Spring 2011 is here, and summer will soon arrive!

Don started his dahlia plants February 1 this year. The plants were started by potting up dahlia tubers in 4.5-inch pots and placing them under fluorescent lights on top of heated mats. March 1, Don took his first cuttings and placed them each into a tiny rooting pot – 105 cuttings to a tray – covering them with a plastic greenhouse-type top.

small dahlia plants

After the second set of leaves sprouted, Don placed the small dahlia plants into 4-inch pots and placed them on a tray with other small cuttings (trays of 20), and they have matured nicely.

gathering dahlia cuttings

We have about 950 dahlia plants now. The plants are being moved outside as the weather warms up. In-ground planting begins Mother’s Day weekend. Johnny and Don put up a new shade cloth over the rear dahlia garden.

installing shade cloth

The Dahlia Growing Workshop Don taught at Pharsalia on April 16 was a great success, and we had such a wonderful time with Foxie Morgan and her family and friends at their beautiful home. It was a memorable evening and day for us, and we will long remember the hospitality, food, and beautiful setting.

More about the “etc.” in Don’s Dahlias, Etc.: Don is growing oriental lilies for the first time this year. At an auction during the Specialty Cut Flower Growers’ conference in fall 2010, Don placed the winning bid on a lot of 250 lilies. The bulbs arrived on March 1 and were placed 25 to a crate in about 6 inches of soil.

young lily plants

The first planting has now been moved outside under 30% shade cloth. Peonies are coming on strong; good foliage color and long stems – we have been disbudding the peonies as they mature – this gives the plant more energy and a better bloom.

Bees! We have been actively working our beehives the last few weeks. We are only fourth-year beekeepers, so this is always an adventure. This is also the first year we actually found the queens with little problem – every other year it has been, “Is that the queen?! … Nope!” We were laughing the other day about how opening up a beehive and looking at all those buzzing bees really helps a person focus on the task at hand. Here are three young queens and their attendants waiting to be placed into their new homes.

queen bees and their attendants

We will be at the Leesburg Farmers’ Market Saturdays beginning (projected!) May 14, from 8 am – 12 noon. During May and June we will be bringing dahlia plants, and then peonies, lilies, and dahlia blooms as they progressively come into season. Beeswax skin cream and honey will be offered as they are available.

We are excited about all the possibilities that 2011 has to offer, and we’ll keep you posted!

Highlights from 2010

Our website hasn’t been updated in a very long time, so as the end of our 2010 growing season approaches we decided to look back and share some highlights of our year.

Lots of changes and challenges!  We had peonies for the first time this spring.  Here Don is holding some of the earliest blooms — we had lots of single peonies at first — which I had never seen before.

Don with peonies

The single peony bloom is less “showy” than the fully double blooms below — still so beautiful in its own way — Don looks happy to be holding the first flowers of 2010!

double peonies

These fully double peonies were taken to the Leesburg Farmer’s Market along with dahlia plants and tubers for several weeks in May. They were a big hit with our customers on Mother’s Day weekend.

And speaking of Mother’s Day weekend…

Don with young dahlia plants

The dahlia plants went into the ground starting Mother’s Day weekend, and in June HOT WEATHER arrived but NO RAIN!  We do have drip irrigation on the plants and it was utilized in all the beds on a rotating schedule, but NOTHING beats a good steady rainfall and we had to wait for rainfall for a very long time.

In July, while still waiting for a good rain (or any rain, for that matter) the first flush of stink bugs arrived!  They chewed up dahlia buds and blossom centers — they are very destructive and no natural predators around — unfortunately birds share our opinion of these pests and don’t consider stink bugs a menu item.  We had to hand-pick these bugs off the plants.

We celebrated July 4th weekend by hosting our 2nd annual “Honey Harvest and Luncheon.”  Don’s daughter Amanda and her friend John both volunteered to assist.  We had a great time together and got a lot of work done.

honey harvest 2010

We harvested over 150 pounds of our own honey (the “Etc.” in Don’s Dahlias, Etc.!).  Amanda is not only our webmaster (mistress) — she also designed our honey bottle labels, and the labels have drawn a lot of attention to our honey.  Thank you, Amanda!

honey labels

Aren’t they great?!

By August, although still waiting for rain, we had enough flowers to supply our brides and outstanding floral designer, Holly Heider Chapple.

September brought some rain to our gardens, and we finally had enough dahlia blooms to attend the Leesburg Farmer’s Market on Saturdays.   What fun to see some of our regular customers again!   We also bring our honey and hand-crafted beeswax moisturizing skin creams to the market.

beeswax moisturizing creams

Don was show chairman again this year for the National Capital Dahlia Society’s 75th annual show held at Brookside Gardens in Maryland.  Don was away a night or two, so our friend Valerie Burton helped Rhonda at the market.

Valerie Burton

It’s October now, and the dahlia plants are producing so many beautiful blooms, but it is sad to realize the first hard frost is getting closer by the day!

We owe thanks to many people for making an enjoyable hobby a successful small-grower business — Holly Heider Chapple, the brides who come out to our gardens to select the flowers for their special day, the customers we see early every Saturday morning at the Leesburg Farmer’s Market, and most of all our thanks to Amanda.  Finally, I must mention the three “assistants” who work daily by Don’s side, helping in all aspects in any way they can.  One could almost say they work like “dogs” …


Lydia, Lizzie, and Louis

From left: Lydia, Lizzie, and Louis

It’s been a great year!  Thanks again,

Don and Rhonda Dramstad