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Dramatic Tree Dahlia Success

In November, the big news in our home garden was the success of our tree dahlia. It began to bloom at the end of October and still had a few blossoms the weekend after Thanksgiving. It was so tall the flowers were at the level of our second story window. This is such big news because the tree dahlia we had previously, a single-flowered white one, was such a failure.

The white one grew tall all right, and it bloomed too. It's first buds opened just at Thanksgiving and there were plenty of buds. However, at the end of November or the first week of December, there was usually, seems like always, a big wind that lasted 1-3 nights. At the end of it, the flowers and buds were mostly gone and most of the leaves had also broken off. Then all we had was a blackened skeleton until we got tired of looking at it and cut it down. Such a disappointment.

But this one not only begins to bloom a month earlier, but also, when the wind howled three nights in a row last week, the leaves survived! So we had a glorious month of lavender flowers and now the plant is still rather attractive as it soaks up the last bit of sunlight before its annual cutting back. March is the suggested month for cutting back, and we are grateful to have an attractive plant to look at until then.

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So the moral is that all tree dahlias are not the same. This plant, native to South Mexico and Guatemala to Colombia, is Dahlia imperialis. The species has white, pink, or lavender flowers; single or double. (Because it is a composite flowerhead, "double" means that it has more than one ring of showy ray flowers around the small yellow disk flowers.) Are all white-flowered ones earlier and more delicate in wind? What about double ones? I have no idea. But I'm glad we found a way to enjoy it in our windy garden.

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