to wait until cuttings and milk carton plants are at least 7-8” tall before planting outside. Do HARDEN THEM OFF, meaning get them used to being outside. Start by putting them outside during the daytime; gradually leave them out longer into the evening and finally let them overnight for a couple days before planting. Tony says he carts his in and out, but they’re almost ready to bask under the stars. When Bernie wanted a snail repellant even greener than Sluggo, Paula described how she made copper rings from copper flashing. Tenaya promotes super safety because she keeps bees.


Once AGAIN, Ron and Joann trucked in a HUGE box of their organic Meyers Lemons. Soooooo goooood. Jen brought us healthy pistachios and Tony pandered to our sweet teeth with almond pastries. Colleen—over achiever par excellence—donated a five-pound canister of butter cookies. Overwhelming. John and Annette’s madeleines joined Ginos M&M cookies to sustain our buying frenzy. Thank you all for your generosity; contributions from so many sustain our society.


Baker Bill, AKA Bill Bagley, will be fondly remembered for so many reasons. We called him Baker Bill because he loved baking us cakes, often pineapple upside down cake or rum saturated bombs. Those who came to our annual picnic played Scrabble with Bill, armed with his list of two-letter words. Bill loved to forage: he found dozens of baskets for Erik and bags and bags of milk cartons for Deborah and the rest of us, which he cleaned and slit. He collected aluminum cans. At our holiday party, Bill brought numbered poker chips for us to pull for Plant Predation. Mike remembers plotting with Bill to get enough people to snatch a big photo from the Lou Cornish collection so that Bill could nab it and freeze it permanently. Bill loved growing BIG dahlias in oak barrels. His proudest moment was receiving a conference medal for Best AA in the San Francisco Show for Nick Sr.


To celebrate our 100th anniversary, Tinnee, Devi, Billy, and Dan designed us a new website. Check it out. They are still in the process of transferring pertinent things from the old website, but what a leap from the 2002 pioneering version of Ted and Deborah to 2017! If you still want information from the old website–for example, old newsletters–you can scroll down to the bottom of the page and click the “SEE THE OLD GARDEN” link. In the future, the newsletters will be available to members only, password protected by “PamHowden.”


  1. Describe the dahlia 3013. On page 12, the initial 3 refers to BB; 0 corresponds to Formal Decorative; 13 indicates Dark Blend. How many varieties of 3013 won in 2016? On page 65: 18 varieties. Also on page 65, Hapet Blue Eyes won the most ribbons, with 17 blue ribbons and 6 higher ribbons. Hapet Blue Eyes won most of its ribbons on the West Coast. The # means first time in the ADS Classification Book.
  2. Which Dahlia has been shown longer? Little Willo, introduced in 1935 (p. 32 last column) has been shown longer than Chilson’s Pride from 1954 (p. 21).
  3. How many 8-10” id’s won blue in 2016? From page 12, we find the ADS numerical designation: 8-10” means A size so our first number is 1; id is also 1; orange is 03; so our dahlia is 1103. On p. 53 we note that it skips from 1102 to 1105. So the answer is 0: there were NO A FD orange dahlias winning blue ribbons in 2016!
  4. On p. 48 second column, we note that any introductions from Lou Paradise
    are designated with PRD. On p. 27 we read that JCO is the code for the hybridizer of Hillcrest Dahlias. On p. 47, second column, we learn that JCO stands for Jackson from the UK, England.
  5. Which is the winningest Waterlily? From p. 12 we learn that ALL waterlilies begin with 73. Pages 80-82 cover the winning waterlilies. On p. 81 Pam Howden jumps out at us with 257 wins! How many Cultivars earned in the triple digits in 2016? Begin on p. 50 and check column 4 on each page through p. 89. The answer is 36. Are you growing these OUTSTANDING cultivars?


Why were 7 sacks of lumped brown substance stacked at the foot of the Dell? Sue had gifted me with a mountain of coffee grounds from her local tank-up shop. Wow! At first I judiciously sprinkled it at the roots of a few sprouted dahlias, but as I began to realize the superabundance, I giddily flung it hither and yon, willy nilly, ALL OVER EVERYWHERE. It looked like a brown bomb had exploded. And it smelled so great: earthy early morning java excessive. I thought about the rains coming, expresso seeping into my yummy soil, and my worms’ surprise. Wow. Caffeinated worms churning at high octane. My compost depots will disappear in Depeche mode. What will highly alert dahlias look like?


