Remember too that there is little monetary motivation to introduce a new, strictly for show dahlia to such a small market. And you would have to prove that it is an excellent show flower by showing it to perfection. And as previously mentioned, you could not expect any success in the trial gardens. Here is a picture of a really nice show dahlia that we culled because of the lack of vigor.
The flowers were really spectacular and we did send it to another grower to evaluate. Nothing came of it and we did not grow it the next year.
"I guess microclimate and soil are huge factors in deciding what is vigorous. "
One of the most accomplished growers, with numerous best in show awards grew Kenora Challenger in his meticulous show garden for several years trying to get that perfect flower. In those same years, he achieved best in show with several other cultivars and had no success with Challenger and he gave up. I talked to an equally accomplished exhibitor about his plans for a big show the next year and he said he was going to grow 30 plants of Challenger in order to get a really good flower. He did not get that flower although he had been successful with it in the past. Both of these growers grow dahlias in ideal conditions. Sometimes one is able to find excellent stock of one of these great dahlias and have some success with it(Edna C. discussion). For the average gardener, these difficult dahlias should generally be avoided. If want to be "Challenged", go ahead and try a few of them.
I'm torn on this topic. On one hand I'm crying just a little bit inside to see the photo of that bloom and realize it was culled. Dahlias that can produce a bloom like that should be prized and coddled along. If I were a hybridizer, I know I would have a very difficult time passing up something that produced some knock-out blooms because it lacked "vigor." Even if they don't pass in the trial gardens; I think they can be offered for sale as long as they include a good description (something that I appreciate about Hollyhill). Give buyers fair warning that they might have a difficult time; but if you are willing to plant a few of them, and baby them along - you might score big if you are an exhibitor. Plus, that way you might give someone else the chance to maybe get a good seedling that DOES have vigor and good consistent bloom quality. I guess the opposite argument of this is that you are creating 'weak' dahlias that aren't good to breed. We should be trying to get better, stronger dahlias; not weak ones right?
Particularly if it is a dahlia variety that is "needed", I think it should be introduced anyway. Some ADS classifications don't have any active varieties winning. In those cases - introducing seems like a duty. For example: Ted, if that dahlia is a B Cactus (just guessing) and happened to be a nice shade of pink, lavendar or purple - you'd HAVE to keep it right??
On the other hand, lack of vigor is frustrating. One variety that I have that fits this category (at least for me), is Taratahi Glo. The plant wilts in the sun and is slow to grow. But you get the best color of blooms the more sun you give it. It's an awefully frustrating dahlia; but it is AMAZING when it produces a good bloom. Worth it? In my opinion...yes.
I grew Taratahi Glo for the first time last year too. Usually, I will walk down the rows and spot the new ones growing and make a mental note about them. Taratahi Glow did not do really well for me either and I remember having to bend over to see the bloom and then looking at the tag on the ground. The bloom was pretty and my mental note was that I would have to tie the bush up better next year. By the way, I have spent more time tying up waterlilies than just about any other type. This may well fit the topic as people are releasing these beautiful waterlilies but they have a real tendency to fall over. Pam Howden is one that really needs lots of attention. Kelgai Ann is much better in that department. My wife crossed Pam Howden with a vigorous grower and got Hollyhill Tigress. It grows much taller and more vigorously than Pam Howden. I think that most dahlia growers would like waterlilies better if they grew more upright.
How vigorous is good enough?
(a) grows only 3 feet tall and plant is not very bushy
(b) grows 3 feet tall and plant is bushy.
(c) grows 3.5 feet tall and needs to be tied up carefully.
(d) grows 4 feet tall and wants to fall over
(e) grows 4 feet tall and has nice foliage and stems
(f) grows 5 feet tall and needs minimal staking
(g) grows at least 5 to 6 feet tall and needs some staking
It seems like growing anything in my hot climate is a burden to grow at times so I'm not too picky on if they're really vigorous or not. The first year I grew Hillcrest Kismet it only had one bloom but all the time/money spent worth that one glorious bloom.
I'm looking forward to the few waterlilys I'm growing this year. My Pam Howden tuber clump actually originated from a tuber I bought last year, took a cutting from, the tuber died, but the cutting managed to survive and grew a little clump of tubers I kept in a 8" nursery pot. The tubers have already sprouted so hopefully if I do a good enough job of maintaining them I can have some blooms on those by sometime in June. I also got Kelgai Ann, Forty-Niner, Taratahi Ruby, and Monet Glory (last minute addition to my order through Cowlitz River Dahlias).
In my opinion, vigor does not necessarily translate into height. I like having some shorter dahlias as long as they are healthy looking. My favorite dahlia of 2011 was Hillcrest Jake. For me it only grew about 3 feet tall. But it was nice and lush and healthy looking and produced some nice, deep blooms. I realized near the end of the season that I never had to stake it. It was planted by a stake; but I never tied it up.
