How to grow dahlias – all you ever need to know from the beautiful new book Discovering Dahlias by Erin Benzakein of Floret Farm.
Also, I have one signed copy to give away to one lucky reader! Scroll to the bottom of the post to find out how to enter.
Please note: this competition is now closed and the winner notified
It was a gloomy, damp grey day in February when an unexpected parcel arrived for me in the post. I was feeling depleted and more than a little fed up at that exact moment, to tell the truth. Inside the brown paper wrapping was a signed copy of Floret Farm’s beautiful new book: Discovering Dahlias.
There was a pretty hand-written card from Erin herself as well as a packet of Floret dahlia seeds. All a total surprise and, as I began to flick through the pages, it was instantly as though the sun had come out. I did what I always do at such moments… and put the kettle on to make a cup of tea.
I needed to savour my first foray through the contents with a good strong brew to hand. To give you a flavour of the joys to be had, here’s a peek inside and a flavour of the beautiful photographs (taken by Erin’s husband Chris Benzakein)…
Erin’s flower-growing journey began when she and her husband Eric moved from the city to Skagit Valley in Washington County. They dreamed of living a slower, simpler life and raising a family surrounded by nature. Soon after buying a small house in the country, they tilled up their plot and created a huge garden. Tucked in with all the vegetables was a double row of flowering sweet peas planted in memory of Erin’s great grandmother. After sharing some of the blooms with friend and neighbours, word got out and Erin started receiving orders.
The following year Erin replaced all of the vegetables in her garden with flowers. Floret expanded year after year, eventually filling every corner of the tiny 2-acre plot with flowers destined for grocery stores, florists, bouquet subscriptions, and weddings.
Erin’s dream to expand Floret was finally realised in 2017, when she and Chris were able to purchase the neighbouring 24-acre farm. The new farm is now devoted to breeding new cut flower and foliage varieties. What started as a tiny backyard cutting garden years ago has blossomed into a thriving research and education farm, specialising in giving flower lovers the tools and information they need to grow the gardens of their dreams.
I love the story behind Erin’s love of growing dahlias in particular:
‘Many years ago, when I was just starting to grow flowers, I got a phone call from a local flower grower telling me to load up the kids and my shovel and head over to her house. At the time I knew very little about dahlias, only that I admired them every time I visited her garden. We worked all morning digging up massive clumps of tubers, and as we went she split off a chunk of each variety for me to take home. By lunchtime the back of my station wagon was full, and those tubers went on to fill my backyard cutting garden and eventually become an entire field at my farm. That experience was my first taste of just how generous gardeners are and taught me the joy and impact that sharing can have on other people’s lives.’
How to grow dahlias – the perfect resource
As someone who started growing dahlias a couple of years ago now, I can honestly say this book is utterly invaluable. I wish it had been there when I started out as it would have saved me an awful lot of piecemeal information gathering. And mistakes.
It brings together all the information you will ever need to grow and arrange these most blissful of blooms. What I love about this book is that it’s an inspiring resource for anyone, no matter what their skill level. Created primarily for flower farmers, floral designers and gardeners, it’s also the perfect book for anyone who simply loves dahlias.
If you’re new to dahlias, Erin suggests skipping the dinner plate varieties in your first year and start with ball-shaped varieties. A few of her longtime favourites are ‘Cornel’, ‘Jomanda’, ‘Crichton Honey’, and ‘Snoho Doris’.
From there, Erin’s long-standing favourites to grow include ‘Cafe au Lait’, ‘Apple Blossom’, ‘Break Out’, ‘Maya’, and ‘Castle Drive.’
I am fast running out of growing space, but I feel I really need to add Apple Blossom in there somehow. Just look how beautiful it is:
Abundant & productive
As well as being one of the most productive cut flowers you can possibly grow, dahlias also multiply abundantly every season. In the spring you plant a single tuber in the ground, and by autumn you can dig up an entire clump of tubers, anywhere from 3 to 10, from the original mother.
My first year of growing dahlias – Cafe au Lait to be precise – I followed Erin’s video tutorial about lifting and splitting the original 9 bulbs in Autumn to the letter. In the Spring I planted over 40 bulbs and soon had more flowers than I knew what to do with. It was such a pleasure to be able to give so many abundant bunches of homegrown flowers to friends and family.
Subjects covered: How to grow dahlias
Growing & care, digging dividing and storing, propagation.
Designing with dahlias
Erin is known for her lush, romantic floral designs and this book is full of show-stopping arrangement ideas and tips.
