A "Stem" Education

Meet Suzanne Graves of Birmingham's Dahlia Patch 

October is a great time for the beautiful dahlia flower, and we recently caught up with Suzanne Graves, a local grower whose gorgeous blooms are all the rage on her Instagram feed (@thedahliapatch). Read on, and be inspired to grow a few of your own. 

How did you end up with such a green thumb? 

I have always loved flowers!  My parents and grandparents always had a garden, so I guess it’s in my blood. I’ve always planted something, even if I lived in an apartment and planted in pots.  

Gardening has been such a joy to me, especially this past year.  It’s something everyone can do, and there are so many rewards. I would encourage everyone to start small and try something. You never know. 

What made you decide on dahlias in particular? 

I guess I fell in love with dahlias about 20 years ago while working at a flower shop. We would get locally grown dahlias to use in arrangements. We used lots of dahlias in my wedding, too. Dahlias are amazing because they come in all different colors, sizes and forms. Some of the giant flowers grow larger than your head, and some are tiny flowers, an inch in diameter. There’s a wide range of colors, too. There’s every color except blue, and most all of them have petals that shimmer in the sun.

I also met some folks from the Alabama Dahlia Society years ago, and they have helped me so much along the way. Kathy and Ed Whitfield have become my friends and have been wonderful mentors.  

How did your garden become known as the Dahlia Patch?

I grow a little more than 200 plants in raised beds in my backyard. I just started referring to it as the dahlia patch, and then I decided to put my flowers on Instagram, and the name wasn’t taken. So it just seemed right. 

I’m also part of another flower business called @gardenparty_designs on Instagram. We use dahlias when possible in our arrangements to bring joy to others through flowers. 

Share some tips for growing and caring for dahlias. 

Dahlias can be difficult to grow in the South. They really like cooler weather. I plant my tubers in the spring, usually sometime in April. It takes them about 90 days to start producing flowers. August can be the hardest month to get through with the heat, humidity and bugs. But come September, when the nights get cooler, they really put on a show! They will bloom through frost. After a frost, over the winter, I dig all the tubers and divide them to increase my stock for the next year and maybe share a few.

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