- Author: Sharon L. Rico
The Master Gardeners have had a presence at the Erickson Ranch and Dahlia Farm for many years. We have gone to “the Ranch” as many as 3 to 5 times each growing season. We provide a support table with pest notes, compost information, copies of ‘Seeds for Thought’, and info related to the theme of the event.
During the August event, the focus was on tomatoes, so we provided handouts about growing tomatoes, the vegetable planting guide by Dr. Robert Norris, and a page of the assorted tomato diseases and pests with photos. We had many clients with questions about their gardens and heard their stories about tomato successes and tomato failures. We answered questions and made suggestions for next year.
In September at the “all About Peppers” event, we provided the same support table but added info on planting peppers. We listened as people asked us how to get rid of white flies, tomato horn worms, and mildew on their plants.
Saturday was the last event for 2013 and the focus was on pumpkins. There were pumpkins to purchase, pumpkins to carve, and wagon rides out to the pumpkin patch. The Master Gardeners had the support table full of the usual information and added Halloween masks for the kids and instructions on how to build your own scarecrow. The families came in groups including grandparents, parents with babies in strollers and young children. The Erickson’s had their produce, flowers and jams for sale. The Charlie Wade Blues Band entertained the crowds. Nick, the BBQ man was cooking across the blacktop from Angelina’s biscotti table. Lucas was selling home grown plants while Cindy was making crafts with kids (headbands with fresh flowers being a favorite). Suisun Wildlife Rescue Center had an assortment of birds and reptiles on display. Under a white tent, children were carving pumpkins letting their creative juices flow. It was an entertainment extravaganza. And the best part of all was the six MG’s who volunteered in two shifts and were able to educate the crowds and enjoy the day! A real win-win!
- Author: Sharon L. Rico
My husband has a passion for dahlias. Every year when I attend the San Francisco Flower Show, I have a list of dahlia tubers he wants to add to our garden. We have grown them in containers, in flower beds among other plants then THIS year we decided to dedicate an entire area to growing dahlias.
Dahlias are native to Mexico and Guatemala and have blooms from miniature to dinner plate size, (2 inch to 12 inches). The flower has many daisy-like petals and they can be single, double, balled, pompom, cactus and other shapes, in every color except true blue. Dahlias grow in sun or part sun and bloom from May until October in zone 9. They are happiest in well-drained soil and do not require a lot of water.
Upon becoming a Master Gardener, I attended a class taught by a veteran Master Gardener who planted her entire front yard in dahlias. Until that class, dahlias had not been on my radar. But Lois changed my mind with her expertise and love of these beautiful plants. Her front yard was a blast of color, all in bloom and absolutely beautiful. Needless to say, I was hooked!
There is also a tree dahlia (D. imperialis) that grows to 10 feet tall with daisy-like cascading flowers that grow to 8 inches across. It has a trunk that looks similar to bamboo and you can cut segments from the branches to propagate additional trees. Most people when observing this tree in bloom do not know what it is but want one in their garden because it is so striking.
Dahlia blooms picked in the early morning will make a stunning bouquet for your home. Change the water every day and they will last for about 5 days. They make a stunning hostess gift.
Every three years (in the fall), it’s a good idea to dig up your dahlia tubers and separate them. They are fun to share with other gardeners, but don’t forget to replant a tuber or two back in your own garden.
- Author: Karen Norton
Dahlias just amaze me with the dazzling colors and masses of flowers they produce. My first dahlia was a gift from a school colleague, who shared her tuberous roots with me. Year after year it pops up in late May and grows and grows until it starts flowering in late summer. Then the show is on from summer through fall.
This summer, I attended the San Francisco Dahlia Society show in Golden Gate Park and found a whole new world of flowers. The blooms can range from under 2 inches (mignon) to over 10 inches (giant). The American Dahlia Society classifies the plants by flower form such as ray florets. One of the many forms I learned about was the Laciniated Single. Each ray of this bloom curls and splits at the tip giving a fringed appearance. Another unusual form was the Incurved Cactus that rolls downward with pointed tips.
The San Francisco Dahlia Society’s web site, http://www.sfdahlia.org , has five simple steps in growing dahlias in the Bay Area. I will certainly start with their first step by attending their annual sale next year, held the first Saturday in April at the Hall of Flowers in Golden Gate Park. If a friend shares their dahlias, step 2 is planting, done from April to June. Check the website for soil tips, staking, thinning, and pests.
When you pick your flowers do it early in the morning or in the evening. Immediately place cut stems in 2-3 inches of hot water letting them stand in the gradually cooling water for several hours or overnight. The cut flowers will last for several days. You will be very satisfied with the results of these tuberous roots.