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Gardening Carol O'Meara


The time has come to bring out the gardening tools

 On your mark, get ready, garden sales are here

I love a good sale. Anytime I can get immersed in a crowd, jockeying for the best items, elbows out with a planned route of attack, my adrenaline flows. When this is combined with gardening products, well, my joy knows no bounds. We are entering the gardener’s power shopping season with plant sales on the horizon, and for those waiting for the kick-off event, the Colorado Dahlia Society’s annual tuber sale is here. The Colorado Dahlia Society’s annual tuber sale is an opportunity for the public to purchase high quality tubers raised by local growers at low prices.

Dahlias for any mood

Dahlias are a serious sport in the garden world, which when you consider the names of dahlia types seems incongruous. Pompoms, for example, aren’t normally considered dignified for adults, but as a dahlia type, these brightly colored globes add punctuation throughout a garden bed. The blooms of pompom-type dahlias average 1 to 2 inches across, are held on a compact plant and come in a wide palette of colors. Plant them through a bed in groups and singles, and you’ll be rewarded with your own pep rally of color.

If you are looking for a casual, wildly relaxed look, the cactus-bloom type dahlias are a fun, tousled flower with corkscrewing petals. These are the blooms that seem to have a permanent case of bed head with their cowlicks and spirals. The plants are relatively large, usually standing 2 to 3 feet tall, and need staking to prevent them from falling over. This flower is striking in combination with roses, rudbeckias or fountain grasses.

There are even dahlias for those who believe that size is everything. The secret to getting those trophy blooms on the dinner plate type dahlias can best be achieved by pinching off the side blooms when they are in bud to allow the plant to send all of its energy into the creation of one whopping big flower. This is the dahlia type that was featured in the National Geographic show on Garden Giants, grown by one of the Colorado Dahlia Society’s members. The plant also benefits from staking, especially when it is struggling to hold up a gigantic bloom.

Many dahlias offer bi-colored blooms in rich, saturated tones, adding a strong presence in the garden. Even the modestly colored flowers can dominate the flower bed due to the dense structure of the plant and deep green foliage. It is a plant that does well in the middle or back portion of the bed due to its size blocking out smaller neighbors. The more compact dahlias can be planted toward the front of the border or bed.

Water requirements for dahlias are not extreme; most grow in a well drained soil, and although they need a little extra water as they begin blooming, they do not like soggy soil. Pests for this plant are few with the exception of the random passersby who snips the bloom to take it home with them. They are not maintenance free, however, and the corms need to be dug up in the fall and stored over the winter.

Shoppers planning to attend the popular Dahlia Society’s sale would be wise to arrive early for the best selection, and bring a little extra money to cover those must-have jewels they are bound to find.

Visit the Colorado Dahlia Society’s annual tuber sale at Paulino’s Gardens, 6300 N. Broadway in Denver from 9 a.m. until they sell out on April 1. Several hundred varieties will include dinner plate, cactus, pompom and ball types. Society members will be on hand to answer questions and provide information on the proper growing techniques to insure a spectacular floral display this summer. For more information, call 303-841-8024.

Carol O’Meara is with the Colorado State University Cooperative Extension office at the Boulder County Fairgrounds in Longmont. Colorado State University Cooperative Extension, together with Boulder County Parks and Open Space, provides unbiased, research-based information, about consumer and family issues, horticulture, natural resources, agriculture and 4-H youth development. For more information contact Cooperative Extension at the Boulder County Fairgrounds, 9595 Nelson Rd., Box B, Longmont, 303-678-6238, or visit

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