Friday Paula and Tony helped Devi, Lou and Pat debouch the greenhouse and truck all 300 cuttings to our auditorium.  John erected all our tables. Debby helped alphabetize all our color-coded offerings. Deborah integrated her milk carton beauties into the sea of green. We all helped put photo frames out. Beginning at 7 am, on Saturday, Paula, Cathy, Pat, Sue, Tenaya, Chad and Tom, John and Annette, and Lola unloaded their tubers. John P, Webmaster Mike, and Soc helped label and tuck them in their proper places. Marilyn, donating a big supply of Sharpies, marked all our $urprise Dollar $pecials. Devi matched photos to many of the tubers
and hung Tinnee’s beautiful banner. Pat brought us all coffee!! Yay Pat!  so coordinated and so efficient we were able to shop for an entire hour. For some of us this was too much time; we went back for a second round of purchasing. Ah, unrelenting dahlia addiction……
Our seasoned veterans were


Dahlia buyers arrived as early as 7:30 to be first in a nice long line. Great to see so many DSC friends: Mitzu, Amy and their daughter; David; Mike and Martha; and Jerry amongst others. Erik primed the crowd with encouraging news of more plants to come at our May meeting. Tony, Sue and Lou magnified necks in the hunt for eyes. Tom, Chad, Frank, Erik and Annette matched gardeners to optimal cultivar choices. Devi, Lola, and Pat welcomed inquiries at our membership table, signing up 5 new DCSers. Tenaya, Debby, and Marilyn counted shoppers loot; Deborah, Paula and Joe accepted payment$. We all handed out Colleen’s notices. Mike checked receipts at the door. Constantly busy, Cathy and John removed boxes as soon as customers emptied them. We opened our doors to the public at 9:30 and by 10 had sold 90%! Nicholas and Tony began folding up our bare tables. Maybe next year we will have the same great advertising on Facebook (thanks to Demographic Tom) and Fun and Cheap SF, the local gardening societies and major email campaigns and no drought threat AND grow a lot more cuttings for sale.


Cathy’s chicken and Deborah’s tortellini salads joined Marilyn’s salmon and Chad and Tom’s HOT macNcheese to accompany their huge ham and slab of turkey breast. Pat sailed in with fresh pizza. Mike’s wife, Janet, baked a cake in Bill’s memory which balanced the exquisite cheese cake from Devorah and Bunt cake from Debby. Lola’s exotic Thai noodles slid down easily. Thanks to Frank for the wine and to Lou and Erik for the 4 cases of sodas and waters. Many of us shared Bill stories and memories as Mike passed his phone photo around. Frank said that from the beginning of the sale to the end, Nicholas grew yet another inch. How high will he go?


Now comes the tough decision: to pinch or not to pinch? I pinch out as soon as I see a bud. Where to pinch or top or stop as some call it? Look for the main bud, its one or two sister budlets and their two leaves. Pinch BELOW them to new growth. Thus, the energy that would have been expended on producing such a precocious bloom instead goes to strengthening the whole plant, roots and leaves, a much better strategy if you hope the plants will produce beyond Halloween. Come by the Dell on a Saturday morning to check this out. Disbud. Leave only ONE bud per stem; this will result in bigger flowers on stronger, longer stems.


Are you all planted? I’ve been planting as things matriculate from my potting to loft to greenhouse to hardening-off deck. I usually give my first foliar spray at 3 weeks.

People ask what I am using in my not-so-secret sauce: Stylet oil for mildew; Captain Jack’s Dead Bug for critters; liquid fertilizer; and dishwashing soap as a sticker. To this “cocktail,” I’m adding something new — liquid mycorrhizae, a gift from Bob Papp and a smidgen of calcium nitrate for stronger stems. We’ll see. Much better to be prophylactic than chase an erupting problem.

On April 22, Phil came by the Dell to gloat that he already had buds; he got cuttings from Corralitos and planted in early March in a protected back yard.

Get your ground watering system in whilst your dahlias are small. NEVER overhead water dahlias. Use drip, soaker hose, pipes or troughs. The Urban Farmer’s experts provide wonderful advice. In gopher territory, you MUST USE GOPHER CAGES. Check out the hillside at the Dell. Every dahlia is planted in a gopher cage. Somehow gophers know exactly which dahlias you value the most and scarf them down first. They are voracious. Forefend now! Given our wet wet winter, slugs, snails and earwigs maraud in force; Sluggo Plus or copper rings or diatomaceous earth thwarts these ravening fiends. Don’t let them turn your young dahlias into expensive salad and demolished dreams.

Yours in Dirt,

Dahlia Society of California, Inc., San Francisco, CA — Copyrighted
Editor: Deborah Dietz
Page layout: Mike Willmarth
Snail mail mistress: Pat Hunter
Photo credits: Baker, Bergman, Dietz, Fischer, Janson, Joyce, Kennedy, Sturm

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