Dahlia delight

Twenty-one years ago Jennifer Chappell, a founding member of the Waihi Dahlia Club, was given some dahlia tubers and enjoyed the plants so much she asked a club member to spend $30 for her on a range of varieties and colours.

“From then on I was hooked,” she says. “I’ve met lots of nice people and made lots of nice friends through dahlias and our club.”

Jennifer Chappell in her Waihi garden. Photo: Sandra Simpson

Jennifer will be busy on Friday (January 16) at the annual Waihi Dahlia Club show, hoping her carefully tended flowers will catch the eyes of the judges.

“The Waihi show is the first for the season so we always get good entries,” Jennifer says. “People are raring to go. It’s a lot of fun because we all grow the same sort of flowers so it’s whoever has the right flower at the right time. Sometimes the judges  get into the nitty-gritty to award a prize.

“I’ve won prizes at national level but I haven’t got the top award – yet.”

Dahlia Rhanna Tammy is classed as a giant flower. Photo: Sandra Simpson

Jennifer has umbrellas over her show plants to protect from damaging sun and rain but says that, apart from show preparation which includes disbudding stems so they carry larger flowers, dahlias are an easy plant to grow.

“They’re one of the longest-flowering summer plants you can have,” she says. “If the tubers are left in the ground they can start flowering in late October and go right through to the first frosts in May.

Dahlia Lauren Michele is a waterlily type. Photo: Sandra Simpson

“Dahlias do well on a regular dose of general garden fertiliser and they like a bit of manure now and again, water when it’s dry and they’ll flower better if you dead-head them, but that’s it. No spraying – they’re a lot less work than roses.”

Taller varieties are best staked and tied, Jennifer says, but there are also miniature and smaller types suitable as border edging or for growing in containers.

Dahlia Sweetheart is a low-growing ‘border’ dahlia. Photo: Sandra Simpson

And while Jennifer gardens on a double-size section in Waihi, she says her numerous dahlias – she thinks she has about 150 plants – don’t actually take up much room.

She lifts all her tubers each winter, divides any that are ready, and has them all replanted by Labour Weekend.

Read some tips for growing great dahlias in New Zealand and some more here.

  • Waihi Dahlia Show, Friday, January 16, 12.30pm-3pm, Waihi Memorial Hall, Seddon St, free admission; includes plant sales. See a map here. Inquiries to Jennifer Chappel.

Parts of this article were first published in the Bay of Plenty Times and appear here with permission.