'See where the Dahlia's velvet tempts the bee.'
THE fascinating subject of Dahlias, and their masterly culture, should fill a book rather than a portion of a chapter, but, fortunately, it is possible to reduce directions for their mere cultivation, by different methods, to the dimensions of a recipe such as this.
Plant old tubers, either whole or divided, in rich, well-drained, sunny ground, in April, 3 or 4 inches below the surface. Or place tubers in a layer of coconut-fibre refuse on a hot-bed, or in boxes over hot pipes or boiler, in March, and pot them singly in small pots as soon as growth begins, standing them in a temperature of 550. Or defer starting the tubers till May, then plant out when they are growing. Or buy young plants in pots for planting out in June. Or leave roots out always, in warm gardens, heaping cinders above them each October, not lifting and dividing them until flowers are poor. Water in times of growth. Feed with liquid manures from the budforming season until September. Except for plants left out, lift, slightly dry off, and store tubers in cold places out of damp and frost, laying dry sacking above them, or putting them in quite dry chaff or fibre, just below the surface. Arrange earwig-traps around Dahlias, either hollow canes, or inverted flower-pots on stakes, lined with rancid fat and containing hay that can be taken out and shaken over a pail of strong boiling brine, or a cold mixture of paraffin and water.
Thin shoots to three on each plant in July, or to five in the case of giant kinds, not dwarfs, nor Pompons. To obtain prize flowers disbudding is usually required. All the tall Dahlias ought to be 6 feet apart, and, away from any but quite dwarf annuals or perennials, but of course they must be placed differently to this when used merely for garden adornment. They look magnificent upon banks, which can enable them to tower 12 feet or more above the level, or may be used as clothing for the slopes of dells or moats. They are willing to blossom in openings of woodlands, where their white, cream, blush, lilac, or brighter or dark flower masses have most original effect, yet they can be relied on to form centre-pieces to lawn, or terrace beds. I have employed Single and Cactus Dahlias to make summer hedges in front gardens that were insufficiently screened, and the enormous Decorative Dahlias, on three-foot banks, set triangle shape with but a narrow gap for entrance, to make a shelter and shade for a log bench, where there was no summer-house and the sunshine was annually too ubiquitous. If the trim little Pompons are admired (and why should they fail to be?), it is very easy to keep flower-beds brilliant until the approach of winter.
When the expensive named varieties are grown, however, it is foolish to let them go on blossoming as long as they will, since the valuable tubers ought not to be weakened. Gardeners avoid this by slipping a fork beneath the plants, in early October, and lifting them just enough to disturb their roots, which causes growth to fade; and the tubers are taken up seven to ten days later, to dry and store. It is best to sprinkle old roots with tepid water, and keep them in a warm temperature, before dividing them. They may then be seen to be 'starting' at every 'eye'; and so it is simple for the inexperienced cultivator to separate them into as many pieces as there are eyes, or groups of pieces, as he chooses, before planting out, or potting them, in spring. Every bit of tuber cut with an eye will grow. Dahlia tubers are not spoilt, however, when frost seems to have suddenly cut down the growing plants. If these are lifted, the stems all cut away, and the root-clumps sun dried under cover, no destruction of any consequence will have occurred. But not the slightest frost must touch the roots or tubers while they are stored. As for what types of Dahlias to grow, the garden-owner's taste must rule.
Some enthusiasts love all, others object to the Show or Double, and the Pompons, for being like 'flowers carved out of turnips'; some regard the P‘ony-flowered and Decoratives as ungainly, ill-shaped, coarse monstrosities, and consider the Cactus-flowered family perfect in shape. While one person will rave over the purity of the Single Dahlias' form, another will wonder why any but the pointed-petal Single Cactuses are cultivated