Monday, August 16, 2010

Dahlias from Butt's Berry and Flower Farm, Rockwood Ontario

"Everything has its beauty, but not everyone sees it." Confucius

Dahlias are one of my most favorite flowers, yet I have never really grown them. I think that is because I have a ready source of these wonderful flowers in greater variety of color, size and shape than my garden could ever produce.

Starting in late July, there is a veritable rainbow of gorgeous dahlias at my local farmer's market.

I love everything about the farmer's market; the bustle of people, the fresh picked fruit and vegetables, and the stands blooming with summer flowers. With luck market day is warm and sunny. Everyone, it always seems to me, is in a festive mood. In the air there is the smell of chicken kabobs sizzling on the grill, and the delicious scent of fresh baked bread and pastries.

For me the very best part of market day, is selecting the bouquet of fresh flowers that will light up my hall table all week. And, in my humble opinion, the prettiest, fresh flowers at the Brampton farmer's market can be found at Butt's farm stand.

Amanda Oldham (right) with her aunt Robin Withers in front of their dahlias and buckets of glads at Butt's Berry and Flower Farm stand at the Brampton farmer's market.

The Butt family has been growing flowers for four generations, first at their farm in Huttonville and now at their new farm in located near Rockwood, Ontario. 

Starting in 1944, the family began growing glads and strawberries at their first farm on the outskirts of Brampton. When the popularity of dahlias grew in the 1980's, fields were changed over to grow them.

Then slowly over the years, the city began to inch ever closer to the farm. Developers, keen to build houses for a ready market, began knocking on all the doors of farms in the area. "They used to sometimes come in twice a week, pressuring us to sell.", Robin Withers recounts. 

The family finally relented about five years ago, opting to move out far from the encroaching suburbs and bought a farm in Eramosa township. There, they carry on their flower and berry business, driving everyday to the flower grower's clock in Mississauga and coming into Brampton for the market on Saturday.

It one thing to grow flowers for your own personal enjoyment, its another to grow them for a living.

I asked Robin about the challenges the farm faces. "Its very tough."she replied,"We are always at the mercy of the weather."

We were thrilled when Robin invited us out to the farm to see the dahlias growing in the fields.

It was a hot, humid day when we headed down the tree lined road to the farm house, just north of the small town of Rockwood.

I was curious about the rows of small rocks resting on the open gate and fence that marked off the flower fields. I asked Robin later if that was for luck. "No" she answered, "My father just likes to pick them up in the field and put them there."

Chelsea the dog made an excellent field guide on the afternoon of our visit.

Aren't they just magnificent?

Dahlia flowers in a variety of shapes and an amazing range of colors.

They prefer full sun and well drained sandy loam. Plant dahlia tubers about five inches deep, with the eye facing upwards, after the last frost. For best results, incorporate a couple of spadefuls of compost into the soil, when you plant dahlia tubers. Thereafter, feed them only with fertilizers low in nitrogen and high in phosphorous and potassium.

Water dahlias lightly after planting (too much water can cause rot). Thereafter, ensure they have water at least once a week. To encourage good flowering, do not allow them to dry out during blooming season.

Pinch your dahlias for more compact plants and deadhead them regularly. The more flowers you cut, the more flowers the plant will bear!

To overwinter the tubers, wait until frost has blackened the foliage and then dig deep beneath the clump. Lift the tubers carefully avoiding possible damage to the neck near the crown. Each tuber can yield as many as 10 more by autumn.

Use a sharp knife to slice the young tubers from the crown. Discard the "mother" along with any baby tubers showing signs of damage. Bring the tubers indoors and wash the soil from the tubers. Allow them to dry for 24 hours. Label the tuber and wrap them individually in plastic wrap. Place them in plastic shoeboxes and store them in a dry place above freezing temperatures for the winter.

Me, I prefer to get my dahlias at the market. (Less work and all the glory!)

I think going local means more than buying fruit and vegetables grown in your area. 

I say, support your local flower grower and bring home a bouquet of fresh flowers just for you! Place them somewhere you pass frequently, like a hall table or put them on your desk at work. Go on! You desire it (and you help support your local farm family to boot)!


