All About Dahlias

by amym

It’s Amy Merrick here, mastermind behind Design*Sponge’s Living In column. Starting this week, I will be contributing floral posts to the site every other Friday, attempting to fill the big hole in our hearts left by the beloved ladies of Studio Choo. I’ll be wooing you with tips, tricks, triumphs and tribulations from my Brooklyn-based floral business, all with the express purpose of getting you excited about living with flowers and plants. Studio tours from my favorite florists, seasonal DIY projects, photos of ridiculously gorgeous flowers, where to buy the best supplies, the occasional tangential houseplant rambling — I’m so excited to get this flower party started. — Amy M.

Read more about dahlias after the jump!


But enough about me. Let’s talk about you. More specifically, you sitting at home with a small vase of dahlias while sipping hot cider. It is fall, after all. A wool plaid blanket is not optional.

Dahlias are fall’s worst kept flower secret. We florists love them, adore them, wait for them all year and then stamp our feet when we can’t get them anymore. We sometimes stare longingly at them as we drift off to sleep, but more often than not, they keep us up at night with worry. Let’s face it — unless you cut your own, dahlias are a short-lived beauty. We hold them close to our hearts for the brief time we have them, much like Carl Sagan says about us, “We are like butterflies who flutter for a day and think it’s forever.” Sniff.

These insanely gorgeous specimens were grown by my dear friend Frances Palmer, a potter who throws equally gorgeous vases to match her flower-gardening skills. As the dahlia queen of New England, she knows better than any that fall means gorging yourself on as many dahlias as you can until first frost.

Let’s all follow her lead and enjoy the little time we have with these babies. Clipping stems every day, changing water, keeping them out of the bright sun and away from heat sources will let the love last longer, but most of all, come ready to appreciate a little live fast, love hard, die young in a vase.

(For a glimpse into Frances’ garden and studio, read our What’s in Your Toolbox interview with the lady herself.)

Suggested For You


  • I LOVE the Dahlia flowers, and I think it is equal parts because of the flower itself and the cool name. On a recent trip to India I saw these beauties in vibrant Orange and the size of a dinner plate and have been sold ever since. These photos are beautiful.

  • This is great news! I’m so excited to be able to look forward to your posts every Friday. They are always so soothing to look at. :) In this one, I am dying over the creamy pink gorgeousness in the last 2 shots.

  • Is that pretty one on top the Cafe Au Lait Dahlia? I was told this particular flower is only available a short time in July. Is this information incorrect? Thx!

  • get the super dense spherical ones and they will last forever (or a week or two). i love dahlias and used to work at a place that grew them when i was in school. i would just stand in the field picking better one after better one and ending up with way too many. so i bought more vases (and started “winning ” the centrepiece at weddings so i could have more vases) so that during dahlia season i could have like, 10 vases full at a time because they are so gorge. miss that. i love the deep, deep burgandy. and yellow. and white and orange and shoot.

    now i have so many vases and no dahlias.

  • unbelievably gorgeous and lush! i’ve been using them a lot lately too. thank you for this lovely post, it brightened an already lovely last day of september.

  • I’m so excited for your column! Your work is amazing. Do you have any tips, or can you recommend any resources, for someone who is interested in becoming a floral designer?

  • Beautiful post! I think I’ll take the plunge and get a few dahlias even if they won’t last long…I’ll be smiling every time I’m in my kitchen for a few days at least! :)

  • I fell in love with dahlias after seeing the “best in show” blossoms at the county fair. I got the name of the local dahlia club and made the trip to the annual bulb sale (I think they had every variety in existence) so I could grow some of these beauties for myself. I felt like I was at one of those one-day, super discount wedding dress sales! Everyone was very competitive and the bins were all picked-over. I came home with a few, had no idea what they were going to look like, just bought whatever I coudl grab. Turns out gophers love dahlias just as much as I did! I did get a few flowers that year, but boy, was it hard work!

  • Aw, Dahlias. They are so dear to my heart and so so beautiful. I’m waiting to move into my own place so I won’t be able to deck it out with Dahlias this year, sadly. Next year I will probably go wild.