Discover more than 350 of Erin’s favourite dahlia varieties – in a dazzling range of colours, sizes and forms all beautifully captured.
Win a signed copy of the book
PLEASE NOTE THIS COMPETITION HAS NOW CLOSED AND THE WINNER NOTIFIED
It was such a joy to receive this book that I would love to share the same feeling with you. I have another signed copy, also wrapped in brown paper sitting on my desk as I write. If you’d like it to be yours, all you have to do is tell me what it is about dahlias in particular, or flower growing in general, that really makes your heart sing. Be as creative as you like! Post your entry as a comment at the foot of this blog post.
You won’t see your entry appear immediately when you add it to a comment box, but it will come through to our admin area once you click the ‘post comment’ button. Once we’ve logged your entry we’ll publish it.
Please note that this competition is only open to residents of the UK.
Good luck and hope you enjoy! We’ll be choosing the winner at the beginning of May, so why not enter now?
Where to buy the book
Buy Discovering Dahlias on Amazon here
Credits: all photography Chris Benzakein
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Buy DISCOVERING DAHLIAS on Amazon here
Erin’s other books
A Year in Flowers was published in 2020. Erin takes you into the Floret fields and design studio to make a hand-tied bouquet using seasonal flowers. You’ll learn how to harvest cut flower garden favourites including dahlias, zinnia and yarrow. There’s also tips and ideas on creating gift bouquets.
Read my Floret Farm’s A Year in Flowers book review
Buy A YEAR IN FLOWERS here
Floret Farm’s Cut Flower Garden is Erin’s first book and is an invaluable – and beautiful – guide to growing, harvesting and arranging gorgeous blooms year-round.
Buy Floret Farm’s Cut Flower Garden here
Are you a maker, grower or creative course provider? Like to list with us and benefit from joining our supportive community? We’d love to hear from you. Check out the packages we offer on our Join Us page.
Find more inspiration in our blog post about British Flowers here or browse the Sustainable British Flowers category of our directory.
A PIN TO SAVE TO PINTEREST
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It looks like such a beautiful book!! I absolutely love the satisfaction of growing and creating something beautiful with my own hands 🌷🌸🌷🌸🌷
Living in Texas I don’t know if I would have much luck with dahlias but would love to try. I mostly garden for my butterflies but having lots of blooms I sold a few by my garden this summer. It was so much fun and people seemed so glad to have them. These flowers would add something special to bouquets I can’t achieve with my modest flowers. Mostly I need advise from an expert
I love Dahlias,
I tried to grow them but they do not come back up every year.
Thankyou for the tips. The photos are beautiful by the way.
Glad you enjoyed the post Catherine. I wonder if your dahlias are getting too cold over the winter? I dug mine up and kept them dry and cool over the Winter year before last and they did much better than leaving them in the ground over the Winter as I did the following year. It’s a lot of work but you can split them and get more plants too if you do dig them up. That said, I was lazy again this Winter so I’m hoping I don’t lose too many… I did cover them with little domes of compost to try and protect them 🤞🏼
I have been wondering what to plant in a fairly large garden plot which was recently cleared out. After seeing Erin Benzakein’s gorgeous Dahlias on your Instagram account, the decision is made. Every year, I admire the Dahlias at Longwood Gardens. One year, I purchased several from the Dahlia Club members, but they did not take. Now, with Erin’s book… I will be able to grow beautiful Dahlias of my own.
Sounds like a plan 😊 There are so many beautiful varieties to choose from it’s hard to narrow it down – and to find space!
I always associate dahlias with sunshine and happiness, there is such a variety of shapes – I love the array of showy, vibrant colours and the contrasting beauty of the sculputal shapes and soft hues. They fell out of favour with some gardeners for a few years and Itried growing some from seed myself last year but they didn’t flower.
I would love to win a copy of your book to follow your tips for success.
I love the abundance of colour In Dahlias. They stand tall and proud in my garden. Never shy or retiring 💕💕
Encourage me to change garden
I discovered dahlias a few years ago and have become slightly obsessed with them now. Each year I grow more from corms and this Spring I’m trying to grow some from seed. They are the most colourful and gorgeous plants in my garden and bring me so much pleasure ! I would love to know even more about them so this book would be wonderful.
I love every variety of Dahlia. The large cactus ones are my favourite , alongside the pompom ones. Each year I save my tubers and hope that they will grow again. Sometimes they do and the joy I get from taking cuttings is incredible. I have already planted some up in the greenhouse but their are no signs of growth yet but I am living in hope as there is plenty of time. No doubt I will be buying a couple more to plant up.
