Loading...
My child used to love school but, that has all changed once the new principal came to Farmville Middle School. What in...

The photogenic dahlia stages a comeback, and steals the show

GARDENING1

Cactus-type dahlias grown by John Spangenberg await staging at the National Capital Dahlia Society Annual Show at Brookside Gardens in Wheaton, Md.

Loading…

By Adrian Higgins
The Washington Post

Saturday, October 13, 2018

I was standing along the suburban Washington waterfront a couple of years ago when a Spanish galleon showed up, proving once again that if you wait long enough, everything comes full circle.

This is especially true in the gardening world. Houseplants, embraced by hirsute, plaid-draped baby boomers in the 1970s, fell into obscurity before being rescued in this century by millennials.

Succulents were once the domain of rock-garden enthusiasts — there is no more esoteric a subset of gardeners — but are now an essential part of contemporary urban life. Old garden roses are back and so is kale. What will be next? Carnations, snapdragons, Kentucky bluegrass? The possibilities are endless.

The dahlia, a tender perennial from the high plains of Mexico, sent Europeans into a frenzy of delight when it showed up in the Old World, quite possibly aboard Spanish galleons. The Empress Joséphine, known for her love of roses, was crazy, too, for dahlias. The European mania led to the breeding of a wide range of dahlias, in color, form and size, and soon growers were classifying this cornucopia so that they could do what all flower fanciers of a simpler age liked to do: Show them off. Dahlia shows proved to the public what an amazing flower the dahlia had become in the hands of devoted hobbyists.

Dahlias also have had a long presence in the garden, the small ones tucked between other perennials, the tall ones staked as sentinels in the border.

In our own time, when perennials and grasses have come to the fore, dahlias seemed to recede into the past, like lavender water, pedal cars and mahogany wardrobes. Now we have come to see that few other flowers are so luxuriant in their color, which includes shades of orange, red, burgundy and yellow. The darker the hue, the more intense it seems to be.

The cut-flower world, inherently photogenic and made for social media, has been given an enormous boost on photo-driven digital platforms in recent years. Nothing in October is as vivid as a bouquet of dahlias. Dahlias are back.

But in one sense, they never left. The other Friday night, I found myself at Brookside Gardens in the Washington suburb of Wheaton, Maryland,with a handful of dahlia fanciers getting ready for the National Capital Dahlia Society's annual show. Its 83rd annual show. Most of the growers were getting on a bit, but the mood was cheerful, filled with anticipation of the weekend, and not in the least moribund (if you discount the wall plaques and photos of four members who had passed on since the last show).

The youngest exhibitor I found was Christa Carignan, 46. She put 20 plants in her small suburban Rockville garden in May, in raised beds originally built for vegetables. She has been hitting dahlia shows after seeing show dahlias for the first time last year. This is always an eye-opener to the novice because of the unexpected sizes and forms, including ball types that look like paper Christmas tree ornaments, spiky "cactus" blooms and those as wide as your head. (The American Dahlia Society recognizes 21 forms in sizes from less than two inches across to more than 10 inches.)

For Carignan, the dahlias are an extension of the wildflower-inspired arrangements she has been making, ones that are popular with gardeners of her generation and younger. "I share my dahlias on Facebook with friends and family," she said, "People my age and younger think it's awesome."

Serious hobbyists might have more than 200 plants in their gardens, growing in carefully prepared beds and supported by horizontally strung netting. It's more farming than gardening. If you grow five of one variety instead of one, the chances are good you will have a perfectly formed and pristine flower stem at show time. The rejects might be too slug-eaten or at the wrong stage of development. If the center of an otherwise immaculate dahlia is open - "blown" in grower parlance - you might as well stay home.

Another exhibitor, retiree Bernadette Rager, of Olney, Maryland, could be seen cooing over her blood-red, decorative-type dahlia named Black Beauty. I asked her how much time she devotes to her dahlias, and the answer gave some clues as to why fanciers tend to wait until later in life to tackle this flower.

"I spend an hour a day from April to the first frost. And then you have to put [the tubers] away in the winter and check them every week" for rotting in storage. "All summer, you can't go on vacation because you can't leave them."

Loading…

Humans of Greenville

@HumansofGville

Local photographer Joe Pellegrino explores Greenville to create a photographic census of its people.

Look

February 20, 2019

February has rolled around once again, and I’ve been invited to another wild game supper on a nearby farm.

The menu always depends largely on what’s in the freezer.

This year, it looks like our feast will include bear stew, since three bears were harvested on the farm during the most…

Bob Garner

February 20, 2019

 

I love living in the south and eastern North Carolina. I also love that within thirty minutes, I can be walking on the idyllic boardwalk overlooking the Pamlico River in the charming town of Little Washington. Most weekends, many of us seek adventure on the roads or on the river, so just hop…

You dot Know Jack.jpg

February 20, 2019

Q: Can you share information about the new Pitt County Food Finder? KC, Greenville

A: I was delighted to learn about this new product from the Pitt County Farm and Food Council. Radhika Kothadia, Brody Medical student, checked out their new APP an this is what she wants you to know.

Right before…

Kolasa, Kathy

February 17, 2019

The pulse of the universe beats in the air of Pluto.

Pluto, the famous dwarf planet in our Solar System, is cold, extremely cold, year round. It is especially cold during its 124-year long winter, when it is so frigid that its wan atmosphere freezes to the icy surface. Then, in summer, the ice…

Pluto

February 17, 2019

In recognition of Black History Month, The Daily Reflector is excerpting the following NCPedia article by Steven A. Hill, a teacher at J.H. Rose High School who has been working to chronicle a history of Pitt County’s Schools. Visit www.ncpedia.org/eppes-charles-montgomery for the…

eppes.jpg

February 17, 2019

One Father's Day, when I was 6 years old, I asked my dad why there was no such thing as "Kids' Day," and he said, "Because every day is kids' day." And that's my feeling about Presidents Day. Every day is Presidents Day. Besides, I'm not quite sure if not getting my mail is going to make me think…

JimMullen

February 17, 2019

One of the surest signs of middle age is a Facebook feed full of friends detailing their medical ailments.

Just this week, I counted not one, not two, but three pals who were undergoing knee replacement surgery. One proudly posted a post-op X-ray showing what looked like a spring in her leg.…

bionicman

February 16, 2019

Although we’ve had some warm weather, it's still winter. But as a tease, paper-whites are opening up in the yard, and red maples are already showing their bright flowers. Fragrant Daphnes and a few withering winter-sweets are scattered around the neighborhood, and this afternoon we had a…

021619mystery.JPG

February 15, 2019

There have been plenty of movies about tough women. In fact, picking the Top 10 is harder than you might think. But here goes, the ones I picked and the ones I didn’t.

10) Trinity, “The Matrix” — Carrie-Ann Moss’ Trinity was hacker chic before the hacker chic of…

Sigourney Weaver

February 13, 2019

If you’re hungry and seeking more authentic flavor for your next meal, why not and take a trip to India without leaving Greenville. Go beyond steak & potatoes, dive into a new culture, expand your culinary palate and you’ll be sure to add Cinnamon Indian Cuisine to your top…

20190206_123537.jpg
125 stories in Look. Viewing 1 through 10.
«First Page   «Previous Page        
Page 1 of 13
        Next Page»   Last Page»