The Winchendon Courier
Serving the community since 1878 ~ A By Light Unseen Media publication
Week of March 26 to April 2, 2020


The Best Dahlias for a Backyard Cutting Garden

Mixed Dahlias
For bright, energetic bouquets, grow an assortment of red, orange, and yellow dahlias.
Photo credit: photo courtesy of

Dahlias are bold and beautiful flowers that are easy to grow in any sunny garden. They are also spectacular in summer flower arrangements. With just a few dahlias, you can enjoy picking your own fresh-cut flowers every day from July through September.

These spring-planted tubers make gorgeous additions to flower beds and even the vegetable garden. If space allows, the very best way to grow dahlias for bouquets is in a cutting garden. A backyard cutting garden doesn’t need to be large. Even a 3’ x 6’ raised bed will give you plenty of space for 6 to 8 full size dahlia plants. Planting dahlia tubers in rows lets you get maximum productivity with minimal maintenance.

When choosing dahlias for a small to medium size cutting garden, start by narrowing your choices. Select colors that you can imagine looking great together in a vase. This will make it easy to create lots of creative combinations on the fly.

Choose red, orange, and yellow flowers if you like energetic arrangements that mimic the colors of late summer and fall. Blossoms in cool colors and pastels, such pink, lavender and violet, will be softer and more soothing. Include purple and burgundy flowers to add drama and help unify warm and cool colors.

Floral designers know that combining flowers with different shapes and sizes makes arrangements more interesting. Dahlias offer many options and it’s one of the reasons they are such a popular cut flower.

Ball dahlias have tightly curled petals and dense, perfectly round, 3 to 4” flower heads. Varieties such as Sylvia and Jowey Mirella are perfect for adding repeating bursts of color. Decorative dahlias have the classic dahlia look, with 4 to 6” wide, open-faced blossoms and orderly layers of petals. American Dawn and Great Silence are two reliable and versatile, decorative dahlias.

The flowers of dinnerplate dahlias can measure 8 to 10” across and these enormous blossoms make it easy to make stunning summer bouquets. Popular varieties for cutting include Café au Lait, Penhill Dark Monarch and Otto’s Thrill. Add texture and movement to your arrangements with cactus dahlias. Varieties such as Yellow Star and Nuit d’Ete have tightly rolled petals that give the flowers a spiky appearance.

Single and peony-flowered dahlias are seldom seen at the florist or even in farmer's market bouquets because they don’t travel well. But home gardeners can enjoy growing varieties such as scarlet-red Bishop of Llandaff or the melon and burnt orange flowers of HS Date. These plants tend to be compact and rarely need staking.

Don’t let the many options overwhelm you. Consider starting with an assortment such as the Flirty Fleurs Sorbetto Collection ( It includes five varieties of pink and burgundy dahlias, specially selected by an experienced floral designer.

Most cutting garden flowers are picked before they are fully open. But dahlias should not be harvested until they are fully open and in their prime. To avoid crushing the stems, make your cuts with a sharp knife rather scissors.

If you want your dahlias to have nice, long stems, take a cue from cut flower farmers. When harvesting for market or removing spent flowers, they always remove the entire stem, cutting right back to a main stalk. Though this means sacrificing some buds in the short term, the next round of flowers will have noticeably longer stems.

When selecting plants for this year’s flower garden, be sure to include plenty of dahlias. These spring-planted, summer-blooming bulbs will take your homegrown flower arrangements to a whole new level.

Melinda Myers has written more than 20 gardening books, including Small Space Gardening. She hosts The Great Courses “How to Grow Anything” DVD series and the Melinda’s Garden Moment TV & radio segments. Myers is a columnist and contributing editor for Birds & Blooms magazine and was commissioned by Longfield Gardens for her expertise to write this article. Her web site is


Online Antique Education

Online Antique Education

What a difference two weeks can make. In my last column, I discussed upcoming flea markets as we started to see nicer weather. Now, with people staying at home and social distancing, many are looking online to learn something new. There are plenty of online options for those of you interested in studying about antiques and collectibles.

If you want to do something informal, you can dig out your antiques and collectibles and research them. If you aren’t sure what your item was used for, Google images may help you find a match on the web. Go to and you can find other items on the web that look like yours. I recently had a piece I couldn’t identify and found it was a gold-filled retractable toothpick using Google images. You may find a manufacturer’s mark on some of your pieces and can research the company’s history on the web. You can look up eBay sold prices if you’d like to find out what items like yours sold for. There are other research options as well, including,,,, and Some of these sites do charge fees to access their databases.

There are plenty of videos about antiques on YouTube and other websites that you can view for free. Just remember that there may be inaccuracies, biases, or the video creator may be trying to get you to sell them your antiques and collectibles. So, view them with the healthy skepticism you would with anything else you find on the web.

If you are serious about learning more about antiques and collectibles, there are some distance learning courses that you can sign up for. Please use due diligence when choosing courses as I have no direct experience with any companies offering these courses. offers online classes on a wide range of topics. Their antiques and collectibles course costs $50, or $75 if you want a CEU credit. They also offer unlimited courses from their hundreds of offerings for $189 a year. Their antiques and collectibles course description reads: “How to Buy and Sell Antiques and Collectibles offers a highly successful approach to acquiring and selling antiques and collectibles for both fun and profit. This course incorporates many strategies of acquiring and selling desirable objects and pieces, with the goal of personal enjoyment and fulfillment.” There are 15 lessons for both collectors and dealers.

The Asheford Institute of Antiques offers an online appraisal course. The individual lessons may appeal to people who are interested in opening an antique shop, selling online or considering some other type of antique related career. I spoke with the Business Director at Asheford, Greg DeMarco. He said that they typically see an increase in people taking their courses during a recession, as people feel the need to learn more or make career changes. When I spoke with Mr. DeMarco, Asheford was seeing nearly a 15% increase in registration since the COVID-19 virus. Asheford Institute’s website is DeMarco may see an uptick in business, but like all of us he hopes that the pandemic and the measures needed to contain it are short-lived.

I’ll be appraising items for the Douglas, MA Historical Society on May 3rd, provided there is no need to reschedule it. We will also be running an estate sale with many antiques in an Auburn, MA home and an online auction in Warren, RI when conditions allow. Our online Rutland estate farm auction has been temporarily postponed. Please see for details on these and other events. Stay healthy, everyone! I look forward to seeing you at antique events soon.

Contact us at: Wayne Tuiskula Auctioneer/Appraiser Central Mass Auctions for Antique Auctions, Estate Sales and Appraisal Services (508-612- 6111)