New to Dahlia growing – have two plants and have sown some seeds, amazed by their variety and colour and what got me ‘wanting’ was a clip on the tv of a young man who had a path of stunning Dahlias in beautiful metal containers – his passion really gripped me x
Dahlia’s transform my garden into lollipop heaven !
I’m in love with Dahlias, the myriad colours, forms and sizes. Every flower is so beautiful, I’ve had minor success with growing a few myself but the slugs seem to love them as much as I do. To browse this book would be wonderful, a lesson to me to persevere….I don’t believe slugs can read!
I love the vibrant of the colours, and the fact they continue to bloom well into Autumn. They also inspire me to be creative and experiment with paints, pens and thread: I’ve been experimenting with watercolours, gouache, pen & ink, applique and embroidery, using my dahlias as a starting point for designs…
I just love the zingy colours of them at the end of summer
Where to begin , there are so many beautiful colours and beautiful forms to choose from they are relatively easy to grow some quite happy in pots if you just have a patio garden or others allowed to grow to their full potential giving weeks and weeks of beautiful flowers for the vase or to enjoy in the garden or allotment , If I were able and had the room I’d buy every single one of them , I just love them
I don’t think any other flower has the diverse size. shape and colours that dahlias have. From the big and blowsy to the minis there is a dahlia for everyone. Lovely as a garden flower and beautiful in an arrangement.
I have always loved dahlias as my Grandfather grew the lovely, old fashioned red and white ones when I was tiny – so they are a fond memory of him. I have a few and would love to be better at growing them in my heavy clay! I’m sure this beautiful book is invaluable for inspiration as well as practical advice, as the pictures are gorgeous. It would really give me something to aspire to!
My love of Dahlias goes back to the 1950’s when my Grandfather used to grow a huge variety of Dahlias in his East London garden. After watching him cut a bright, colourful bunch for my Nan, I decided to pick a bunch of his prized Pom Pom Dahlias for my Mum – without his permission. I picked every single one in the garden! I couldn’t understand why nobody was pleased with my bouquet!!
I have been unable to grow my own as the squirrels that live here just love to dig them up. Revenge is sweet, so they say!!
Beautiful pictures hope to win your book
I love the fullsome roundness and intricacy in pattern of the petals of dahlias – a real wonder of creation
How amazing, I have just planted masses of dahlias in my garden, they are such beautiful flowers, never grown them before, what a coincidence to then see this magical book on here, hope mine look as gorgeous as these are on photo’s. Wish me luck with mine.
its great to see your work bloom
Just a simply amazing book in honour of an amazing flower.
I think that they are the perfect flower
The mix of such beautiful bright colours adds a pop of sunshine even on a dull day.
Dahlias never fail to surprise and delight. In gardening, dahlias are the “ugly ducklings” that transform into the most elegant, flamboyant colourful and beautiful “swans”. We all need these cheerful flowers in our lives – especially after the year we’ve had.
I love dahlias and have been growing them for over 50 years! The colours are so bright and cheerful and they keep producing more and more flowers because I cut them regularly and never let them go to seed.
Big blowsy amazingly showh and the most gorgeous range of colours I adore them
They are the loveliest of drama queens Even one in a vase is a statement!
The book looks lovely, I wish I had green fingers.
I love the rainbow of colour they bring to my garden they can’t fail to make my heart sing!
I love dahlias, they look like round rosy faces that are smiling up at the sun ! This book sounds beautiful 🤗!
We have lived in our home for the last 20 years and the garden has just been grass on two levels and borders, however during lockdown with nothing else much to do I got the gardening bug and am in the process of making a rockery and orchard in an overgrown part of the garden, I have tended to grow perennials as I am a little afraid of flowers, so I have a lot of green and not much else apart from Spring when the bulbs look lovely. So sadly I have never grown them, they always look beautiful from the Pom Pom ones to the dinner plates and everything in between, there are such ranges of colours too, I would love to have the confidence to grow them as they look spectacular. I have taken to following a lot of gardeners on Instagram and managed to start off some annuals, so we’ll see how it goes, one day I might have a garden full of big blousy dahlias, if I’m more organised and buy the tubers in time!!
Dahlias come in such a wide variety of blooms & colours. I like to buy different varieties each year. They look so attractive in beds & pots,
What a beautiful book! I’d love to win it for my friend Jan. She and her partner both had covid and she is taking a long time to recover fully. Last summer she proudly showed me her garden including her dahlias. She is a novice gardener and is keen for all the advice she can get, especially for her beloved dahlias!
