For spring 2020, we are excited to be offering three new dahlia collections from floral designer Alicia Schwede of FlirtyFleurs.com. Each of these collection is based on an arrangement that Alicia created last summer, using dahlias from her home garden.
Our collaboration with Alicia grew out of the fact that she is an avid gardener as well as a floral designer. At her home an hour north of Seattle, the yard is filled with perennials, ornamental trees and shrubs, and spring-and summer-blooming bulbs — many of them from Longfield Gardens.
A passion for flowers fuels Alicia’s design work, teaching, and long-time involvement in the floral industry. Her website, firtyfleurs.com, is a go-to resource for information about locally-grown cut flowers, floral design, and trends in the cut flower world.
In talking with Alicia about creating these new arrangements, we learned about working with big blooms (dinnerplate dahlias!), the importance of texture, and recent color trends. Read on to learn more!
Frilly Dahlias Are In
Over time, dahlias have come to occupy more and more of Alicia’s garden. “I love every type of dahlia,” says Alicia, “and I always grow lots of different types, from balls and pompons to singles, decoratives and dinnerplates.” And she does mean lots. Each spring Alicia plants about 400 dahlia tubers! Some of these flowers find their way into the lush arrangements that she shares on her Instagram account, and others are used for special events and floral design classes.
When composing this year’s new Flirty Fleurs collections, Alicia featured several dinnerplate dahlias. “Big, frilly flowers are in, and dinnerplates are the only type of dahlia that can deliver that look. In the Lucerne collection, I used two flowers with 10” blossoms: Fleurel and Tsuku Yori No Shisha. I love how much texture and movement they add to arrangements.”
The dahlia that started this trend for big, plush flowers was Café au Lait. Though still wildly popular, we have seen the demand for dahlia Café au Lait level off. The new must-have variety is Labyrinth, a flower with long, twisting petals and a more informal look. Due to a crop failure, it was unavailable in 2019, but it is back in stock for 2020. “Labyrinth is one of the most beautiful dahlias I have ever grown,” says Alicia. “I still love Café au Lait and am crazy for Break Out, but frilly petals are a trend I’m more than happy to embrace.”
Expert Tips for Arranging Big Flowers
“Arranging dinnerplate dahlias takes time and patience,” said Alicia,“and you have to start with strong mechanics!” For her, this usually means a ball of chicken wire in the center of each vase, secured with waterproof floral tape. Then she often adds branches or beefy foliage to help support the weight of the flower heads.
Alicia adds, “When working with dinnerplate dahlias, you need to find a way to give every flower a space of its own. For me, this requires lots of moving and pushing and prodding until each blossom finds its own pride of place. Once these big guys have finally settled in, I come back around to balance them with foliage and smaller flowers.”
Another technique she employs is picking dinnerplate dahlias before they are fully open. Alicia says, “when the center of the flower is still relatively tight, the blossom is smaller and easier to work with. Also, with many varieties, including Penhill Dark Monarch, immature flowers display a darker center and that brings in an extra layer of color.”
The Importance of Texture
“When I’m arranging flowers, I try to assemble them in a way that accentuates their shape and texture as well as their color,” said Alicia. “As floral designers, we don’t want our arrangements to look ‘flat.’ We want to see layers, depth and movement.”
Alicia continued: “The arrangement that I made for the Fionna Collection features the big, fluffy flowers of dinnerplate dahlia Shiloh Noelle. For contrast, I used white dahlias with smaller and tighter flowers: White Onesta and Petra’s Wedding. The foliage (from my raspberry patch) adds movement and yet another layer of texture.”
Alicia is a big fan of single dahlias. She says they are rarely available in the wholesale floral trade because the blossoms are fragile, so it’s up to home gardeners to take full advantage of them. HS Date is one of Alicia’s favorites and she featured it front and center in the arrangement she made for the Veracruz collection.
“I love single dahlias like HS Date, Bishop of Dover and Fascination,” she said. “Their bold centers really grab the eye. And bees love them. In fact, I now plant all my single dahlias at the ends of the dahlia rows. That way when I’m out cutting flowers, the bees and I can stay out of each other’s way.”
Choose from Seven Flirty Fleurs Collections
This year’s Lucerne, Fionna and Veracruz collections join four other Flirty Fleurs collections that have proven to be extremely popular:
Verona – dahlias HS Date, Labyrinth and Café Au Lait
Ravenna – dahlias Break Out, Penhill Dark Monarch and Penhill Watermelon
Sorbetto – dahlias Penhill Watermelon, Rip City, Nuite d’Ete, HS Date and American Dawn
Dolcetto – dahlias Tartan, Edge of Joy and Rip City, plus Acidanthera (peacock orchid)
Our hope is that Alicia’s floral artistry will help you discover some new and creative ways to enjoy growing dahlias. You can see all of the Flirty Fleurs Collections HERE. If you are on Instagram, we encourage you to follow Alicia HERE.