The odds were stacked against this plant ever surviving as it is outside its ideal climate zone, let alone flowering in its first year.
First, a little recap…..
After stumbling upon a Tree Dahlia (Dahlia imperialis) in an old garden in early June last year, I went back after the frosts (which were actually very late that year) that wither these plants and asked for a couple of stem cuttings.
They were put straight into the ground, but only one took – the lowest temperature we had last winter was -7°C (19°F) and we had 36 days where the temperature was below 0°C (32°F), which was very mild as we normally should have about 60+ days below freezing.
The cutting that survived emerged on the 7th of October:
Just eight days later on the 15th of October, we had 20cm / 8″ of snow.
Happily, I choose a sheltered spot between a corner fence paling and a large gum tree, so it didn’t die. It put on reasonable growth soon after, but then was attacked by slugs with the central leader completely chewed off.
The slug damage was above a node, and it bounced back with a tiny bit of growth by December. I held little hope of it flowering this season. It kept growing – albeit slowly. Here it is at the beginning of February still under 30cm/1′ tall.
Fast forward to April, it’s now 1m / 3′ tall and has tiny buds!
But on April 8, we have an early – though light – snowfall and freezing (32F) temperatures. That should have killed it but the shelter of the tree and fence have obviously worked their magic again:
Another cold-snap on April 20 starts off a week of foul and windy weather with severe gales and sleet, but in its protected spot, it grows some more:
On April 25, we have a hail storm with 1-2cm hail that last for about 5 minutes.
I stood over it with a blanket to avoid the buds and leaves being shredded…(surely that is either medal-deserving or worthy of being committed!)
By May 8, it stands a little taller – probably 1.6m/5’4″ – but now the mornings are cold and although just above freezing, we are getting light grass frosts. This hasn’t deterred the plant, sheltered under the light canopy of a towering Eucalypt, as its buds begin to colour:
May 14th, the first flower begins to open:
Now the second has opened and I thought I would post a picture in case the frosts start to become too severe (The parent of this plant – which is in a more open spot – has already been turned black by the frosts)
It shouldn’t have flowered. But it has!
In years to come, it will get taller as it establishes – eventually it should have about 3-6 canes and each of those should reach about 3m (12′) before each frost cuts them back.
If you are thinking of growing these, below are the conditions I experienced so far this autumn.
So as long as the plant is sheltered, it should make it before the hardest frosts hit in late Autumn. If your autumn looks like this (or preferably warmer without all of the snow and sleet), then it might be worth a try – I have seen them grown in the Pacific NW and the UK (in fact the first one I ever saw was in a garden outside of Oxford):
Happy gardening 🙂