One thing all dahlia lovers have in common is a shortage of growing space. No matter how big your garden is, there are always more must-have varieties than you have room for.
Last spring, I filled up my cutting garden and perennial beds with plants I had started in my greenhouse and still had 6 or 8 extra dahlias. I could have given them away, but they were varieties I hadn’t grown before and I really wanted to see them bloom. After wandering around the yard looking for possible planting spots, I thought… why not the vegetable garden?
Dahlias are energetic plants with big appetites and they are at their best when grown in rich, loamy soil with access to as much moisture and fertilizer as they want. I discovered that if you give them the same growing conditions as a tomato plant, they do amazing things!
Tomato cages work great for supporting plants in my cutting garden, so I used them here as well. In the spring, I wrapped fabric around the cages (as I do with my tomatoes) to protect them from wind and cool nights. Both are tropicals and love all the extra warmth they can get. Above is ‘Icoon‘ with its first flowers just starting to open.
Below is another picture of that same plant, taken from the opposite direction a few weeks later. The cage is now completely hidden by foliage and buds. On the left side against the fence is ‘H.S. Date‘, growing happily between lemongrass and oregano.
Below is a photo from mid-August. The tomato cages are still doing their job, keeping the plants nice and straight. Note that the flowers of Icoon are actually more orange than they appear here in early morning light.
‘Thomas Edison‘ (also shown in the first image in this blog post) wound up with the summer squash and pumpkins. Everyone is always impressed by the size of dinnerplate dahlias, and the plants easily held their own with those big-leaved vines.
I’ll leave you with one more photo from last year. ‘H.S. Date‘ is a single dahlia and I wasn’t sure I’d be a big fan. But I loved its dark foliage and the blossoms have long stems that are great for cutting. What sealed the deal was seeing how many bees and hummingbirds are drawn to the flowers.
From late summer through fall, I could look out my office window almost any time of day and see hummingbirds working their way around the plants. My camera doesn’t have a very powerful zoom lens, but if you look at the top flower that’s facing away from the camera, you can see one of those hummingbirds stopping by for a sip.
By keeping my vegetable garden a little tidier than usual and being more diligent with succession planting, I still had plenty of room for edibles. So I’m repeating the idea this year and adding some gladiolas, too. If you are looking for more places to be planting summer bulbs, consider feeding your passion by mixing them in with your vegetables!