Sunday, September 23, 2012

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'Just Peachy' by Fred Brill of Mount Prospect, IL

The dahlias were dazzling this weekend at the Chicago Botanic Garden.

The Central States Dahlia Society hosted its annual show in the Regenstein Building while just outside, in the Circle Garden, dahlias mingled with zinnias, grasses and black-eyed Susans to form perfect fall vignettes.

I have to admit I've rarely grown dahlias. They tend to be high maintenance, requiring a lot of fertilizer. They also prefer to be dug up every fall and stored over the winter.

Dahlia Mingus Phillips II
Mingus Phillip II by Ed Zych of Buffalo Grove, IL.
Most Perfect AA Bloom, Section A

But after seeing the show this weekend, I may have to reconsider. I never realized there were so many different dahlia forms. Sizes range from 1 1/4 inch in diameter to a whopping 12-14". For exhibition purposes, they are divided into 12 groupings based on flower shape, number of petals and size.

Dahlias are mostly grown from tubers or fleshy roots, although they can be grown from rooted cuttings or seeds, according to a handout from the Central States Dalia Society. They love full sun, good air circulation and good drainage. Dahlias generally bloom from early August until frost.

Dahlia Honeymoon
Honeymoon by Axel and Nancy Joob of Wilmette
Dahlia Midnight Star
Midnight Star by Steve Kuiper of Goshen, IN
3 Most Perfect Orchid Type Blooms
Pom Dahlia Tiny
Tiny (close up) by Jerry and Ruth Ann Wittrig of Goshen, IN
3 Most Perfect Pom Type Blooms, Section H, Class H3
Dahlia April Heather
April Heather by Robert Williamson of Madison, WI
Dahlia Zorro
Zorro by Jerry and Ruth Ann Wittrig of Goshen, IN
Most Perfect AA Bloom, Section D

dahlia Mingus Gregory
Mingus Gregory by Tom Krewenka
Largest Bloom, Section W

Best of Show Central States Dahlia Society
The Best of Show

For those venturing out into the bright sunny afternoon, there were more dahlias waiting in the Circle Garden.

Dahlia 'Merlot' stood out beautifully again yellow foliage of Gay's Delight coleus (Solenostemon scutellarioides 'Gay's Delight').

Dahlia Prince Charming played well with Ageratum houstonianum 'Diamond Blue' and Sedum rupestre 'Lemon Coral.'

Dahlia Heartthrob mingled with Bidens ferulifolia 'Bidcontis' and Carex testacea 'Prairie Fire.'

Dahlia Heartthrob

Surrounding the central fountain was a mix of Dahlia 'Zachary Roberts' and Zinnia elegans 'Polar Bear.' It was set off by castor bean (Ricinus communis 'Carmencita Bright Red'), red pentas (Penta lanceolata 'Starla Red') and Salvia coccinea 'Snow Nymph' with a bit of Swedish ivy (Plectranthus coleoides) thrown in for good measure.

Everything glowed in the light of autumn's first full day. It was wonderful way to spend a sunny -- if slightly chilly -- Sunday afternoon.

By Karen Geisler

Dahlia Prince Charming
Prince Charming
Dahlia Zachary Roberts
Zachary Roberts
Dahlia Merlot

By Karen Geisler


  1. I was at CBG this weekend for an all day class so I missed the dahlias! That 'Merlot' is my favorite.

  2. Sigh. Stunning shots, Karen! I have never grown Dahlias. I absolutely adore them, but for some reason I think of them as beyond my expertise. But they sure are lookers! Thanks for sharing your experience at the Chicago Botanic Garden.

    1. I second that emotion. I've only grown the small bedding dahlias. The ones in the Circle Garden are definite possibilities for next year though.

  3. Wow, these are gorgeous! I wish I hadn't missed this.

  4. Karen there is something magical about these exotic beauties that sucks me in every year...this past year I had a great plan that was thwarted by the drought...only one bloomed...but I will scale back and try again...they are just gorgeous for months all the way into Oct once they bloom...

  5. Wow! They are really lovely blooms. It is just so beautiful. Thanks a lot for sharing such wonderful photos. Excellent!