I bought three new dahlia’s last year and a friend gave me another. Funnily enough the three ordered weren’t the ones I ordered although I didn’t know that until they flowered, having said that though, they were so beautiful that I didn’t tell the company who supplied them. The orange one is so similar to the one you are holding in that enormous bunch of blooms. I hope they are ok this year as I had to move them (the cattle in the field behind us kept eating them and I can’t have that!) I love the way that the blooms are so different some like a ball and others splayed out but all with such glorious colours. Every English garden should have dahlias in it.
This book looks absolutely brilliant. I just love Dahlia’s, they are my favourite flowers
I just bought some Dahlia tubers…no idea how to grow them!
It would be great to win a signed copy of the book because when put to the test, a floral display of dahlias in my garden, always look far better than the rest
Dahlia’s have such a variety of colours shape and form it is impossible not to find some you would love.
When see a dahlia – it makes my heart sing .. my father always grew a whole flower bed full of dahlias every year . Sadly he passed away in 80’s . I couldn’t bear to see Dahlias for a long while afterwards without being upset … but time is a healer .. now I embrace the joy of seeing them ….. every time dahlias bloom in my garden …… I feel my Dad is shining down on me from heaven …. gifting me the joy of growing Dahlias here .. …..
Would love this book, need to improve my skills as I’m rubbish.
A friend in a neighbouring village has gifted me some dahlia seeds. I can wait to see what they turn in to as I understand they don’t come true. The dahlia book looks gorgeous and it would be such a lovely thing to win!
I grew Dahlia’s from seed for the first time last year so i am only half way through my journey for me its the excitement of what will grow. I am on to the second part of my Dahlia journey having dug up the tubers my seeds produced and cleaned and stored them over winter i’m about to pot up the tubers and watch what grows its all very exciting :0)
At a low point in my life a friend gave me a vase full of dahlias from her garden. The joy they gave was immense. I moved to my parents home in Wales and because of COVID have not seen Grandchildren and children for almost a year. I bought some dahlia tubers to try to grow and bring back that feeling of joy, and to turn my late parents garden into a very smiley place for the family to visit when allowed.
I love dahlias. There is so much variety and it’s like each one has a different personality. From the neat little pom poms, through to frivolous pops of gay abandon. Stylish vogue stars to demure bishops. On thing they all have in common is a tendency to lift your spirits and make your garden swing.
I can’t recall precisely when I “discovered” dahlias. It may have been at an arboretum or in a magazine. But my heart wants to believe it was in an Old Master painting at the Huntington Museum in Pasadena, California. All I know is that the sensuous curves of the petals, that sunrise burst of colors, and the sheer exuberance of ruffled pantaloons in the sun, keeps me wanting more in ever-ravishing colors and forms. Last year, for the first time, I planted two lovely “ladies” in our garden and watched with anticipation for their blushing appearance. They did not disappoint! This year, I hope they return, proof that I have what it takes to keep these beauties happy, and reaching for the sun again.
Dahlias are part of my heritage and a beautiful flower with which I have a family connection. My maternal grandfather here in Australia loved, cultivated and showed them for many years.
He won many trophies, medals and awards and also named a couple of new, I’m not sure what the correct term would be, varieties?
While he passed away many years ago, my childhood memories include travelling up the long steep driveway that was lined with hundreds of his precious plants. Each was lovingly tended complete with hives of bees and a strange variety of used umbrellas scattered across the landscape to ensure the magnificent blooms were not sunburned.
My Mother was always attracted by dahlias and over time my interest in family history has drawn me to these plants yielding old family photos and news articles dedicated to this. I have searched in vane for those he named and though I have images of his blooms they are sadly sepia or black and white.
In later years I tragically lost my Mother and have been again drawn to these blooms, though this time as an artist. The beautiful photos in this book not static and scientific as many are but in their natural fertile surroundings and gathered by the armful portray a joy, such as I’m sure he felt and I would love to share. I see this as potential memory joggers and wonderful source material to a tribute artwork yet to be.
Whaqt a lovely book
I love romantic, feminine flowers and Dahlias are so exotic and beautiful, they really make me happy!
We’e just redone our garden so this book comes at the right time for me!
I love the shape, the leaf pattern and the colours.
