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Now is the Time to Store Dahlia Tubers

My favorite flower is the dahlia.  I enjoy them in my garden from mid July until the first frost.

Over the years I have grown dozens of dahlias.  I have preserved a collection of the tubers  for spring planting by storing them before the onset of winter.

If it’s Thanksgiving week, it’s time for me to wrap up the tubers.  I use newspapers and store the individual bundles  in plastic containers that measure one and half feet wide by about two and half feet long.  A corner in the basement then houses the containers.

Wednesday before Thanksgiving, a rainy day here in New England, I spent packing up dahlias.  They had already dried for a few days on newspapers spread on the basement floor.  I wrap them by clumps of tubers, sometimes seven or eight in each clump, but also individual tubers, depending how they come out of the ground. I do not separate them til the spring, if at all.  I like to see large displays of dahlias so I am reluctant to separate them.

Dahlias have long been an important flower for the American garden.

Special Collections, Oregon State Univeristy
Special Collections, Oregon State University

The Boston seedsman Joseph Breck wrote in his catalog [left] of 1849: “We offer for sale the finest collections of Dahlias in the country, having received more than a hundred new varieties the present season.”

His selection of the number of dahlias was astounding for that time.

Today the list of dahlias reaches into the hundreds.

Breck used his seed catalog as a vehicle to teach his customers about gardening.

Christopher Thomas in his article “Heirloom Seed Catalogs” which appeared in the journal Horticulture wrote: “Typical of all of Breck’s writing was an attempt to use horticulture as an unlifting, educational tool….He repeadedly praised horticulture’s salutary qualities, and he offered a long list of standard works on horticulture, a novel idea at the time. And through his pioneering use of illustrations, Breck sought to mold and improve his readers’ taste.”

Breck assured his customers that his choice of dahlias was like no other firm’s.

But then, just as today, the American gardener in a cold climate like ours had to store them to secure next summer’s bloom.



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