The Dahlia That Celebrates Canada’s 150th

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Dahlia Canadian Celebration. Photo: Botanus

Yes, Canada celebrates its 150th anniversary in 2017 and to highlight this special event, there’s a special flower: the Canadian Celebration dahlia (Dahlia Canadian Celebration). It’s actually an older cultivar that has been renamed for the occasion: ‘Fire & Ice’ (also written ‘Fire ‘n ‘Ice’ or ‘Fire and Ice’).

20170417C.jpgThe semi-double 4-inch (10-cm) flowers are red irregularly marked white, a combination that of course represents the colors of the Canadian flag. At the center of each inflorescence there is a mass of yellow stamens, much to the delight of pollinating insects. (Many dahlias are so double they have no pollen, a real bummer for beneficial bugs.)

According to official classifications, Canadian Celebration is a dwarf novelty dahlia, “novelty” being a sort of horticultural dumping ground for dahlias that just don’t fit well into other categories. That’s certainly because the flowers are quite irregular, both in color (the share of red and white varies from petal to petal, even on the same flower) and in the number of petals and the way they are placed. I like to think of this as meaning the flowers are “charmingly eccentric”.

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Dahlia Canadian Celebration: charmingly eccentric! Photo: User:BotBln, Wikimedia Commons

As a dwarf dahlia, it reaches about 26 inches (65 cm) high and 18 inches (45 cm) wide, a size suitable for growing both in the garden and in pots. Some bulb sellers put Canadian Celebration into the “landscape dahlia” category, as it grows pretty much on its own and no staking is required.

It’s an early bloomer, starting from mid- to late July depending on your climate, and continues well into fall, usually October. Under the name ‘Fire & Ice’, it has picked up over the years an excellent reputation as a cut flower: the more you harvest the blooms, the more it produces.

Basic Care

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The tuberous roots of a dahlia.

Tubers are sold in the spring at the same time as other summer bulbs. They are, in fact, actually tuberous roots, looking a bit like pale brown carrots clumped together. Plant them in full sun and in rich, well-drained soil. (Add compost or a slow-release organic fertilizer if your soil is poor). Dig a hole about 6 inches (15 cm) deep and spread the roots out it bit before covering them with 4 inches (10 cm) of soil. Water well.

In cold climates, you may want to start the plant indoors in pots in April or May. This doesn’t hasten bloom, but can give a sturdier, leafier plant that blooms more abundantly.

Summer care is pretty basic: you only have to water and even then, only during periods of drought.

In the fall, when frost has killed back the foliage, dig up the roots, cut back the stems and allow them to dry. Then store the tubers indoors in a cool (if possible) frost-free place.

The following spring, divide the tuberous roots if necessary and replant them. It’s that simple!

Pests

Dahlias are usually quite deer resistant, but if earwigs are numerous in your area, they may nibble heavily on the flowers. Try sprinkling diatomaceous earth among the flower petals to dissuade them.

Where to Find It?

In Canada, you’ll likely find Canadian Celebration dahlia tubers this spring in a local garden center. If not, you can order them from Botanus or West Coast Seeds. In the US, look the name ‘Fire & Ice’ and try Direct Gardening or Dutch Gardens. In Europe, try Suttons. It’s not a rare dahlia and many other suppliers also offer it.

You don’t have to be a Canadian to enjoy Canadian Celebration/‘Fire & Ice’): a beautiful flower is always beautiful, no matter where you live.20170417A

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