Old House Dahlias

Monday, October 1, 2012

I LOVE dahlias. I spent the morning of my wedding day happily cutting dahlias at a you-pick farm and stuffing buckets and buckets full of them for the party later that day. I adore all the different shapes, textures, and shades of happy colors--a bouquet of dahlias is like a bunch of happy faces smiling at you.

My Mom and I took a little field trip to Portland's Old House Dahlias recently--we didn't have to go far as the garden is just a few blocks from where she lives. I've grown bulbs from Old House the last couple of years. I can't resist their varieties. Last year I grew the charming collarette Giggles which I subsequently lost when I was too lazy to dig it up for the Winter even though I knew it was planted in a particularly water-logged area of my garden. This year I'm growing Lambada which is the lavender flower above with the ruffly cream center. It's really a knockout. 

Old House Dahlias is run by Mark Harvey who started the company 7 years ago as a way to make some extra money by growing dahlias at his N. Tabor home. You can't pick the flowers at his home-base garden but you can walk around and admire the flowers which are conveniently labeled and there are buckets of refrigerated dahlias for sale that have all been pretreated with hot water to help them last longer.

When we visited, Mark was just loading up a bunch of flowers for one of his accounts, the terrific nearby Observatory Restaurant. Mark told us he not only supplies them with flowers but also bulbs which they use in a salad. Whoa! What do they taste like? A bit like carrots, he says.

I was charmed by the hand-made funky signage around the garden. One of the things that first converted me into a customer of Old House Dahlias was their cute packaging and logo.

While you can't pick your own flowers here you CAN pick to your heart's content if you head across the river where Mark now has a large u-cut garden on the South waterfront. That will be a field trip for next year.

The fiery Ruskin Gypsy dahlia is going on my wishlist.  I like to imagine that it was named after the artist and art critic John Ruskin, but who knows.

And WOW, check out this "orchid" style dahlia called Verrone's Obsidian. It might be the darkest dahlia I've ever seen. Incredible.

I highly recommend a visit to Old House Dahlias in Mt. Tabor--I guarantee all the beautiful colors will put you in a good mood. I love the pairings of colors here with the explosion of exuberant yellow flowers next to the neighbor's periwinkle house and the vivid blue sky.


  1. Scrumptious and vidid colors - I'm always amazed by the endless variety of dahlias.

  2. Love the form & color of Verrone's Obsidian!

    1. Crazy cool, right?! I think it would look amazing in your garden.

  3. Yeah, you can't really beat them for color can you? I'm wanting to try more thoughtful pairings of dahlias with other plants. My Lambada is growing in my veggie patch this year next to some grey lacinto kale and dark purple shiso and it looks pretty striking.

  4. Dahlias are so versatile fitting so many garden styles, cottage, tropicalismo, etc. Love them!

  5. So true! I want to work that tropicalismo concept harder next year!

  6. what a charming place! The sign made of old windows is great.

    I find Dahlias demand an organized mind. One must get out there and stake or cage at the right time. I seem to fail at that!

  7. It really is charming! And you might want to drop Old House a line about the staking thing--I saw nary a stake in site and I think I read that they have a special mounding technique which saves you from that. Though, that's work in itself!


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