Thursday, October 2, 2014

Part 2: The Dinner Plates Dahlias & Flowers for Drying

It's a bit of a hike to the back field at Butt's Berry and Flower Farm where the dinner plate dahlias are grown. Rose Oldham suggests we might even want to take our car and drive out there.

As we crest the hill, the huge field of dahlias comes into view. 

Ahead of us, on the dirt road, we see that one of the summer hands is using a bike 
to make the same trek to the back field.

Suddenly the sun comes out from behind the clouds and it is bright blue sky and dahlias as far as the eye can see!

The dahlias we have come particularly to see are the "Dinner Plates" which, as the name suggests, are blooms the size of a small dinner plate. 

Put just one of these flowers in a vase and you already have a floral arrangement with a big impact.

This striking dinner plate streaked with magenta and maroon caught my eye immediately.

This is Dahlia 'Bristol Stripe'.

In the field there were rows of different shades of pink and lavender.

Dahlia 'Otto's Thrill'

Close-up of Dahlia 'Otto's Thrill'

Though I have always read that taller varieties of dahlias need some sort of support, none of the dahlias were staked. I asked Rose how the get away without staking the flower-heavy dinner plates.

"We plant our dahlias close together; about 12" apart. In tight rows, the dahlias seem to hold one another up. Another thing we do is to hill the young plants up with the tractor. I think this has to help as well", she replied.

Now you at home may not have a tractor, but you can still hill up taller dahlias to give them added support.

 Dahlia 'Cafe au Lait' is a creamy mix of pink and pale peach.

Opposite the row of hot pink Dahlia 'Otto's Thrill' is a line of creamy-yellow flowers striped with red.

 Dahlia 'Lady Darlene'

 Dahlia 'Lady Darlene'

The flower petals swirl up from the centre like flames.

The field also boasts every hot color from tangerine to red.


If you want to grow dahlias, here is some brief pointers for storing them over winter in a northern garden zone:

To overwinter the tubers, wait until frost has blackened the foliage and then dig deep beneath the clump. Lift the tubers carefully avoiding any possible damage to the neck near the crown. Each mother tuber can yield as many as 10 more tubers 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. Use a permanent marker to label the tubers for easy identification in spring. Place them in cardboard box and fill it with dry wood shavings or sawdust. Store your tubers in a dry place that stays above freezing temperatures for the winter. (A cold cellar or heated garage will work well. A basement may be too warm. )

Dahlias are not all that is grown on the farm.

 When we first arrived family patriarch Ross Oldham was setting off to pick 
the last of this summer's strawberries.

There are also pumpkins and a variety of vegetables.

 One final crop that I have yet to touch on are flowers that are perfect for drying, like these maroon strawflowers:

They have a fresh, new-mown-hay scent, hence the common name "Strawflower". More about 
Strawflowers in an upcoming post.

Everlasting flower or Statice (botanical name Limonium) is an old-fashioned annual
 that you simply hang to dry.

Have you ever seen these rather wacky looking flowers before? 

 These are an annual called Amaranthus Cruentus.

These similar, but pendulous flowers have the common name 'Love Lies Bleeding'. The botanical name is Amaranthus caudatus.

Amaranthus caudatus: A Victorian favourite, Amaranthus caudatus is great in fresh and dried floral arrangements. It is an annual flower that requires full sun and is quite happy in rather poor soil. As a seedling it likes moist conditions, but the mature plant is quite drought tolerant. Height can be as much as 3-5 feet. One word of warning: Amaranthus caudatus is quite the self-seeder and is considered invasive in some places. To avoid problems, harvest your Amaranthus caudatus before it drops its seed. Otherwise you may be weeding it endlessly next spring!

Finally, I would be remiss if I did not also point out that the farm also produces 
gorgeous delphinium each June.

More Information and Links:

Butt's Berry & Flower Farm

5838 5th Line
Rockwood, Ontario
(519) 856-0270

Delphinium, dahlias, and a variety of other flowers are grown on the farm. Orders for special events such as weddings are welcome.
There is no catalogue at this time, but dahlia tubers are available for purchase each spring. 
The farm also produces a wide range of vegetables, pumpkins and berries.

Visit the Butt's Berry& Flower Farm Facebook page.


