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September 14, 2014

MAKING A COLOR-SAVVY LATE SUMMER DAHLIA ARRANGEMENT


Anyone who grows dahlias knows that September marks the height of the dahlia season. Armloads of dahlias means that everyone you know ends up with a bouquet, with few complaints. This year my cutting garden is looking better than it has, but since I've been traveling a lot, few flowers have yet to be picked.

When one visualizes the summer garden, especially from the perspective of a snowy, January evening, one imagines such lushness, yet forgets that such abundance can dull the experience a bit. If only one could preserve a few buckets of our coral and peach pom pom dahlias for mid-winter in some magical refrigerator, but such luxuries do not exist. We are stuck far too many dahlias and other cut flowers to enjoy on these last days of summer, so why not celebrate the bounty with a late summer arrangement.
Here is the story of the one I made today:
Click below for more.




Time to walk around the garden and see how I might combine a few distinctive flowers which I might combine to make some arrangements which would be different then those which that have been gracing our tables since early August.  OK, I will admit that we are a bit fortuitous with out floral prosperity -  it's just the result of a well stocked cutting garden, and the fact that it is a cheerfully cool and bright September following what was a cool, and sunny summer with just enough rain.  Only our color selection has just grown monotonous  but it's an acceptable obstacle we can blissfully overcome with some creativity.



Dahlias are ubiquitous during the cool, bright days of September and early October. Their colors and long stems make them the perfect cut flower - be sure to plan for next year by ordering some in late winter before the good cut flower varieties are sold out. My trick? Order from on-line nurseries which specialize in dahlias, and don't rely on those poly bags found at big box stores. You are more likely than not going to end up with either colors which are horrid, or plants with flowers that are too large. Look for varieties with flowers around 3-4 inches in diameter, or ask your supplier for selections which are best for cut flowers - they will gladly tell you which ones have the longest stems and nicest flower colors. That's what I did. Thank you Swan Island Dahlias!



Starting with lime green coleus as a filler in an antique, Arts and Crafts period copper glazed vessel. The darker green of the dahlia foliage was just too dark of a green - it didn't feel as bright as this lime coleus foliage. Orange and pinks look great when combined with chartreuse and citron tones.


Last January, I decided to grow a few different celosia varieties - ones which were considered best as cut flowers. I didn't want to depend on store-bought seedlings of celosia as most retailers only carry early varieties, or those which have been treated with grow regulators so that the young plants will be in bloom - hence, sellable condition in the cell packs. Still, celosia is not that easy to germinate unless they are under lights and warm. I did end up with a flat or two of seedlings,  but I then discovered that I had no room left in the garden (stupid me!).

I didn't want to part with these Celosia 'Cramers Lemon-Lime' seedlings, so they found their way into some corners of the vegetable garden -  interplanted along side some kale and tomatoes. Now they're ready to pick - tall and fuzzy with their 'cockscomb' heads. Their green-olivey color is absolutely superb.


'Maarn' is by far my favorite Dahlia color, with nice long stems and a beautiful, clear orange creme color unlike any other dahlia. Yummy and harmonious when combined with these shades of olive, chartreuse and lime green - but it is still a little ordinary and expected.



Not all colors mix well here. Many Dahlias have too much blue or yellow in them, like this pink cactus flowered variety. It doesn't make the cut for this arrangement, but the peach and pink zinnias do.

I could add pink, but most of my pink dahlias are too……pink. I know, my artistic side sometimes gets the best of me, but I am a color geek - and as a designer, I can clearly see why this dahlia must be destroyed. Oh, ok, maybe not destroyed - just saved for another arrangement, maybe one with periwinkle tones in it.



The same goes for this Amaranth 'Love Lies Bleeding'. Another challenging annual to grow from seed, I admit that I am happier with the way that my plant looks now ( the seeds from Baker Creek finally delivered a good show, but still not as robust as more hybrid selections).  I am not adding it to this arrangement because it's raspberry color seems to start a party for my eyes I don't exactly want.


This green flowering tobacco ( a self seeded Nicotiana langsdorfii) is precisely the color I will accept - another unique shade of green, and texturally it adds some looseness as well as botanical interest, which is important too. The final result should look like a garden arrangement and not one from a farm stand or florist.


THE FINAL ARRANGEMENT


I finish it off with a  few heirloom  'Milkmaid' nasturtiums and I'm satisfied with the outcome. The arrangement still retains the garden-feel, without feeling too 'curated', (even though it clearly was!). No bright yellow, no marigold orange, and very little true green aside from the nasturtium foliage, which I like because it reminds me of old floral prints from the 1910 Arts and Crafts era when nasturtiums were popular as cut flowers.





12 comments :

  1. Scrumptious! Nice work, Matt!

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    1. Thanks Riz! But really, you are in the right part of the country in which to grow many of these and so much better!

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  2. I enjoyed this post so much, it is one and all colour. The combination of Dahlia 'Maarn' with the chartreuse Celosia is just stunning!!! Love the total arrangement of all the annuals as well. Such a shame this comes all to an end next months, but dreaming of new ideas for next summer in winter is also fun.

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    1. Thanks Janneke - I mean, it was 38 degrees F. here this morning, so I'm afraid that the end of summer is near. It all happens so quickly!

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  3. Beautiful arrangement!

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  4. Dahlias are so beautiful! They almost look unreal cause their shape is so perky and perfect! What would you suggest putting the water of your flowers to prolong their life after being cut?
    Katie | http://sustainabletreecare.com/tree-care-services/tree-removal.html

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    1. Hi Katie. You could add a drop of bleach, but I think that the best way to keep flowers fresh is to change the water daily, and possible recut the stems. In summer arrangements like this, there can be problems with foliage in the water decaying, so remove the foliage that sits in the water if you want the arrangement to last longer.

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  5. Your bouquet shows the advantages of having a real assortment of plants available to use. I have had a small bouquet of Nasturtiums on my bathroom sink each week since early summer, but that pale yellow variety is a stunner. Both your bouquet and that nasturtium are telling me to be more adventurous.

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  6. Hi Matt: I had the pleasure of going to the Garden Conservancy day last week at Frances Palmer's Garden in Weston, CT. I photographed alot of her Dahlias. If you ever get a free minute :) maybe you can identify a few more than I did. They are on my Flickr page: lensi designs photography. Hope all is well! https://www.flickr.com/photos/58660535@N03/sets/

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    1. How exciting Robin, to be able to see Francis Palmer's garden! I will take a look at your photos - I'm sure they are fabulous! - and see if I can identify any, actually though, it's difficult to identify varieties accurately as there are so many, and each breeder has their own names.

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  7. Such a gorgeous arrangement! I love those colors--perfect for the late-summer-to-early-fall transition. Crazy to think about how much time and effort goes into those plants before picking them!

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