Really, the new dahlia rage shouldn’t be a surprise at all – the signs were everywhere. Farm stands and hip farmers markets had buckets of dahlias, then those sick images over at Floret Farm – seducing us into wanting every single ball and dinner plate cut flower dahlia just so we could run barefoot and bearded through a sun-lit field at dusk – and then those brides — planning their weddings for September and October just so that they can have bunches of pastel or melon- colored dahlias, even those once insanely obese giant dinner plate dahlias are treasured in the hippest flower shops of Brooklyn – for whatever reason, the dahlia is officially back. Yay, right? Well, not if you are trying to find some of the best colors.
Which I have painfully discovered on this snowy weekend in early February – – practically every single favorite of mine seems to be sold out – (at least, the most sought after ‘sexyiest varieties’ like the salmony-orange ones with white-tipped petals – just sayin’). Oh but this won’t stop me – I have some tricks up my sleeve, the biggest one being that the American Dahlia Society and the many small breeders and growers who show at little, dahlia exhibitions haven’t even noticed that a whole, new generation of dahlia enthusiasts has come forth. Even though they might be wondering who bought every single one of their most trendy Cafe-au-lait’s. The dahlia is ‘out of the bag’, and now, everyone wants one. As long as it is awesome ( which means, no florescent primrose yellow ones. thank you very much – no one wants those).
So my story goes like this: Today, during another blizzard here in the North East, I decided to be proactive and place some orders for dahlias – I mean, it’s early – still the first week of February.
Once on-line, I discovered that whenever I saw a dahlia that I found irresistible, it was sold out. I could write this off as my impreccibly hip good taste, but I think that it is more than that – clearly, others are catching on. So on one hand, this is great. I mean – know, this is a very good indication that not on is the dahlia back in style, it means that maybe there will a a dahlia society forming again here in Massachusetts so that I can show some of mine like I did when I was a kid ( I know that there is a chapter in Provincetown on the Cape, but that is 2.5 hours from me).
On the other hand, I am confounded – in much the same way that I can’t figure out why ‘Dancing with the Stars’ is such a hit ( maybe because I grew up with Lawrence Welk-watching parents), but really — ballroom dancing is NOT cool. Don’t get me wrong – opera and classical music? Cool. Ballroom dancing? Not cool. (figure skating? oddly cool, Bobby and Sissy? Ok, you get it.).

We all have watched this dahlia trend creep bigger and bigger over the past few years, but honestly, I thought that it would rise and then wane , but no. My point is, the dahlia may just be getting started on this phoenix of a ride ( taking along with it, I predict from my page hits – the exhibition chrysanthemum, the zinnia and even sweet peas) – – and last week at a lecture on sweet peas which I presented at the botanic garden, two women stopped me to tell me about how they were now growing collections of dahlias after reading my posts ( so flattered – gush! But oh Hell, here we go).


The funny thing is, is this – I think that this trend has taken dahlia growers by surprise – in fact, I might even argue that the American Dahlia Society doesn’t even know about this hottest of floral trends, and if THEY don’t know, then the small growers certainly don’t know anything about it – I ‘guess’ this because many still say things in their catalog like “the florists love this variety’, not knowing that in reality, those ‘florists’ are ‘Prinzing’ reading, Farmers-market buying blog followers who buy their husbands beard oil on Etsy and who dream of attending SXSWwith their pals. This army of more conscious, savvy consumers who would rather grow their own food or raise honey bees are the real fuel behind this dahlia wave. Of course, on this list, I am excluding everyone’s fav source – Swan Island Dahlias who might just be staying politely mum – not voicing their success after a jolt in business after that ‘Martha Effect’. They are a great source, but sometimes I have to tell you that I crave different varieties than my peers have. After all, I am ‘me’.

I may dedicate my entire veg garden to dahlias next yeat – oops, I sort of did that this year!
It’s always best to check with a simple Google Image Search to make sure that the variety you crave looks like the actual plant you are getting. Amateur photographers can sometimes over-enhance an image. Yes, I ordered Alpen Fury.

