Biggest dahlias produced least # of tubers?

linnea56(z5 IL)October 22, 2006

OK, this is weird. Dug my dahlias yesterday, a week and a half after frost. I figured I would see lots of eyes by then. (Only a third of them had any eyes that I could find. The stems are so hard I'm still not sure how I can possibly slice those up.)

The biggest dahlias had the smallest and fewest tubers! I couldn't believe it when I dug up my 4 foot Akita, that was so healthy and bloomed so much. It looked like it had hardly more than what I planted it with. Each one was like a small "hand" of 3 or so connected tubers when I planted them. Akita still had three, though I could tell one or more old ones had rotted and new ones grew. Did they put all their energy into foliage and above ground effort? Boy, and I was hoping for lots of those next year.

My mini window box dahlias, though all of a foot tall, produced big clumps of tubers, more than softball sized. Weird.

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anna_in_quebec(z4 QC)

Yesterday I too dug up my dahlias - my first experience - what a chore! If it wasn't for DH with his wonderful help, I'd have lost it for sure - I felt overwhelmed as the light was fading, and my hands and feet were freezing, and I was rethinking my ambitious plan to expand the bed next to accomodate more dahlias. I maybe dug up 30 or 40 plants. There are folks who have 200 or more? And they wrap them all individually in saran wrap? That is truly admirable. Anyway, I too noticed that the smaller bedding types such as Figaro etc, have tons of fat tubers, while a giant like Kelvin Floodlight had a measly 2 or 3.

Anna

    Bookmark   October 23, 2006 at 1:34PM
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linnea56(z5 IL)

Anna, you can still expand your bed....but you'll be treating some of those dahlias as annuals! :)
I didn't bother to dig up about a quarter of mine: the ones I was less than impressed with.

I remember digging some of mine in freezing rain last year; you've now paid your "dahlia dues"...

    Bookmark   October 23, 2006 at 1:50PM
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anna_in_quebec(z4 QC)

This was one of my "must-saves" - I called it Burgundy Silk, grown from seed, and it actually grows in size when it's cut and put in a vase - quite amazing. The texture is also like a silk flower - very beautiful, and these types of surprises are what keeps going in the seed starting of dahlias. The real colour is slightly darker than was captured by the camera.

    Bookmark   October 23, 2006 at 2:39PM
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linnea56(z5 IL)

Lovely! I can see why you were motivated. I have never grown from seed: must take a very long time. Where are you in Quebec? Your season must be so short.

    Bookmark   October 23, 2006 at 2:58PM
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Poochella(7 WA)

"I felt overwhelmed as the light was fading, and my hands and feet were freezing..."

And that is exactly why I don't wait for a killing frost every year; I don't want to be its next victim! I have 250 plants this year, 98% of the tubers will go in Saran wrap. I'm wondering right about now about the wisdom of expanding next year as well, but I know I will. Because I'm trapped in the wild web spun by the delectible dahlia!

Like any large task, I divide it up into sessions and stop before it becomes a hateful chore. This year I made the fantastic discovery of Muck Shoes for washing clumps in cold weather- They are so cushy and warm my feet never get cold. They're waterproof. Two thumbs up. (Two cold thumbs up because I still can't find anything equally warm that doesn't get soggy for my hands that still allows the fine hand movements needed to divide easily.) Space heater blaring by the garage work bench helps a bit.

Linnea, I think you'll find that tuber harvests vary from year to year even on the same variety. Some years are good, some are average or poor. Don't give up on a variety based on one year's results unless you really want to. This year I'm surprised at what I'm digging up: some pleasant surprises, some not.

    Bookmark   October 23, 2006 at 3:09PM
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anna_in_quebec(z4 QC)

Linnea56, I am near Montreal. And no, growing from seed is soooo easy using the winter sowing method, and they bloom the first year, and produce tubers as well! Yes, the season is so short, and as messy as my house is right now from all plants that I am "saving" such as geraniums, in the spring the floor is covered with dahlias that are getting a head start inside. And very soon, my other obession takes over: the parade of amaryllis...gets me through the winter (together with winter sowing), and nicely into spring.

