As fall has started to show up around the farm, I love having the time to reflect on a wonderful season. Taking the time to sit and tally all that has happened planned or not and setting intention on moving forward is so valuable to the human condition. Although the weather patterns seem to be changing around here, we still need to move forward and plan the future. For the farm I love taking notes from the dahlias. It's at this time of the season that two decisions need to be made, cut plants down so no blooms or buds are present OR let them go to seed. Why? Well similar to taking out those winter sweaters and putting away the summer tanks and tops, dahlias need to put themselves to bed and they need about 4-6 weeks before frost to do it. Hacking the stalks down helps set the tubers so they have a better chance of surviving winter storage. It thickens up the skins and sends them into storage mode. At times it gets confusing for an observer, but there are still blooms and the sun is still shining. Agreed. Yet these processes of nature need to have a chance to take place. Leaves don't turn and fall to the ground overnight, the trees need to continue to take in sunshine and prepare for winter.
One thing that's always so interesting about growing and cutting flowers, you shouldn't really see a lot of flowers at a flower farm. Why? Cut flowers are cut early in the morning and in their cycle. This helps them flush out later in an arrangement rather than the first day you see them. It helps the arrangements last much longer. (This is not always the case for weddings, as you want the flowers to present at their best during the wedding.). So at times it takes some explaining on why we hack down perfectly good blooms to let the tubers set for the spring or let the flowers go to seed and not really cut them (these flowers won't last very long anyway). There is always the magician behind the curtain paying attention to the smaller details so we can keep the train running along. At times this can feel very disappointing because your eye tells you differently and people are now conditioned to an import market that gives you fresh food even out of season.
Process two. Going to seed. There are very many aspects of growing flowers in general. Dahlias have this wonderful unique trait that you never know what you will get from a dahlia seed. Only tubers produce the same flower. So setting yourself up to discover new varieties is part of the fun of growing them. Typically we dedicate a section to this process, our dahlia seed row. It is so fun to experience new varieties and try to figure out where the characteristics came from. The bees really do most of the work and decision making. They flit around flower to flower without staying in the same kind. It's really lovely to watch.
So as it's time to make the hard decisions to end the season for dahlia sales, it important to realize why. Yes, you can get them shipped in from a flower store cut dahlias run anywhere from $1.75-3.50 per stem! At the farm we need to stop and take care of our stars and give them lots of nourishment to show up stronger next year. As a recovering people pleaser this is the most difficult time of the year. I will take hours and hours of covering and uncovering spring starts, shaking off snow, snowshoeing to the hoops with 5 gallon water buckets in hand to water, shedding a few tears of frustration when the wind blows the covers off and you get to put them back on at 10 PM before going to sleep before I want to let someone down. Alas, this is part of working with nature. It's part of the unpredictability of farming elements and all things that.
So as you start to pull out your fall sweaters and put away your favorite shorts, consider what else needs to strengthen itself up before being put to bed for the winter. Take time to reflect and set the next few months with great intention. Happy fall.