Queen of the Garden

Amidst a sea of roses, sunflowers and zinnias, one flower asserts her presence like no other: the dahlia.

Meet the queen of our garden, Marta. To get this photo, I had to ask Todd to bend the plant down. Then, I stood on top of the garden bed to get the shot. She’s tall and she’s wide–more than five feet tall and eight inches in diameter.

Side Note: Here’s a handy reference I just created to help myself remember tips about my favorite cut flower varieties.

Regarding the dahlias, it may be too late to order some varieties now as they sell out pretty much mid-spring. I got Marta, Melody Harmony and Vik Jesse from San Diego Seed Company. The other dahlias came from my neighbor as small plants grown from bulbs or cuttings.

Melody Harmony

This pretty dahlia is smaller than Marta (what isn’t?) and has deep purple-green foliage.

Vik Jesse

Vik Jesse was the first dahlia to bloom. I cut the first stem and another popped up. Cut that one and two more immediately popped up.

Hollyhill Dahlias

These two cactus-style dahlias came as a gift from a neighbor who grows and sells dahlia bulbs and plants. These are the first cuts on my plants and the Peachy Keen photo doesn’t do the variety justice. (I should have pinched and thought I did pinch the first bud–always a good move on dahlias and zinnias.) When the plant is bigger and blooms are larger, it will appear as a big spiky, soft peach globe. The Black Magic dahlia is a deep, deep red.

Hollyhill Peachy Keen

Hollyhill Black Magic

Benary’s Giant Zinnias

The Benary’s Giant Zinnias are flower farmers’ favorites. They come many colors, grow on long and strong stems and are powdery mildew resistant. The blossom below is the orange variety. My favorites are Benary’s Giant Gold and Scarlet.

Queeny Series Zinnia

The Queeny series of zinnia has become so popular there are now many varieties beyond the OG Queen Red Lime zinnia. I’m growing four of the varieties this year. Below are Queeny Red Lime and Queeny Lemon Peach.

Zinderella Zinnias

These are adorable and yet I’ve read they don’t often produce double blooms (the fluffier type) in our climate. Here’s a good example–a single bloom on this Zinderella Orange.

Note that I purchased almost all of my zinnia seeds from Johnny’s Selected Seeds. I believe I purchased some of the Zinderella variety from Floret Flowers.

Next on the list are scabiosas. These will go down in my “Top 10” post later in the season. They’re kind of in the same class as a strawflower–some are big enough to make their own focal flower in a small, informal bouquet and yet they can also serve as a complementary flower for larger focal flowers like dahlias, rudbeckia, sunflowers and zinnias. They also grow on long, straight stems, which is perfect for cut flowers. You can harvest them:

  • When they’re in full bloom
  • As smaller, round buds, which adds interest to bouquets (similar to how I used to use gomphrena)
  • As seed pods, when the flowers have finished blooming

Dark Knight Scabiosa

These are my favorite so far. They have such a gorgeous rich, deep color that contrasts beautifully among a number of other colors, from yellows to pinks.

Salmon Queen Scabiosa

I have two pink scabiosa varieties, and Salmon Queen is the darker and deeper pink.

Salmon Rose Scabiosa

This variety fades to a lighter and softer pink as the flower matures.

Fama White Scabiosa

These are a crisp, clean white flower that work beautifully as a complementary flower.

I’m also growing Fata Morgana scabiosa this season, but these are just starting to bloom, so no photos yet.

A lot of these varieties help me build a bouquet, which is what I’ve done here:

I started with the Marta dahlia and added zinnias, scabiosa, bupleurum, flowering marjoram and strawflower. I was worried that Marta would be too big and scene-stealing to work in a bouqet, but the zinnias–which are often a focal flower–help to complement Marta’s colors while Dark Knight scabiosa provides some contrast.

This is the latest in my cut flower-growing adventure! Let me know which flowers are queen of your garden!