Dahlias should come with a warning ‘Highly Addictive’. I’ve now dug up a load of lawn so I can grow more dahlias. Ooops
I lived in a community called the Findhorn Foundation and sometimes worked in the garden. The philosophy there was ‘Love is work in Action’. Every action was mindful and we related to every flower as a living being. I went on to become a flower essence practitioner – connecting with the soul of the flower and using the essence to heal. Flowers fill me with joy!
not just dahlias but flowers in general; they just have a fabulous way of bringing a smile to your face, especially when you’re on a bit of a downer , whether it be their gorgeous looks, their beautiful scent or just being wonderful to the touch
I am ashamed to admit I have never grown dahlias but looking at these pictures has made me realise what I am missing and with the help of this book, I could have a glorious display next year.
I have loved dahlias since I was a little girl. My mom grew them each year and I can remember the scent of them. Some of the flowers were huge and the colours were beautiful. She was a clever gardener my mom. I also remember that ear wigs used to live in the dahlias. They used to pop up out of nowhere! My mom passed on her love of gardening to all of her children and we all love our gardens.
I would love to win Erin’s book. I could look at the gorgeous pictures and learn new tips and slip into a little bit of heaven from time to time.
what a stunning book! Thank you for highlighting it- i have grown dahlias, but am not good about saving them overwinter. i love dahlias which remind me of the elderly lady who used to be my neighbor, she was a wizard with dahlias and gladiolas!
Love my dalhlias
What a beautiful book. I love growing all flowers – all the different shapes, sizes and colours – they are all so amazing.
Wow what a book! I have a few dahlias, and I’d love to know more. They are so, so, so generous plants. Filling vases from summer to early winter. In lockdown last year I was so excited to see my first dahlia flower of the year. It most certainly lifted my mood – and yes made my hear sing. Beatuful creatures!
I love how sensual flower growing is – in that it really engages my senses….feeling the lovely petals, inhaling the smell, admiring the wonderful colours….enjoying the buzz of the bees also enjoying the fruits of labour!
I like getting my hands in the ground and feeling like I’ve achieved something real. In an increasingly cyber world, growing flowers seems so real, something tangible that I can really enjoy.
Oh my goodness, the images in this book evoke so many memories – my granddad used to grow these and I’d often help him cut and water them as a small child, some of the flower were as big as my face…. I would love to win this book, learn to grow these beautiful nostalgic flowers and reminisce…. my care free childhood and wonderful Granddad.
The book looks wonderful. I love anything in nature or crafting which has a myriad of colours. The photograph of the back of the truck with all the beautiful shades and colours is exactly what I mean. I need to inject some colour in our garden – Dahlias are just the job!
Ever since I had a dahlia named after me at the age of eleven I have loved every dahlia I see and grow many different ones in my garden.
looks such a lovely book, I am also going to seek out Erins other book. I love dahlias!
I live in huge city Warsaw, in a block of flats without a balcony, but I have some potted flowers and I love taking pictures of plants in the Warsaw Botanical Garden. My favorites flower are dahlias, roses, tulips and carnations and some more. I love books about flowers and plants. I’m dreaming of house with a big garden full with flowers, plants, herbals and trees.
Delightful, dreamy, delicate shades or huge, hot colours and heart stopping.
There are so many adjectives to describe the wonder of dahlias.
It is so rewarding to either grow from seeds and watch them develop into
glorious plants or to plant their tubers and anticipate the numbers of stunning
flower heads that will appear.
They have to be my dream flower for a spectacular display.
Oh I’ve become a total convert to dahlias! I never used to be but I do remember my Dad growing them. Then last year I kept buying wonderful bouquets of dahlias and now I love them! What a beautiful book, it would be a treasure to have and read. They really are beautiful flowers.
My father used to grow lots of different dahlias at his allotment and people used to call on a Sunday morning and ask for a ‘bunch of flowers’ and he would cut them and wrap them in newspaper round the stems and ask for the princely sum of 2 shillings or half a crown. I loved those dahlias and he often gave me a bunch to take to the teacher at school to put on her desk.
Jeepers what a question to ponder! It’s really difficult to put into words the joy that growing flowers of all kinds gives me. I think that at heart I’m a nurture. As a lifelong teacher I was passionate about nurturing my pupils in their talents and skills so that they could grow holistically as individuals and yet live in harmony with those around them without trying to outshine their neighbours. I think growing flowers is a bit like that. It makes you think of not just the beauty of the indidual flower but of how it connects with the overall planting scheme in how the colours, shapes and sizes fit together as a palette of colour. It is the possibility of nurturing something beautiful like the mind of a flower that motivates me grow flowers for just as there’ll never be another flower or child in the history of the world exactly like the one you’re looking at or never was before, that’s a truly amazing thing to know., to feel and to nurture!