  1. That most be the nicest post about Dahlias I have ever read. The photos show the dahlia's off perfectly and its so interesting to read about the farm and see the dahlias growing in the drills. Thanks today for visiting me

  2. So glad you left a comment so I could follow you back to your beautiful blog. Swooning over your dahlias! Your photos are sumptuous. Denise at agrowingobsession.

  3. O my! STUNNING photos! So curious about what camera you use and if you're a professional...
    Thanks for stopping by my blog today! So happy I've discovered yours:)

  4. I think I need to take your advice because this year my dahlia growing was a dismal failure. Just pitiful. I can tell these guys have no problems though-how wonderful! Chelsea is just too sweet. Nothing better than an old golden-I know because I have two and love them so much.

    I was looking at Hillary's garden below. Just wonderful! That ivy, hmmmmm-not so sure.

  5. My husband and I both take the pictures. I use an old Kodak camera that has become pretty dated, but is still well loved. We recently added a newer camera- a Nikon D5000, which we are still getting to know. Hubby is the only one who has gotten to play with the new toy so far!!

  6. What can I say but 'Wow' - never seem so many beautiful shots of dahlias in full and colourful bloom. I do not envy the Butt family all that hard work farming them but do feel tempted to grow some now you have given us all the low down on cultivation. Thank-you! Nice touch with the cherries :)


  7. You have taken some gorgeous pictures of some gorgeous flowers here girl ! you have me almost convinced to pot dahlias up for next year on the deck .. that looks like a wonderful market : )
    We have market days here in Kingston too .. I must make an effort to see it again : )
    Love the rocks on the fence post .. I am a rock hound even after this darn injury .. I don't know what it is about them ;-)
    believe it or not I just heard a flock of geese go by while I'm listening to the crickets here this morning !
    Joy : )
    Halloween is only 74 days away !!

  8. Oh my goodness! Over the last month there have been many posts on daylilies with all their colours that many have talked about lovingly but these dahlias take the cake! OH, they are beyond perfection, I'm literally drooling. Your pictures are incredible. I purchased 3 tubers in the spring and had dismal luck with slugs eating them off, finally moved them to a better spot and they are growing but it seems I may not get flowers this year. what a shame. I love them so.

  9. Thank you for sharing your beautiful pics and promoting local flowers. I sell flowers at the Newmarket Farmers' Market and keep telling people it is important to feed the soul as well as the body!
    Cathy, Perennial Petals

  10. I wonder if I have used any of their dahlias at the flower shop. We buy from the flower auction in Mississauga. Interesting to see the farm.

  11. What gorgeous photos!!! I haven't had much luck with dahlias. Maybe's it's all the humidity. Before reading the other comments I thought you were a professional photographer!

  12. Folks, thank you for highlighting our farm. Your pictures are absolutely beautiful! We can't seem to take pictures and get the colours right - but you certainly have. We do take our flowers to the flower auction in Mississauga, so very likely your previous commenter has had some of our dahlias. Your column is a joy to read! Thanks again

  13. What a fun post. Thanks for the link!

  14. Jennifer! Hey fellow artist. I am stunned and inspired by your photographs. The dahlias make me want to take up my canvas, paints and brushes and do some Georgia O'Keefe inspired work. Don't give up hope in finding the next step on your journey. (It was a pleasure to meet you at the Barrett wedding tonight.)

  15. Just visited this farm today after seeing this post a couple months back. I will be using some dahlias from the farm for a wedding this Saturday. Thank you for leading me to them :) I am going to put a link on our FB page to your blog as your photos of the farm are stunning!

    THanks again!

  16. Wonderful photography !! Thanks for taking these photos of our farm. Believe it or not I am the "Butt" in Butt's Berry & Flower Farm. I just happened upon this site while trying to find some new dahlia varieties. You really make our flowers shine. Thanks too for promoting our farm. Marilyn

    1. Marilyn, it was my very great pleasure to have the opportunity to visit the farm and photograph your family's beautiful dahlias!


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