According to The National Garden Bureau, 2019 is the Year of the Dahlia. And according to Bullington Gardens, every year should be the year of recognition for these superior blooms.
Gardener Brian Killingsworth, a dahlia expert with the Hendersonville nonprofit — a botanical display and education center — teams up with volunteers each spring to plant more than 600 dahlias on the property for visitors to explore through late summer and early fall. “There are countless varieties since they have been hybridized over hundreds of years,” explains Director John Murphy. “They’re just pretty remarkable with their unique forms, colors, and sizes. We usually host a ‘How to Grow a Dahlia’ workshop in the spring when it’s time to plant them.”
The genus is native to the high plains of Mexico, where it originated in the 16th century. “In our garden here, we have the Anemone, Waterlily, Ball, Pompon, Cactus and Semi-Cactus, Collarette, and more,” says Kim Biggerstaff, a Bullington volunteer. Due to the cool, wet climate in this region, dahlias are treated as annuals even though they’re considered perennials in their native, warm climate.
“It’s really interesting because when you dig them up [after the first frost], you can separate the tubers into multiples to grow more plants the following year,” says Biggerstaff. “As long as you take care of the tubers, you can grow the flowers continuously.”
Pollinators who adore these late-season blooms return each year to fertilize them. “Butterflies and bees are almost always on the open-faced flowers like the Waterlily Dahlias,” says Biggerstaff. “The Collarette dahlias are attractive to them as well because they have petals inside of bigger petals, making a ‘collar’ form inside of the flat-shaped flower.” The colors of the flowers become very intense as the season progresses, and were heading toward their peak when Bold Life visited in mid September. They’ll begin to droop once the temperature drops, so the growers at Bullington suggest guests visit the garden soon to marvel at the astonishing varietals.
Bullington Gardens, 95 Upper Red Oak Trail, Hendersonville. Garden hours are Monday through Saturday, 8:30am-4:30pm. For more information on events and workshops, visit bullingtongardens.org. 828-698-6104.