When you think of flowers several images come to mind, brightly colored petals of a single hue, or perhaps variegated petals with green, exotic foliage and a fragrant scent.
Well, two out of three aren’t bad, just ask any dahlia grower and they will tell you that two out of three are exactly what a perfect dahlia includes.
“I always tell visitors to our shows to smell them all they want,” Bernard Lohkamp, a member of the Greater Kansas City Dahlia Society and judge at the Missouri State Fair said. “Once they do and say they can’t smell anything I tell them that’s because, ‘you took all the smell out of them.’
“You can take them to the hospital or give them to anyone who is sensitive to flowers and it won’t bother them because they have no scent,” he added with a smile.
Although not considered a hardy flower the plants are native to the mountainous regions of Mexico.
Botanist Dr. Anders Dahl collected the plants and catalogued them and according to Lohkamp, there are over 43 different forms and sizes of the plants that are known to exist today.
“It’s the largest variety of plants in the world as far as I know,” Lohkamp said. “They come in every color and combination of colors but blue, in fact I’d pay right now if somebody can find a blue one.
“For us they are just the prettiest flower in the world because they come in all shapes and sizes,” he added. “The largest record for a bloom is 16 inches which is really large when you think about it.”
Lohkamp commented that if a person can grow a tomato they could grow a dahlia.
“Anything that you use to care for a rose you can use on a dahlia,” he said. “They use the same types of fertilizer and can be grown in the same regions.
“Dahlia tubers have to be dug up each fall and stored for the winter,” he explained. “You can plant them any time after May 1 but you need to have them in the ground by June 15.”
Once the tubers have been dug, they need to be washed with water to remove the excess dirt and dried.
They should be stored at 40 to 55 degrees according to Dahlia Society information.
They also recommend labeling the tubers for easier identification of the plants next year.
For Lohkamp one of the more difficult aspects about the pants is their perfection.
“They truly are gorgeous flowers,” Lohkamp said. “How can you choose the winner without looking for points of fault in other entries?
“It’s really all you can do, “he said.
Beverly Gerke, superintendent for the Floriculture Building commented that it has been a very good year for her exhibitors and shows.
“We’ve had a lot of good shows and presentations this year, the Trash and Treasure program and Yard Art program were really good.
They are always fun and there is a lot of good thinking and creative ideas there,” she added. “The Rose Show is always a big draw and we have some good programs today and tomorrow too.”
Gerke said that during the Fair, the Floriculture Building was her home away from home and after 11 years serving as superintendent, she still enjoys the work.
“I think it gets into my blood,” Gerke said. “We’ve had a lot of younger exhibitors this year and that’s what we want to see, we want the department and the program continue to thrive and grow.”
Hope Lecchi can be reached at 660-826-1000 ext. 1484.