Every year the National Garden Bureau, the non-profit organization whose mission is to disseminate basic information and instructions for backyard gardeners, selects one annual, one perennial, one edible and one bulb to be featured in their “Year of the …” program. Plants are chosen because they are popular, easy-to-grow, widely adaptable, genetically diverse, and versatile.
The inclusion of bulbs is a relatively new category and the Bureau’s 2019 choice is “The Year of the Dahlia,” one of this columnist’s favorite flowers for sure. However, for many gardeners, “tubers” would be a more appropriate name than bulbs for dahlias.
According to the Bureau, “The native dahlias found in the mountains of Mexico and Guatemala are the genetic source for the modern hybrid dahlias we grow today. While busy conquering the Aztec nation, 16th-century Spanish conquistadors pursued numerous side explorations that led to the discovery of the New World plant life….
“About 200 years passed before dahlia seeds, roots, and plants found their way to Spain and other parts of Europe. The Madrid Botanical Gardens named the genus for Andreas Dahl, a Swedish botanist, and student of Carl Linnaeus. Initial breeders of dahlias were more interested in the dahlia as a food source since the blooms at that time were not particularly noteworthy.
“In 1872 a new box of dahlia roots was sent from Mexico to Holland and the only surviving tuber produced a brilliant red bloom with petals that were rolled back and pointed. Immediately dahlias regained their place on the benches of plant breeders who began to successfully combine this new variety (D. juarezii) with parents of early varieties. These progenies have served as the parents of today’s hybrids….
“Dahlia is a genus of tuberous plants that are members of the Asteraceae (or Compositae) plants. Related species include the sunflower, daisy, chrysanthemum, and zinnia. There are many species of dahlia in a range of colors and forms with hybrids commonly grown as garden plants. The flower varies in size and form. Each flower can be small or large, ranging from 2 inches in diameter to up to 15 inches. The largest flower form is informally known as a “dinner plate” dahlia.
“The American Dahlia Society categorizes today’s dahlias into various groups based on size, form, and color.”
In future postings, we look forward to highlighting the other 2019 choices: snapdragon (annual), salvia (perennial), and pumpkin (edible).
(Sincere thanks to the National Garden Bureau for sharing this information. Be sure to visit www.ngb.org.)