The beauty of dahlias and their care will be discussed at the next meeting of the Sooke Garden Club (Pixabay)

GARDEN CLUB: Dahlias: showstoppers for Every Garden

Let’s start with the niggling matter of pronunciation. DOLL-ee-uh? DAY-lee-uh? DAL (as in PAL) -ee-uh? Technically, DOLL-ee-uh is correct, as the plant was named in honour of Swedish botanist Anders Dahl. However, use of the variants is widespread, even among dahlia enthusiasts.

Another piece (or three) of trivia to wow your friends: The dahlia is indigenous to Mexico, where it was once used for food and medicinal purposes. In 1963, it was named that country’s national flower.

Pronunciation and history aside, there’s no arguing the popularity of these spectacular blooming machines.

Dahlias come in a plethora of gorgeous colours – from bold and vibrant to soft and pastel, solid and patterned. Plants range in height from one to more than six feet, and the blooms, which are categorized into groups displaying particular characteristics, can vary from two inches to a foot in diameter. Within each group are thousands of cultivars, so deciding on which one(s) to grow can be a dizzying experience.

Coming to the Sooke Garden Club this month to guide gardeners through the wonderful world of dahlias is Connie Thomson, dahlia grower extraordinaire. Her visit is especially timely, as late April is typically planting time for the tubers. Flowers generally appear by mid-summer, and the display continues until halted by heavy fall rains or a hard frost.

There isn’t much that Connie Thomson doesn’t know about dahlias. She has grown them (for 30 years), exhibited them and judged them. She is now in the business (Connie’s Dahlias) of selling them, the flowers in summer and fall, and tuber stock in spring. In short, she knows what it takes to grow great dahlias, and her enthusiasm is contagious.

The presentation will begin with a short video, Fabulous 50, which shows the top dahlias to exhibit in North America and illustrates the flowers’ different forms and sizes. The video will be followed by demonstrations, tips and techniques, and plenty of time for questions and answers. In addition, tubers will be available for purchase.

Join us on Wednesday, April 24, 7 p.m., at St. Rose of Lima Church on Townsend Road. A parlour show will be held, and contest potatoes will be available. New members are always welcome. Questions? Visit our website at sookegardenclub.ca or email us at sookegc@gmail.com.

Mark your calendar: The Sooke Garden Club will be holding its annual public plant sale on May 11, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., in front of Evergreen Shopping Centre. Come early for greater selection.

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