I agree, Honnat. Healthy plants that seem to grow and thrive with enthusiasm, any summer from deluge to dought, are what I consider to be vigorous, even if they are short. I'd consider not needing staking a bonus. I'm also keen on plants that tolerate the dodgiest soil, taste bad to creepy crawlies, and have clean leaves when the rest are showing signs of mildew.
Yeah, the picture of Monet Glory won me over. There are a few vendors out there that carry great varieties and I think they could do a lot better with their business if they had better pictures of their stock. Hollyhill does a wonderful job of having if not only one but multiple shots of blooms of the tubers, same with Cowlitz River, Accent, Swan Island, etc... I'm almost tempted to contact a few other vendors and offer up my services of taking photos for them of all the different types they carry just so people have a better idea of what the bloom looks like which would probably benefit them sales-wise.
I know I said this before but I am amazes me on how many sites they have poor pictures. Green centers, open centers, not open all the way, ect. I almost won't consider a dahlia unless I see a good picture or two.
And out of focus pictures! I know I share some fuzzy pictures after shows, when you can't go back and get another one because the show is over, but if you can only get one fuzzy picture of a line you are selling, I assume it doesn't flower often.
I don't mind seeing the odd green centre or open centre, but I'd like to see a good bloom of the same cultivar as well. One of our growers makes honest comments like "short stems", "prone to dropping petals" and so on, so when she posts a photo with a green centre, I assume that is just another way of being honest about the kinds of flower that Dahlia can produce at times.
I personally like the shorter bushier plants with large flowers. I have your average sized back yard with a mixed perennial border in the back. I like to mix the dalias in with other perennials and annuals and I find the dahlias that are about 3 1/2 feet tall are ideal for this. I do have one spot where I plant the taller ones. This year I ordered Mango Madness from Swan Island and I think this one should fit in nicely.
I had a conversation with another breeder about the popularity of shorter growing "border" dahlias that are sold in retail operations and grown from cuttings. We have seen quite a few of the varieties and neither of us are very impressed with the quality of the blooms. For example last year, my wife and I visited a very large greenhouse operation and saw about ten of the varieties in full bloom. As is traditional for greenhouse operations, the plants had been treated with a chemical that causes the plants to be shorter and bloom earlier. My wife, the dahlia breeder took one look at the blooms, and was thoroughly unimpressed and went over to look at geraniums instead. These dahlias they were blooming at about 12 inches tall when in reality without the chemical treatment , they would typically grow 3 feet tall with the occasional variety reaching 3.5 feet and one even 4 feet. The flowers were somewhat colorful and fully double but were not well formed. We had a conversation with one of the greenhouse managers and she does not personally like these chemically enhanced dahlias either and prefers herself to grow the "full sized' dahlias that have the much better blooms. Her background by the way is fuschias.
The conversation went on to breeding some shorter varieties that would be suitable for the "greenhouse" chemical treatment and the retail mass markets. We both agreed that we should pay attention to shorter plants that have flowers that are much more similar to show flowers although they would not necessarily show real well. We all have some candidates in the seedlings because dahlias have lots of genes for the size of the plants and when they are randomly combined, produce a fair number of shorter plants. Our goal would be to preserve the quality of the flowers on some shorter growing varieties.
I am going to grow some extra plants of a seedling that grew about 2.5 feet tall in it's first year and had purple miniature ball flowers. I did grow it a second year but failed to notice it as it was planted among taller growing seedlings. The flowers were just a notch below show winning quality but many times better than the "greenhouse dahlias" that I have seen.
I have three of the Gallery Series, which are bred to be very short, and another little shortie called Rachel. I haven't done very well with them. They have to have foliage down low, because there is nowhere else for it, and they seem to be bug magnets because they have dense foliage near the ground for the bugs to hide in. I have no doubt that they can be grown well, but it seems to me that to achieve this, they would need more care than most Dahlias. These plants are mainly around 30cm (1') tall.
I think 2'6" may have the best of both worlds - short enough to incorporate easily in many gardens (often without staking), and tall enough that you can strip lower leaves and manage bugs more easily.
I do appreciate a shorter plant so that in some areas I can plant a shorter in front of a taller dahlia. However, I definately would pass on a dahlia that had been treated with a chemical to make it short. And, I would definately not sacrifie bloom quality just to make it shorter.
This year, I am trying Formby Kaitlin. Some growers list this as a 'short' dahlia, others say 5 feet. Either way, the bloom color and form is fantastic. I don't see it as a deficit if it is short. I wouldn't want all short dahlias; but I also don't want all tall ones either. It's nice to have both.