Generally speaking, dahlias tubers are not difficult to find at all, as most retailers such as big box stores, garden centers and nurseries carry them in poly bags, but I know that you are like me, and you want the most beautiful colors and forms, so it’s time for me to share some of my dahlia secret sources – I mean, beyond Swan Island Dahlias, who are great, but it seems everyone is ordering from them now (I still do, but I want even more varieties – and I know where they exist).

YES! There are dahlias out there that defy description – but..ugh, these were all sold out! But still on my ‘must get’ list.

So are you looking for really beautiful colors and super unusual forms as I am? If so, then I urge you to do this right now: Go to the American Dahlia Society website, and then look at their list of sources – listed here are fine specialist nurseries – those folks who breed their own varieties,on their small farms and then exhibit them in small, local ADS shows, and within a year or two of breeding their special varieties, introduce them in limited quantities to the public via the worst designed and ugliest, un-manageable websites that you could ever imagine ( the poor dears, but I am so sorry, and once you go there, you’ll see what I mean – someone, please help them!).

Here is a frustrating screen grab from one site. I still plan of placing an order, but I just don’t know how – since I need to print an order form, and honestly, this site is a bit of a hot mess – each page contradicts the previous page, and I can’t seem to navigate around to see what is in stock, and what is ‘out of stock’ and what is ‘low in stock’. I won’t be discouraged though – must work through some sites like this.

Now, all joking aside – – don’t get all frustrated as I did, (really, I ‘get it’, dahlia growers you know – not UX designers!) Give them a break, but if any of you are reading this? Please consider a redesign – the good sites use Paypal and have large photos – oh, so important. Look – I want you to sell out (oh wait, you ARE selling out already – my bad!).

Want to get going? Then START HERE , the American Dahlia Society Super List, but I’ve added a few extra growers below who all carry amazing dahlias that will be different than any that you can by at your local garden center.

And, don’t worry, I have placed my orders already so you won’t piss me off.

This one site is almost sold out. Either the tubers are large, or exhibitors know that these are choice varieties.

Another place to look is the American Dahlia Society ‘Fabulous Fifty’, a list that shows the cultivars which have won at least 50 blue ribbons at ADS exhibitions. Not because they are winners, but because dozens of judges around the world have looked at thousands of dahlias every year, and when I attend plant shows, it’s pretty clear why the winners are on that bench.

Here is my order from Arrowhead Dahlias.
After looking at a few sites, you will start to see similar varieties ( the names are often the same, indicating who bred them), and sometimes, you will find the same variety which is sold out at one grower, available at another. Good luck! Don’t you love this color palette? I still need an orange dahlia with white tips. Help me!

Another list on the ADS called the ‘Cream of the Crop‘ lists varieties that have won more than 15 combined blue ribbons and higher awards. Believe me, when you grow varieties that have won the highest awards, you can clearly see the difference – most of these will never make it to your garden center, and if they do, it might take 10 -15 years for Dutch growers to build up enough stock for commercial distribution.

Another ti0 – order dahlias in colors within the same color family – all purples and pinks, all apricot, peach, orange and melon, all white and yellow, etc. It will make your arrangements or garden look spectacular. In doubt? Look for varieties that are described as ‘popular with florists’ or ‘good cut flowers’ – growers are rarely wrong.

It is too early to plant dahlias, but in most of the country, April is the proper time to start them, which is when most growers will ship them – still, order NOW, and thank me later!

Lobaugh’s Dahlias
Pleasant Valley Glads & Dahlias our local grower near us – no photos, but Google the name
Arrowhead Dahlias Great site, easy to use and accepts Paypal
Birch Bay Dahlias – OMG – The BEST varieties, but the site in INSANELY confusing
Accent Dahlias
Hollyhill Dahlias
Alpen Gardens
Floret Farm – cut flowers, but look – Cafe au Lait dahlias for sale! (Pleasant valley Glads had them too)
Swan Island Dahlias – great catalog, great site – quality all the way.

And, here is like – every Dahlia grower in the US and Canada – go crazy! (right now, go crazy).


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