Growing Dahlias for Exhibition
When you are growing dahlias and plan to take them to exhibitions, the most important issue is to ensure that your dahlias are healthy plants. Free from any virus diseases in particular.
The tubers need to start the into growth earlier in a greenhouse – possibly about the middle of January.
It is then possible to take your dahlia cuttings much earlier – as soon as they are rooted.
It s important to start them early as theplants need to be established plants which will flower much sooner than any other dahlia plants, and this is vital as the need to be absolutely 100% ready by the exhibition dates.
Preparation and Transport of Blooms
The blooms to be exhibited need cutting the evening before the show, and are best placed in deep water and kept in a cool, dark place. If the show is some distance away it may be necessary to cut the blooms in the early morning of the day before the show.
There is not much in the way of dressing that you can do to dahlias the flowers must be grown perfectly in the first place, and not titivated just before a show. However, if there should be any odd petals that are curling back into the centre of the flower, or any petals that are damaged, then these can be carefully pulled out with a pair of tweezers. This operation must be done very carefully, and not too many pulled out, otherwise it will be noticed by the judges that some of them have been removed, and the bloom will be classed as imperfect.
The first thing that a judge does is to look at the backs of the blooms, and if the back petals are not as fresh as the front ones, then these blooms do not stand a chance of a prize. Also, the centre of the bloom should not be too tight and congested, and the flower must not possess a ‘daisy’ centre. Exhibition flowers must be fully open, and every petal fresh.
When you are cutting flowers and packing them be careful not to touch the blooms more than you can help, as the petals are very soft and easily damaged.
Considerable attention must be given to packing the blooms, as bad packing may result in blooms being damaged during transit, and thus many months of patient work will be wasted. Large wooden or stiff cardboard boxes should be used, and must be considerably deeper than the blooms. Place pads of cotton wool behind the blooms to protect them and then lay them flat sides downwards in the boxes so that blooms are not touching each other. They may be secured by pinning strips of cloth tape across the flower stems, so ensuring that the blooms do not move while being transported.
With pompons and dahlias of similar shape, the blooms cannot be put directly into the boxes since they do not have a flat side as do the blooms of other types. Therefore, to get over this problem, the part of the stem nearest the bloom may be supported on strips of wood running across the box, a few inches from the base, and screwed to the sides. The part of the stem in contact with the support should have some cotton wool wrapped around it; also the support may be padded with cotton wool. Here again, pin some tape across the stems to secure them.
Staging blooms of your dahlia flowers depends a lot on the particular class, and the current show schedule should be consulted in this respect. If the schedule specifies a vase of five blooms of any one variety in a certain class, then you would place two blooms at the bottom of the vase and three blooms around the top. If it specifies three large-flowered decoratives for example, not necessarily all in one vase, then I would suggest they are placed in three separate vases. It will be necessary to place some sort of packing in the vases to support the stems, for example, paper, or preferably reed packing.
If a vase of mixed varieties is required, these should preferably be of the same type. If three vases are included in one class, then it is best to place them in a row running from the back to the front of the bench. If the tables are not tiered, the back vase should be raised off the table, the centre one slightly lower, with the front one on the table. Pompons are usually shown about six or nine blooms to a vase.
When placing the blooms in the vases make sure that they are all facing the same way, and that they are facing the judges. Each bloom must be clearly visible at a quick glance – some blooms should not be hidden behind others.
Finally, there are firm rules against wiring the stems or blooms in order to hold the blooms to the required position. The dahlia flowers should be grown sufficiently well for them to be at an angle of 45 degrees to the stem.
Good cultivation, as I have outlined, will produce the most desirable exhibition blooms. Perhaps the basis of producing good blooms is to start with healthy and vigorous plants. Good results are then assured.