Beauty Comes With Age

In Dutch we have a saying: “Lelijk in de luier, mooi in de sluier.” It literally means: “Ugly in their diaper, beautiful in their wedding veil.” It’s a bit of an older expression, meaning that people who are not the prettiest babies often grow up to be handsome adults. I’m not sure if it’s actually true or if it’s just been made up to be nice to people, but I do think we can apply it to Dahlias. Dahlia tubers are some of the ugliest things known to man. Truly, we get all sorts of flower bulbs and tubers in our warehouse, all covered in dirt and grime, and nothing looks quite as bad as the Dahlia does. People who see Dahlia bulbs for the first time are always surprised that the beautiful flower comes from that.True Dahlia lovers might be offended on behalf of their loved ones when I say this, but reality can be harsh, and we have to admit that Daffodil bulbs, for example, just look better than those Dahlia tubers. Daffodil bulbs look much more promising when you plant them, with Dahlias you really need to have a little faith.

Dahlias originally come from Mexico, and when you see the tuber, you wonder how anyone ever got the idea to take it with them instead of just leaving it behind.But Mother Nature always surprises us. The initial surprise is that the tuber is anything but a piece of sand at all: she starts growing roots, a sign of life! Then, she really gets going, and the initial slowness is nowhere to be found after that first stage: Dahlias grow into a massive plant in about a month, you can almost see her grow if you watch long enough. The plant starts to show the first signs of flowers, and seemingly overnight, you have the most beautiful, brightly coloured bush of Dahlias in your garden.

I know you think I’m exaggerating, something I never, ever do, but I really am not. There are some Dahlias that do even more than their peers: Dahlia La Bamba doesn’t have dozens of flowers, but rather hundreds of them. I think she’ll make even more if you play her that Los Lobos song every day, para bailar La Bamba. Let me know if you try.Dahlias do need a little bit of help in order to show you their very best performance. She needs a partner who keeps removing the finished, old blooms from the stems. If her partner regularly does this, she’ll have a way better time growing more new flowers and putting energy towards those newer ones. Dahlias can start blooming in July, and August is their busiest month. Over the month of August, taking out the finished blooms is most important. You can also pick the ones that are in full bloom, obviously: you can always have a vase full of them in the house. September often brings even more flowers, but when the nights start to cool down, the Dahlia slows down a little. She’s a little calmer now, but you’ll often still find some last flowers in between the cold leaves.If you want to plant Dahlias this summer, I have a few recommendations besides my earlier one, La Bamba, that make especially good dance partners:

Dahlia 'Pink Pop'Dahlia 'French Cancan'Dahlia 'Kelsey Sunshine'Dahlia 'Mambo'Dahlia 'Bee Friendly Mix'

Now it’s time for some more practical information. Snails. You may need to take a seat in order to hear this, because some people will get traumatic flashbacks now, and already know what I am going to say. Be careful, I will be showing some nudes as well.The slug, in Dutch fittingly only called ‘Naked Snail’, a creature you would almost feel sorry for due to their homelessness, but don’t be fooled: this is an absolutely relentless animal. They eat anything and everything, it’s unbelievable how much damage they can do. Snails are no less terrible. It often happens that people send us a photo, not knowing what they could have done wrong with extensive damage like they see in their garden, and we inspect the photos they attach and then have to tell them that it is all because of snails and slugs. 

I want to take this moment to warn you, because I think the snail- and slug population is doing pretty well in the average garden. I am no scientist, but snails and slugs like moisture, and we haven’t had rain like this year in a while. The things slugs and snails do not like consist mainly of drought and frost, and most places haven’t exactly seen that this past winter.Like I already said earlier, we also see it in the reactions we get about the spring blooming flower bulbs. Lots and lots of damage due to slugs and snails. The most annoying thing is that there isn’t a lot to do about it in advance. The most useful advice I can give is to inspect your flowers well and remove all snails and slugs you see.You can also prepare Dahlias before planting them in your garden. While waiting for the final frosty nights to be over, you can put her in a pot with a little soil and place it in a light spot in the shed or conservatory. Next week, I’ll tell you more about this.

Time to wrap it up, I think. I want to send my regards to Truus and Nico from Haarlem, two new readers of ours. We met in Den Oever when I was visiting ‘t Wad, where I went for some more inspiration for my writing. Regular readers know I go there when I’m not sure what to write about: then I go to ‘t Wad to get some truly good fish and think about my next subject as I drive. But we are going off track, I’ll stop now!Kind regards,

Carlos van der Veek