A couple of weeks ago I had the opportunity to go to the Badger State Dahlia Society show at Olbrich Gardens in Madison. This really opened up my eyes to the world of dahlias. The flowers on show were gorgeous--a kaleidoscope of color. I had never seen the vast variety of size, color and variegation before. Some flowers were tiny and dainty and others were huge and impressive. The morning dew that remained on the blooms looked like glitter. One of my favorites was a dahlia named "Bryn Terfel" named after the Welsh opera and concert singer (the large red bloom pictured). I liked the wavy petals that would most likely sway in the breeze.
Presently there are approximately 57,000 registered cultivars. Dahlias can be as small as 2" or as large as 12" (commonly referred to as 'dinner plate'). They are hardy to Zone 8. In Wisconsin they are grown as annuals and the tuberous roots must be stored indoors in a cool place all winter. Dahlias are the national flower of Mexico and are native to Mexico, Central, and northern South America. Familiar relatives to the dahlia include the sunflower, daisy, chrysanthemum, and zinnia. They were named after Anders Dahl, a Swedish botanist who lived in the mid-to-late 1700's.
After seeing all of these beautiful dahlias, they may be worth the extra work of digging up the tubers and storing them over winter. I'll have to give them a try in the future.