I’ve found another favorite flower, but that’s for later in this letter. First, to all of you who made it to Vancouver, I’m sorry I wasn’t there to see you. I have traveled through much of the world, but I’ve never been in Vancouver and I was really looking forward to visiting that famous city and to participating in the first conference that has been organized under my tenure. I’ve talked to many friends who did attend and they all say it was great. My thanks to everyone who worked so hard to organize this big event. While I was recuperating from the as yet unidentified malady that struck me down a few days before the conference, I had plenty of time to reflect on our season here at Wollam Gardens. What went right and wrong?  
    
What went really well was dahlias and I’ve fallen in love with them. So, after many frustrating years of growing a few each year, we took them seriously in 2003. That meant about 800 plants, lots of net – at least 2 layers per bed – and 150 T- posts.  
    
I not only had saved my own tubers from previous years, but bought in Karmas. Our saved tubers had been culled down to 6 varieties by Susan Corrigan (trusted farm manager here) who pronounced many of my old varieties as too unproductive or weak stemmed. We divided and saved the “good ones” last fall. That included ‘Amy Kay’, ‘Linda Arnett’, ‘A la Mode’, ‘Barron’, ‘Peachy’, ‘Brookside’, ‘Snowball’, and ‘Indian Sunset’.  We’re digging all of these now (late November) and will keep most of them. We’re still discussing the low productivity of these last two and may not grow them again.
  
In case you’re trying to find these varieties in catalogues, I’m not sure the names will be the same. The tubers were all provided by my old friend Stan Meyer, who still grows 2 acres of dahlias on the only farm left in Reston, Virginia. Stan gave me these names so blame him.  
  
The Karmas were a great success. We grew four varieties, all of which we thought would be tall. Previous experience with Karmas had shown me that most varieties don’t grow tall enough to make good cuts. ‘Thalia’ and ‘Naomi’ were the best. They grew tall stems and were very productive. ‘Bon Bini’ and ‘Sangria’ are gorgeous flowers, but we didn’t get much height from either the plant or the stems.
  
Our customer reaction was terrific – that certainly is one of the reasons I loved them. We had people lined up at the farmers’ markets waiting to choose theirs.  We sold them as individual stems for $1 each and we usually were sold out within the first hour of the market. The florists also loved them and gladly paid $7.75 per bunch even though there were periods when they could buy dahlias from the local wholesaler for $4.00 per bunch. (Freshness and different varieties really count with dahlias).
    
This season we’re planning to double our dahlia production. These babies are a lot of work and take a lot of manpower. Digging, dividing, storing, planting and netting all add more to the task of growing these flowers than most others. But they are beautiful and in great demand, so we’ll just hope they do well in 2004.