  • beautiful and poetic in a floral and poignant sense..the way they are captured and described.

  • I used to live close to the Swan Island Dahlia farms in Oregon and loved going there in the fall to see all the stunning specimens. They do a treatment on the flowers that involves boiling water and setting the dahlias in it until the water cools. They claim that this stops the flowers from falling apart. Do you know anything about this? Does it actually work?

  • I absolutely adore dahlias! I saw some at the grocery store the other day… Now I want to go back and buy them right.this.minute!


  • Oh, lovely lovely lovely with a floral columne! We have to do what we can to spread the love of the flowers to all the people! //Emelie floral designer in Sweden

  • Dahlias are my absolute favorite flower. In fact I put so many in my perennial bed I have room for little else. Gorgeous photos and arrangements, thanks for making a dahlia lovers day.

  • I would love to paint the photo of the pink blushed dahlia with the berries. I am an artist and live in New Zealand. I just love that photo.

    I work in oils and paint on canvases over 1 metre.


  • If you love dahlias and you are any where near San Francisco, get thee to the Conservatory of Flowers in Golden Gate park. They have a huge “corral” with a stunning variety of them. Check out this photo…

  • The most beautiful blog I have read in ages, so passionate about the flowers.
    Love the dahlias, and the beautiful colours that you chose. I look forward to reading more posts. Thanks for the inspiration

  • Amy, you have succeeded in your purpose! You’ve got me excited and inspired with all the gorgeous flower photos. Their vibrant colors really pop out of my monitor. I’m almost tempted to smell them! And the flower arrangement at the bottom… Beautiful!

    Looking forward to more articles in this column. All the best!

  • Beautiful! I am definitely going to have to consider them much more strongly in the low light areas. Spring and summer get so much color, it’s great to find something that flowers in fall!

  • So, so lovely! Dahlias hold a special place in my heart, as my grandpa babied them in his back garden for years – they were his pride and joy (Italian men and their gardens, y’know?). Gorgeous photos, too. If I thought these beauties would survive in my little rail baskets, I’d have a balcony full of ’em.

  • I love love love dahlias! I keep trying to grow my own, unsuccessfully. But I will keep trying!

  • I am so very excited for the upcoming posts, congrats Amy on taking over and I know you will do superb! The photos are amazing and I can not believe you are close friends with Frances Palmer, wow, and who knew she was also the Dahlia queen? Love, this post.

  • I grew dahlias for the first time this year and have been enjoying a steady stream of them in vases in the house for the past month+. And there are many more buds full of promise. I can’t wait to try more varieties next year. Beautiful arrangements. Thanks for the post on a flower I am totally in love with right now.

  • Frances has inspired me tor try dahlias next year! They are so lovely, perfect for this time of year. I love the combination of berries and veronica, so fall like but not the traditional fall golds & reds, I love it! As a professional floral designer I have to give my wholehearted approval!!

  • the gorgeousness!! congrats on your new column, Amy! i’m melting from it. as always, your images are too beautiful for words and always make my day. *sigh*

  • Oh lady, you know how much I adore a dinner plate-sized dahlia. These are magnificent. MAGNIFICENT! You already know this but I’ll make the pitch for fellow readers- D. Landreth Seed Co., the oldest seed house in the country (which is, sadly, on the verge of closing after all these years) has some of the finest dahlia tuber varietals around, so order them up now before Landreth is closed forever!

  • I am in LOVE with Dahlias! This was my first year planting them. I did three bulbs out in front of a windmill. However, I have had wind knock down two of my stalks this year. :( I did the Peaches N’ Cream variety and they are absolutely stunning! I can’t wait to plant more colors next year. Any tips out of how to make the most of your Dahlias prior to fall? LOVE IT!

  • Love dahlias and your beautiful flower arrangements. As a florist, I wouldn’t buy dahlias for years, because I knew of their short life. But I used them for a wedding this summer and noticed the few I had left over held up pretty well. Began using them in some of my weekly contracts in oasis and found they hold up beautifully for a week. Have been using them ever since, though I don’t display them in she shop in my buckets.