  1. Wow! That peppermint patty striped one is STUNNING ((not that they aren't all beautiful).

    Have a great weekend!!

  2. I love all of the information on how to over winter the dahlia tubers....such great information here Jennifer and these dahlias are breath taking! And how amazing that these beauties are not staked!! That is unbelievable!!! I will try the hilling process as well! Pinning so I can refer back to this post! A wonderful weekend to you! Nicole xo

  3. OMG the flowers are stunning. Thanks so much for sharing these beautiful photo's with us.

  4. The dinner plate dahlias are stunning, Bristol Stripe would be my choice to grow.

  5. Oh my I can't believe my eyes. So many acres of beautiful flowers. The dahlias are stunning and your photography is stunning as well. Thanks for the growing tips , how would you hill them in a backyard garden? Amazing flower farm!

    1. Hi Chris, As an experiment based on what they do on the farm, I'd hill a dahlia in a circle around the base of the plant. It's worth a try to see if it helps them stay more upright.

  6. Funny name for the flower farm. Gosh what beauty there. Those dinner plate dahlias are fabulous. I love the varigated ones. - Also loved seeing the other stuff grown there and finally knowing what that droopy red plant is called. I've seen some in people's yards around here but had no idea what it is.

  7. That was a wonderful visit to the glorious dahlia fields. So beautiful!

  8. I love dahlias and I am as yet not very good at growing you mentioned they tend to fall over and try as I might I can't find the perfect way to stake them. Seeing these is a wonder, they are so exquisite! Thank you for sharing, this made my day.

  9. Be still my beating heart - I bet you thought you had died and gone to heaven.

  10. Why oh why don't I grow dahlias? They are so beautiful!!

  11. Unbelievable beauty here, Jennifer!
    I had the most gorgeous dinner plate dahlias, and they were white, but...
    The deer liked them too, and had them all for dinner one night. :-(

    Thank you for sharing all of this beauty here.
    Wishing you a wonderful weekend!

  12. Gorgeous! I gave up on dahlias a few years ago but wish there was somewhere around here where I could buy them as cut flowers. That would be enough to make me very happy. I wish I had been there to wander through all those flowers.

  13. In my opinion, dahlias in bloom is the highlight of the gardening season. They are stunning and make the best cut flowers. I think one of the big reasons I grow roses is because they keep me occupied while I wait for the dahlias to bloom. Your photos are so beautiful - that is one of the most beautiful dahlia gardens I have ever seen!

  14. WOW. I would take one of each!! Your photos are phenomenal. Love, love, love dahlias. I'm
    coming around to the dinner plates. Always preferred the collarettes before although I have 'Cafe au lait' this year. Like I said last post, I wish there were a field like this near my house!!

  15. Gorgeous flower pics as always! :-)

  16. I would have to visit weekly...I would love to grow more dahlias and lift them...but I have no luck overwintering them as I have only a basement and an unheated garage. I plan to grow Cafe au Lait next year...I might try using the garage again.

  17. Wow, such gorgeous dahlias! I do think that dahlias in bloom is the highlight of an autumn garden. :))

  18. Both virtual visits to the flower farm were wonderful and all the varieties of Dahlias are just amazing. Thank you for sharing your lovely photos!

  19. What a memorable sight those dahlias must have made! Breathtaking ! I presume they are for the cut flower market ?

    1. Hi Jane,
      Yes, they are for the cut flower market.

  20. So many wonderful places to visit in Ontario! How absolutely beautiful. Hope you're having a great Thanksgiving w/e. Thanks for the tip of writing on the tubers - don't know why I never thought of that! I've written down their name and will definitely make a point of trying to get by next year.
    Best wishes,

  21. Worth the long trek, Jennifer. Stunning blooms. P. x

  22. What a gorgeous place to visit! And your photos are just stunning, Jennifer.

  23. WOW! The field of dahlias is breathtaking. What a wonderful place to visit, and I think it must also be a wonderful place to work! Love Lies Bleeding is a flower I have admired before. I hope to buy some seeds and grow it in my garden next year.

  24. That photo of the dahlia field just took my breath away. I adore dahlias and that place looks like a dream come true. Now I'm seriously smitten with Lady Darlene.


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