Poochella - I must get those muck shoes you spoke of. Stupidly, I wore crocs for the job...comfy, but they have holes!!! I simply cannot wear gloves to work properly - so I have a bowl of hot water nearby to give me some relief when it gets unbearable.

Anna

    Bookmark   October 23, 2006 at 3:44PM
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linnea56(z5 IL)

Montreal, how interesting! My son attends university in Montreal. I've only been there to bring him up in August, I hate to think how cold it gets later. Beautiful place! He really loves it. Of course, he seems impervious to cold in the way only a teenaged boy can be.

I hope to try winter sowing this year. Where did you find the dahlia seeds?

The bowl of hot water might feel good at first but then I'd think wet hands would get colder faster.

How about a microwaved baked potato for hand heat? Once, planting bulbs, I wore an old padded jacket and put a small hot one in each pocket. The jacket got very muddy but I just washed it when all planting was finished. Then when done I left the potatoes out for the squirrels (hoping they would be happy about those and not look for the fresh bulbs...) They were gone by the time I got all the tools put away.

    Bookmark   October 23, 2006 at 4:19PM
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anna_in_quebec(z4 QC)

Well around here (university near Montreal) students can be seen wearing scarves, but on their feet still wearing flip-flops!!

Dahlia seeds can be purchased from various sources, of course mine are Canadian (Veseys, Thompson and Morgan, etc). I sprouted some collarettes this year which didn't have time to bloom, so I have to look forward to next year. They produced some nice tubers.

I dry my hands immediately after - it's just to get the chill off real quick. Hot tators? Thats funny!!

Anna

    Bookmark   October 23, 2006 at 5:02PM
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linnea56(z5 IL)

Oh, I love collarettes! I never see those available as tubers. That means I really MUST get some dahlia seeds...

What a shame to have to wait to see them bloom, though. I had some (tall kinds) I bought as tubers, and started in March inside, that still were only making buds when our frost hit 2 weeks ago. I was really mad at them: considering all the other tubers performed.

    Bookmark   October 23, 2006 at 8:51PM
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Poochella(7 WA)

Hot potatoes is an excellent idea, Linnea. Hot water too. Heat from any source is great! Like you, I am not a fan of the really slow varieties. I try them a couple years and then out they go if they aren't blooming by September.

Anna, I must have been typing while you posted your silk seedling- lovely color! I saw it in the gallery I think before, but still lovely a second time around. I will be interested to see what its tubers produce if you saved them.
Crocs! Almost as bad as my beat up tennis shoes which would be soaked in minutes. I used to change shoes and socks 3 times in a matter of hours doing the dahlia clumps. What a fool. I think they call it 'blonde' nowdays. Muck shoes, or Muck boots. They're on my recommended list for this chilly task of putting dahlias away for winter.

    Bookmark   October 23, 2006 at 9:48PM
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triple_b(BC 5b)

Linnea,
We have an "Art's Nursery" in Canada with a selection of ten collarettes, but I suppose that is no help is it, with you being in the States. I guess it is just to say that they are out there, and maybe try a Dahlia Society or mail order.
My "Wheels" (a collarette incidentally) dahlia, the one that everybody wanted, only gave me two other tubers besides the mother which was split and done looking. Then, while dividing them, I broke one. (AAAARGH!) My other dahlias produced scads of them which was good, since this being my first year dividing them I was a bit ham-fisted. No matter how much I studied the how-to pictures, there were still some clumps that were so tight and twisted together that there was a decidedly high body count in the end. OH, the carnage!
But yes, there seems to be no accounting for tuber count does there. All my plants did splendidly but "Wheels" produced very little tubers. Go figure.

    Bookmark   October 23, 2006 at 11:50PM
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Poochella(7 WA)

Body count LOL! I hope to end the year with all ten digits attached to my hand. I've always got nips from the shears or scissors on my fingertips but today I caught part of my forefinger skin way down by the first knuckle in the pinching pruning shears, not even the blade, but it drew blood real well. Clearly, I need a butler to help me with this carving task.

    Bookmark   October 24, 2006 at 1:46AM
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triple_b(BC 5b)

sounds like a near circumcision! LOL

    Bookmark   October 24, 2006 at 11:21PM
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