January 26, 2016

I'm Starting a New Plant Society - Dahlias Anyone?

Proudly announcing the NEW ENGLAND DAHLIA SOCIETY. Please join if you are close to Worcester, MA!

I'm so excited to be able to share this with you - I've decided to kick-off a new chapter of the American Dahlia Society which will be located, or based, right here in central New England so that we could have our exhibitions at Tower Hill Botanic Garden. I'm proud to announce the New England Dahlia Society (circa 2016). Check out our new Facebook page here.

This all came about rather recently, although I had been throwing around the idea for a couple of years now. Many of you know that I have a long history with plant society( even entering my first Dahlia show back in the 1970's at the Worcester County Horticultural Society (which is now located at the Tower Hill Botanic Garden). 

Now for the surprising confession - to be honest, I am not a super passionate dahlia grower. I mean, I grow a few, but not as many as other members in the Dahlias society do - but I sense this is changing. Three years ago about 10 varieties. Last year 30 varieties, and this year? Well, you can see where this is going.

I'm starting this new chapter because I have realized that I am not alone amongst my peers. I realized this at, of all things, a cocktail reception celebrating a talk by Peter Korn from Gothenburg Botanic Garden,  at the home of noted botanist and nursery woman, Ellen Hornig. We were just chatting about her new garden, and yaking it up about such rarities such as Himalayan poppies, Podophyllum concerns, the challenges of growing Eritrichium species in  New England and stuff like that, when this happened: 

"So, Matt...what've you been growing in your greenhouse lately?" How did that Martha Stewart photoshoot go last month?"

I replied - "well,  the shoot was crazy - I mean, the planning, the photographer flying out from London at last minute, Doodles the dog getting laid right in the middle of it, then, they wanted fog, so Joe lit up the bee smoker - and when the firetrucks arrived.......oh, plus this year, for some reason, my Nerine sarniensis are blooming better than ever. Don't know why, as I've been totally abusing them.".

"..and.." I ended it with, " I'm thinking of starting a Dahlia Society chapter."

Shockingly, I didn't hear crickets. Instead, people became animated.

"I grow lots of Dahlias" said Roy Herald. He's a noted Hosta breeder, the sort of plant geek who is also a real plant explore. I mean, he traveled to China with Dan Hinkley and he's a noted authority on South African neophytes,  cacti and succulents and junk without any leaves. 

Really? Roy and Helen  Herold would join?  Wow.

"Really. I'll join if you started it? Roy said with a smile.
"...and be sure to ask Jan and Marty, they'll probably join as well, I know that they grow a mess of dahlias for cut flowers. " Roy said.

Whah? Jan Saks and Marty Shaefer? The expert Siberian Iris breeders? I know that they grow lots of cut flowers for the Boston market like sweet peas and delphinium, but dahlias? Hmmmm. Maybe this will work.

"So  Matt, did I over hear that you said that you want to start a Dahlia chapter? I'll join." Chimed in Ellen Hornig". "I keep a row in the back of the vegetable garden, and a few new ones here and there around the garden.".

Rrrrrreally... Ellen Hornig -the former-proprietor-of-Senneca-Hill-nursery-Ellen-Hornig. SHE wants to grow dahlias?

The same response came from a number of plant society superstars. Glen Lord, even said that he wanted to join, and he's already started ordering tubers.

 I expected my basic fanbase to love this idea. I mean, the flower farm audience, as well as those of you who gush over every luscious image on the Floret Farm site,and at, well, most any wedding blog. 

To clincher was, my most geeky plant friend Glen Lord, from Lordiculturals, the potter, bonsai expert and former president of the Massachusetts Cactus and Succulent Society. He  came by to go shopping at Logee's with me, and I mentioned the new group to him - and even HE became excited about joining.  

Dahlia's are catnip, at least for plant geeks.

In the end, it's not surprising, really, given the new found popularity with the old fashioned dahlia. One could argue that this flower from Mexico that grows from a potato-like tuber has a bright future. They are easy, well, at least easier than most any other flower-show plant aside from the daylily, and they reproduce! More tubers next year!

So why don't you join? Hell, everyone else is!

Our first meeting is here at our house, on Saturday, Feb. 27 at noon, so that you'll have time to walk through the greenhouse and eat lunch. If you live near central Massachusetts - and that includes a 1.5 hour radius including southern Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine, western NY state, northern CT or RI, I welcome you to attend this first meeting of the new New England Dahlia Society.

I'll make a clever, themed lunch (which if you've ever attended a meeting here, you kind-of know what to expect. Remember our place is not fancy, and we have puppies now, so it will be even more crazy!

Come even if you are just curious, too. Just see what this new group is all about, I know that some already who are coming have never even grown more than 2 dahlias, so we are at all levels.   Please RSVP in comments here, on our new Facebook Page where I'll be updating information regarding both the chapter, or the meeting.


  1. Best wishes for your new society.

    With the hot summers down in DC, the only dahlia that seems to do ok is Kelvin Floodlight. Anyone have recommendations for other heat tolerant dahlias?

    This article from 2014 may be of interest to folks:


  2. I would like to join, please.

    1. Thank Francis! I'll add your email address to the list! How exciting!.

  3. I sure do miss Seneca Hill Perennials. I am glad to hear Ellen is still gardening. Good luck with your new society!

  4. Congrats on your new baby, Matt. Those searching for heat-tolerant dahlias should look here for lots of good info: www.dahliasocietyofgeorgia.com

  5. Anonymous9:47 AM

    Just joined the Canadian dahlia and chrysanthemum society this week. Thought I knew a lot but after the first meeting, realized I'm still a novice. Good luck with the new endeavour. Lori in Ontario, Canada

  6. Wish we were closer so I could join. Sounds like you're going to have a great group!

  7. I'm wishing I was from New England so I could join in the fun! Dahlias are one of my favorite flowers :)

  8. Hello Matt, my husband and I would like to attend the meeting at your home on Feb 27. We are also long time members of CSSM, and this sounds like an interesting new thing to grow. We will join. Thank you, Carol P. and Tony C.

  9. ellen9:10 PM

    Hi Matt,
    I'd love to attend the inaugural meeting. Over the last few years I've focused on growing vegetables -now is the time to start expanding into flowers - Dahlias being my favourites among them.

  10. Donna Raftery11:11 PM

    Matt -
    Would like to join and attend your first meeting. I was intriduced to Dahlia' at Great Dixter's a number of years ago and brought one, simple Dahlia back with me. Since then I have very slowly been adding one or two each year and am loving them. Look forward to getting to know them better.

  11. I would love to join! I live about 45 minutes away from Worcester, and I am a passionate dahlia grower!


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