The only way to really understand a plant is to grow it yourself. So in our business, we wind up growing a lot of plants.
We have a large trial garden behind our offices where we test new varieties and monitor the performance of others. Most of us also have our own home gardens. The gardening and landscaping that we do at home influences our product selection and growing recommendations just as much as the trial garden does.
Border dahlias are a good example. These summer-blooming bulbs always perform well in field trials, but it was at home that we really came to understand their value. We thought you might be interested in seeing some of the results — at one of our own homes.
In the photo above, you can see the peachy-pink flowers of Gallery Pablo border dahlias putting on their usual spectacular show. Like other varieties in the Gallery series, Pablo grows just 15″ tall, yet the amount of color these plants can add to the landscape is amazing. The flowers are big (4 to 5″ across) and they rise well above the foliage so are extra showy.
We usually plant our border dahlias in mid-May, right after the tulip season has passed (more on that in a minute). The tubers in the bed shown above were planted about 5″ deep and 12″ on center to ensure a dense band of color.
This garden is in southern New Jersey (zone 7) where the summers are hot and humid — perfect growing conditions for dahlias. The bed is also in full sun, so to help conserve moisture it gets heavily mulched once the plants are about 6″ tall.
Dahlias occupy this bed from June to November. After the first frost, they get replaced with tulip bulbs, planted 6″ deep and 5″ on center to ensure an impressive show of color. In spring, when the tulips have finished blooming, the bed is replanted with another round of border dahlias. In the spring display below, you can see the bed filled with two varieties of Darwin hybrid tulips: Red Impression and Blushing Apeldoorn, and edged with grape hyacinths (Muscari armeniacum).
Reserving an area for this seasonal flip-flop is a planting technique that’s proven to be very successful. The soil in these seasonal display beds can be enriched with compost and kept nice and loose so it’s always a pleasure to work. With no shrubs or perennials to maneuver around, planting is fast — about an hour in fall and an hour in spring.
The photo above shows the same house one year later. The display bed (on the left) is now filled with deep pink Art Nouveau border dahlias and the sun-tolerant caladium Aaron. Art Nouveau’s pretty, blue-black foliage doesn’t come across well in the photo above. It’s easier to see in the close-up image below.
If you’d like an easy landscaping solution for your front yard, we highly recommend border dahlias. You can choose from a dozen different varieties, in colors ranging from pink and peach to orange, yellow, lavender and red.
These bulbs also perform beautifully in containers, either on their own or mixed with other flowers and foliage. For tips and techniques, including recommended planting times, pot sizes and more, read: How to Grow Border Dahlias.