Erin Benzakein, author and farmer-florist, presents a guide for growing and arranging dahlias, in her book, Discovering Dahlias. After introducing the great variety in dahlia size, form, and color, the author goes on to explain how to grow, care for, harvest, dig, divide, store, and propagate dahlias. The information on propagation is especially helpful as it includes taking cuttings, growing from seed, and hybridizing. Additional sections of the book give tips for using dahlias in flower arrangements, and provide a directory to dahlias based on their color. The directory features a photograph of a bunch of one variety of dahlia with information on its bloom form and size, and a brief description.

The section devoted to designing with dahlias is especially appealing. It starts with a picture and description of a luscious bouquet featuring dahlias and continues with detailed pictures of all the different flowers in the bouquet. For example, the bouquet with the title “All Hail the Queen” features the dinner plate sized dahlia, ‘Cafe au Lait’, snuggled into a large Vermont sap bucket with a few stems of another dahlia with star-shaped flowers, 3 kinds of hydrangeas, pokeweed and wild sorrel. Each kind of flower is featured separately in a photograph as well as together in the bouquet. The choices of plant material are explained, and design principles and elements are enumerated.

Dahlia flowers are beautiful but the plants are not easy to grow and Benzakein presents her information with many photographs to help make the many techniques within the grasp of the reader. Her explanations of the techniques are clear and very readable and she explains the reasons for doing each task. The abundant photographs of dahlia flowers in both bunches and arrangements are beautiful and inspirational. One disappointment, however, is that less than 30 pages are devoted to designing with dahlias while over 60 describe and show dahlia varieties.

To buy Discovering Dahlias from Amazon, click here.