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The Gift of a Dahlia

It's a Beautiful Day to dig Dahlias in my neighborhood!

It's a Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood.

This beautiful phrase can't be read without hearing Mr. Roger's voice singing his iconic song. Am I right?! And for good reason. He instilled the idea that neighborhoods truly exist where people know each other, support each other, and even care about each other.

This was a novel idea for me as a child. We moved a lot. The longest I ever lived in one place was three years before we bought our home in Kitsap County. We've now been here for over seven years. Seven years is a long time. And thankfully, in that time, we have been able to get to know the people in our neighborhood. People that have become part of our community.

If you have been following my journey, you may have heard me mentioned my fantastic neighbor. But the fun secret behind "my neighbor" is that I'm usually referring to different people. We have lots of great neighbors who know my family and truly support us.

This year has solidified that neighborly community as we all struggle to navigate Covid-19. Interactions happen from afar or with masks. Traditional events, like the summer geoduck dig at low tide, didn't even happen. But through it all, I feel closer to the people in my neighborhood than ever before. And this week, it has all centered around dahlias.

I got a text over the weekend from "my neighbor" that said, "Hi. I am dividing my dahlias and wondering if you would like to add this (red dahlia) to your garden." Out of the blue! Well, maybe not entirely out of the blue. I've hosted several plant swaps and have done garden consults for different people over the years, so I guess you could say I'm building a reputation.

Now, when someone offers you a dahlia, you never know what they might mean. It could be a single tuber, or it could be a mass of tubers that have been in the ground for years, untouched by human hands since its first planting. Since she said she was dividing her dahlias, I figured it would be the first scenario. But when I showed up, she walked up to me with a shovel in hand and took me over to a clump of dried-out dahlia stems.

"Well, here it is! How should we dig it up?"

I smiled to myself as I wasn't really prepared to dig and divide dahlias, but what the heck. I'm always game to dig in the dirt. She went and got a pitchfork at my request as it does a better job of digging without causing as much damage to the tubers. Knowing it had been in the ground for a few years, I was prepared for a monster, so I dug wide around the plant's crown. The tines of the pitchfork went deep before anything started to budge. It was going to be a big one. As I reached down with my bare hands to pull it up, a look of deep concern came over her face. She felt so bad for getting my hands dirty and asked if I wanted gloves. I assured her that my hands weren't cold and that it wasn't a big deal, but eventually, she went into the garage and gave me a pair of gloves to wear. I said thank you and put them on.

After we hosed the dahlia off, I pulled out the snips I always keep in my purse (that's normal, right?) and was preparing to divide the whole clump, take one home and leave her the rest. I showed her and her husband where the eyes were and what to look for in a healthy tuber. I quickly snipped off a beautiful tuber at the top and was getting ready to keep going when she stopped me. "You don't have to divide it now. You can take the whole thing."

Wow! I thanked her profusely, we walked around the garden, and she gave me a few other treasures, including a lace-cap hydrangea that had spread by layering. It took a bit of sweat equity, but I was able to divide and dig up a mature plant that I'm excited to find a home for in our gardens.

The dahlia tubers are sitting next to me right now, on a bin in my dining room. This weekend, I plan on shooting a YouTube video showing how to break down a giant dahlia cluster like this. Last year I was gifted a similar-sized dahlia cluster from another neighbor that I divided, grew, and now have over 100 tubers from that single plant. Isn't she beautiful?

My gardens would not be what they are today without the generosity of my neighborhood. They continue to solidify the truth that gardeners are some of the most generous people alive. They love to grow things and absolutely hate to throw away perfectly good divisions of plants. I've reached that point in my garden journey too. My garden is finally to the point where it is producing more than I can grow here. So I decided it's high time I sell some of my dahlia tubers.

I'm excited to announce that my amazing friend, Amber Augspurger of Boomerang Blooms, is joining me to host a Dahlia Easter Basket Sale on March 27th. We will be hand selecting collections of five dahlia tubers to beautify your summer garden. Inventory is limited, so make sure to sign up for our mailing list to have early access to the sale.

Carilyn Mae

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