By Kathy Feist
Is there anything more fascinating than a dahlia?
Brilliant hues of colors. Thousands of unique blooms. Flowers as small as 2 inches. Flowers as wide as 12 inches. Some plants are a foot tall. Others are 8 feet tall.
And unless you replant their roots (tubers), their seeds will produce a flower completely different from the parent.
“It’ll be anything: little ones, big ones. It can be everything amazing,” says Larry Boucher, Senior Judge with the Greater Kansas City Dahlia Society and award-winning dahlia gardener.
Boucher will be overseeing the Greater Kansas City Dahlia Society Show at Suburban Lawn and Garden in Martin City on September 30 and October 1st. Prizes are awarded for Best of Show among other categories.
While horticulturists have narrowed the dahlia plant down to 42 different species, there are over 2000 varieties of flowers. “The blooms just go wild,” says Boucher. “They can be anything from the whole spectrum of colors, shapes and sizes. The varieties just go on forever.”
For the past 15 years, Boucher has grown prize winning dahlias from his garden in Peculiar. He became enthralled with the species upon seeing his friend’s bright yellow dahlia the size of a dinner plate, known as the Kelvin Floodlight. Boucher soon began growing it himself in his wife’s flower garden. He now tends to 42 different varieties. Boucher, a former meat inspector, has won prizes in the state fair, county fair, and at the Society’s dahlia shows at Powell Garden and Suburban Lawn & Garden.
The trick to growing prize-winning dahlias, says Boucher, is to pinch off two of the three buds growing together on a stem.
While this is the trick, it’s no secret. That information and more can be found on their website kcdalia.org
The Suburban show is the last one of the year for the society. That date is cutting it short before cooler weather takes hold of outdoor plants. “The plants are pretty susceptible to frost or freeze, because they’re like a tomato, pretty much all water,” explains Boucher.
When the last petal falls, members will cut off the plant and dig up the tubers, the size of sweet potatoes, and store them indoors for the winter. Growing the flower from a tuber rather than a seed ensures show quality consistency. In the spring, some tubers will be replanted. Others will be available for sale by the society for only $5.
The Greater Kansas City Dahlia Society has educational classes at the Anita B. Gorman Discovery Center, 4750 Troost. A meeting on October 22 will discuss storing tubers over the winter. Boucher welcomes newcomers as well as new show competitors. ‘They keep us on our feet,” he says.