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Gardening

Pass cold nights thinking about dahlias, begonias and gladioli

  • Author: Jeff Lowenfels
    | Alaska gardening
  • Updated: 5 days ago
  • Published 5 days ago

An Alfred C dahlia grown by Rob Wells, photographed on Aug. 28, 2013. (Bob Hallinen / ADN archive)

When it is this cold outside, it is comforting to know that this, too, shall pass and soon we will be starting dahlias, tuberous begonias and gladioli corms. At least I keep telling myself this. If you grew any of these and put them away for the winter, better check on them now to make sure the cold didn’t sneak into your storage area.

And, if you didn’t grow these plants here in Alaska last year, definitely do so this year. They are foolproof, and easy to grow and maintain. Moreover, these plants do better in our cool climates than they do elsewhere, a garden fact we can brag about.

Of course, you don’t need a dahlia catalog if you live in Alaska. We have a local company, Hatcher Pass Dahlias, formerly known as The Persistent Farmer. It is run and supplied by Alaska dahlia expert Rob Wells. For years, he has been culling and selling Alaska-grown dahlias and the 2019 growing season will include dozens of tubers.

Unlike Outside dahlia catalogs, Rob offers started plants. He also sells blooms in late summer. Rob sells Alaska-grown tubers and takes orders for started plants at the Center Market at the Midtown (formerly Sears) Mall most Wednesdays and Saturdays in March and April.

Rob will be posting pictures in coming weeks on the Hatcher Pass Dahlias’ Facebook page. Rob and great dahlias can be reached at 907-982-7182 or robw@mtaonline.net. In the meantime, you can study up on dahlias at Swan Island Dahlias. This is a great website to prepare you for Rob’s offerings.

Similarly, you don’t need to buy tuberous begonias from a catalog because most will not hold a candle to the size and quality offered by our local nurseries. Our climate is absolutely ideal for growing them and showing off their flowers, which also appreciate our cooler temperatures by displaying their true colors which they lose in warmer climes. This is really an item best purchased locally.

There are many different varieties from single-flower types, compact ones to hanging, ruffled, rose and more. You can see examples at Holland Bulb Farms site. And, check out gardenia.net’s pictures of Begonia boliviensis, which is a tuber different from the familiar B. tuberhybridia we usually grow.

Finally, some lilies do well in Alaska. These always do best started early to ensure flowers the first year. They do take up a lot of room. Stick with the Asiatic varieties. Orientals are not reliable in Southcentral and points north. Nor are Trumpets or Aurelians. LA Hybrids do OK as well. Look at Gilbert H Wild and Son for nice descriptions of each type and representative pictures. Breck’s has some great pictures, too.

Next up, gladiolas corms. Turns out these can be planted directly in the ground, though many still start them early. Either way, they are easy, easy to grow! And, there are miniatures if you want shorter, smaller flowers. Of course, breeders are always adding to what is already available. Check out Alleman Glads, which has 10 new offerings this year. Honkers Flats has an overwhelming number of pictures of varieties, separated by flower colors.

I suppose I should be thinking potato tuber, too. However, this is one thing Alaskans should never buy from Outside. We are virus-free here and we have a local industry. Just as gardeners should not spread invasive plants, we should not spread diseases as well! Don’t even tempt yourself by looking at internet fare.

Jeff’s Alaska garden calendar

Alaska Botanical Garden: Winter hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Summer hours begin May 13. Check out the new website. And, by all means, support the garden by joining today. It is easy to do online. I never ask for anything from readers but this! Don’t make me come looking for you.

Spider mites: Raise the humidity after you get rid of them. Try a neem-based product.

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