This summer flew by even faster than usual with not one but 2 moves (we got to rent while we remodeled!), 4 kids home from school for the summer, 3 workshops at the farm (with 2 more coming up as I write this), many weekends with multiple weddings, a hot market season, and an ASCFG Regional Meeting at my farm. It’s been such a great adventure so far.

The 2012 ASCFG Mid-Atlantic Regional Meeting this past June was an amazing experience. Over 70 growers were registered and it was a fun crowd on my tiny farm. We had great discussions on several topics—rather than the usual speakers—and all the growers generously shared ideas and information. We demonstrated how easy it is to build a small hoophouse with Johnny’s new hoop bender and raffled off the one they donated. Barbara Lamborne was the lucky grower who went home with it and I’m sure she has great plans for it. We walked the field, much of which was still newly planted or recently tilled in. I showed off my favorite varieties of David Austin roses (‘Scepter’d Isle’ and ‘Jude the Obscure’ led the way, with ‘Abraham Darby’ close behind) and shared which were not the best (I still want to like the color of ‘L.D. Braithwaite’, but it just seems to go with nothing). My dahlias were just beginning to bloom and I was able to show a few of my favorite varieties, but just a little. So I thought I’d give an update here. By September 1st, I have ranked them as follows:

1. ‘Papageno’—still my favorite for the second year in a row, with large, 5-7”, peachy-terra cotta blooms with hints of lavender, and non-stop production.

2. ‘Snowbound’—a close second, again with 6-7” blooms of pure white with frilly edges, and later but productive bloom. I’m taking cuttings now for the winter hoophouse.

3. ‘Brushstrokes’—this variety surprised me. Swan Island Dahlias described it as “rose blooms of 5” in water lily form…of strong and sturdy substance”. This all sounded good, but not amazing, blow-your-mind exciting. However, by end of summer, if I had to recommend only one dahlia for cut flower production, this would be it. By late August, plants were easily 5 ½” feet tall, base branching for over 2’ tall straight, thick stems and large purple/lilac flowers that are fully double with constant production that started early and never let up.

4. ‘Neon Splendor’—I am not a huge fan of orange flowers or super bright colors in general, but I have to give this one props. One of the first to bloom, and no end in sight, the 3-4” blooms are a cool mixture of red-orange fading to yellow-orange in the center. A little shorter than I would like, but for first year tubers, every stem was usable. A winner for a market head-turner.

5. ‘Uptown Girl’—I would grow more of this for the color alone. Described as “rust-orange with pink undertones” on Swan Island’s website, but more of a deep rose with coral-orange accents for me. Like a few others, this one started early and is still going strong in September with great long, strong stems.

6. ‘Myrtle’s Folly’—I was so excited about this one with its frilly blooms in a wild blend of pink, salmon, lilac, purple, coral, mauve and peach! When it first bloomed, the flowers were even cooler than I expected. More frilly and more colorful with lots of the raspberry pink that is my favorite these days. However, my patience is regularly tested by this one that drags out the days between new blooms. Still, the healthy plants and head-turning flowers would make it worth the wait as a market flower.

7. ‘Excentric’—unbeatable color and shape, but not the strongest production for a mid-sized bloom. Hopefully second-year plants will be a little taller and more productive.

8. ‘Raspberry Punch’ and ‘Jennifer’s Wedding’—I am lumping these two together as they were similar in many ways for me. Many purple blooms on both (not raspberry) with good size and shape. Nothing wowed me, but I would still recommend them as cut flowers for market or wholesale.

9. ‘Fatima’—a tiny little bloom of about 2” with great, bright pink color and tons of blooms. If I liked the smaller flowers, I might grow more of this one for its high production levels. Although, I have to say: it looks like a mum, so I think I’d opt for a mum instead with less bug pressure and a better vase life!

10. ‘Gabrielle Marie’, ‘Sonic Bloom’, and ‘Miss Delilah’—this group all had beautiful blooms with great colors, but all were short plants or short stems. Big hopes for 2013 as they all were listed as four-foot plants and stayed around 24” this year. ‘Miss Delilah’ never reached over 15” and will be moved to a garden bed next year if it stays so short.

11. ‘Linna’—a great yellow with touches of orange, and nice and tall. This one almost stopped blooming in the dead of summer, though.

12. ‘Sugar Lips’—this one was an impulse buy, thrown on to my order at the last minute. Its whimsical blooms feature pink and white cactus flowers that were smaller than advertised (2-3” vs. 5”) for me, but still really cool. The stems, however, were very thin and needed extra support (which incidentally, I did not provide). Needless to say, this one is a tangled mess at the start of fall.

13. ‘Voodoo’—As of the Regional Meeting in June, these had just started blooming and I LOVED the almost black, perfectly formed blooms. However, they bloomed until mid July and stopped. I am really hoping they will make a fall appearance. Everything else about this variety was perfect.

As always, fall is one of my busiest times of year with weddings, fall planting and big planning sessions for the next year. I hope you all have had a successful and fun 2012 and are looking forward to new and exciting things for a new season.

Becky Devlin

Roost Flowers & Design

Becky Devlin Roost Flowers & Design [email protected]