The Last Stately Flowers of Summer
St. Albert Botanic Park volunteers have been planting Dahlias in the curved bed that greets visitors to our patio area since the City of St. Albert allowed us to create the beginning of the gardens you see today. Planted as tubers in April and May, our Dahlias are both colourful and commanding as they begin to bloom in mid-summer. The Dahlia is the national flower of Mexico which is where the Dahlia species originates.
Our collection began with plants donated by the founding members. They were planted in a bed next to the large spruce trees that surrounded the original Little House that was on the property. Each year the flower bed grew by a few more feet and a few more plants. By 2000 we were planting 67 plants that included 46 different cultivars. Dahlias are grown as annuals in our region and the Park's current collection of over 200 plants takes a dedicated team contributing many volunteer hours throughout the season.
Initial planting of tubers takes place in April in the potting area in the John Beedle Centre. They have spent the winter in our cold room with volunteers checking on them every few weeks to make sure they are viable. Most make it but every year there are some that fall victim to either rot or drying up past the point of no return. Volunteers check in regularly to water and once the weather warms, they are rolled outdoors each day on their large shelving units and then brought back in for the evening. Once danger of frost has passed, plants are set out in their summer home in the Dahlia Bed. Dahlias love heat and no summer is ever too warm for them. The warmer the weather, the better they grow.
While the plants are putting on a show for everyone, the Dahlia tubers are busy down below and they can grow quite a lot during the summer. After dividing them, we generally have more Dahlias than the year before. All of our 'extras' are available for sale in the patio beginning in late May.