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May 30th 2018

The Future of Floret Dahlias

Written by
Floret

The last year and a half has been one of tremendous change and growth here at Floret. It is only after compiling a list of major projects that we’ve tackled that I can truly wrap my head around it all.

We offered our last on-farm workshop (for now, at least). We offered our very first online workshop. We expanded our product line. We switched to a new online shop platform. We expanded our team. We bought the farm next door. We started a massive renovation on the barn that will become our new shipping area. We launched a best selling book…and then started writing a second book… We’ve done A LOT.

Each one of these projects was a ton of work. But the fact that we did them all within such a short period of time is nothing short of miraculous.

Now that we’ve caught our breath, we’re reevaluating what lights us up and what we want to focus our collective energy on as we move forward. One of the biggest topics of discussion has been dahlias.

As you know, dahlias are one of our favorite crops, but they come with a very specific set of challenges, including highly skilled labor for dividing tubers, proper storage conditions, a large storage facility, and a expanded shipping team to get tubers out the door in a timely manner.

In an effort to improve the process for our customers and our crew, we have decided to push pause on tuber sales this autumn. I know this will undoubtedly disappoint a lot of people. And I know that the demand for dahlias is tremendous. Since we started offering them a few years ago we have consistently sold out in less than a day. Even after quadrupling our offerings this past year, we still sold out within 24 hours. Dahlia mania is a real thing!

We are committed to making the experience of sourcing and growing these treasured varieties better than it’s ever been before. But the only way to do that is by pushing pause and taking the time to figure out a better way. I’d love your thoughts and ideas.

SHARE YOUR DAHLIA THOUGHTS AND IDEAS HERE

Floret fans have always been so generous in sharing their feedback whenever we’ve needed help. For example, your ideas were instrumental in shaping the outline for Cut Flower Garden and Book #2 which is currently in the works. Through reader surveys, we were also able to develop the content for our educational programs, including the Floret Online Workshop. I so value your thoughts and opinions and would absolutely love it if you would take a few minutes and share them regarding dahlias.

Thanks in advance for your thoughtful feedback and for your continued support as our little flower farm grows. I am so grateful for all that you share.

37 Comments

  1. Kathy on

    Great blog &
    . website

    Reply
  2. Diane Hernandez on

    Erin,
    Your book “Cut Flower Garden” introduced me to flower gardening! In March I went looking for support from a garden club and when I couldn’t find one, I started one. We’ve had 3 meetings so far and are 65 members strong. I also raffled off one of your books! 😁
    Last fall, I was fortunate to order dahlia tubers from you, which are about 8″ tall now. I could only get 4. 😒 Unfortunately, the tubers I bought from another company have not made an appearance yet.
    Many club members grow dahlias, any chance a club could place a single order?! Any chance a club could video conference with the author? I can appreciate your taking a pause and that you are looking at how to improve your business and in turn, support gardeners and hopefully, garden clubs! Best regards-

    Reply
  3. Gail Griffith on

    I am excited to see the visionary approach you are taking…in the case of plant stock, the future should be just as important as the present. I am not growing dahlias presently, but want to start next season. Hope to purchase some from your farm…have to look in your book for other venders as well.

    Peace,
    Gail

    Reply
  4. Elisabeth Ontario on

    I love seeing the dahlias you have, but it wasn’t an option for me to purchase being in Canada. Most of the options you have I have not been able to find in Canada, but it’s great eye candy that I appreciate. Businesses evolve, I’m sure everyone can understand. It is nice to have a one stop shop for all the ordering, so if you could be a reliable source for everything that would be great, but until then, it may be better to specialize in a smaller diversity of product. As a Canadian, with the exchange rate and shipping limitations, I look to Floret more so for education, information on your website and books, and maybe one day your online couse. Keep up the good work and do what is best for you and your business.

    Reply
  5. Daniele Strawn, JoLee Blooms & Design on

    By all means, we will miss your dahlia sales – it’s like a special holiday and I plan my week, or weekend, around waking up in time to jump online and make sure to get my order in <3
    That said, by all means – take your time to think through how it works for you, and if it doesn't work well for you, then we will all miss that part of Floret, but we will be excited for what you all think up next and will always treasure the tubers we have from you, and do our best to tend to them, so they grow and multiply with us for many years to come!
    xxoo,
    Daniele

    Reply
  6. Mary Turner on

    I am a small cut flower farmer in coastal Maine. (On the line of 5a/b) I appreciate your descriptions of the dahlias and how they behave. I love all pictures that I see of dahlias! (especially yours) They are magical in their colors. But not all are really good as a cut flower. So when you mention their usefulness as a cut, it helps to know that. I also appreciate some mention of what other ones you pair them with. It tweaks my color sensibilities. While the dahlia world talks about size, shape and color – you rock when you talk about stem length, vase time and what kind of producer it is for you. Things I want to know as a grower.
    As for selling out, it is the nature of the business and the whims of the buyers – no telling what we all want each year! Keep up the good work and thank you so very much for sharing all your gardening/growing knowledge with us!

    Reply
  7. Julie Halla-Joel on

    I have not ever grown dahlias. I recently moved from Minnesota to the desert in Saint George,Utah and I’m not sure dahlias will do well here, zone 8. I actually do not lust after dahlias, I get my fix growing lovely zinnia from seeds purchased from your farm. I would encourage you to slow down your growth and take a breather. Nothing is more detrimental to a small business than trying to grow too fast.

    Reply
  8. Chenique on

    Erin, I agree with the posts encouraging you to stay focused on your marriage and family, and doing what you need to do to make it all work. You can always decide to jump back into dahlias, but you can’t get that time with your kids back. And I want to encourage you – you’ve been an inspiration to so many of us. I’ve grown dahlias and other flowers for years down here in hot and humid zone 7B (central NC) but I’ve just taken the plunge into selling flowers. The techniques you recommend are great but I think that folks need to be realistic about their own situation, experience, the need to adapt and that we are not and cannot all be Floret, so to speak. I would like to also say that all of us who follow you so avidly also need to be unselfish, and show some love given your (appropriate) limitations as a small family business. Many companies that sell dahlia tubers run out of desirable, hard to find varieties quickly, and that’s just the way it is. You’ve built a loyal following but I don’t think that you need to take personal responsibility for selling out quickly. Many of the varieties you sell can be purchased though other growers – this is good for everyone.
    Yes we totally hear you re: the whole high-maintenance piece. Digging them up is reasonably hard work. My results from leaving dahlias in the ground were very mixed given the extremely cold winter here in 2017-2018. Recently I switched over to growing dahlias in large plunge pots because of the storage issue, voles and lack of space and this has worked well, though it would probably be too labor intensive for a large operation like yours.
    I think there are several good reasons for you to hit pause on selling dahlia tubers. For those varieties that are not good tuber producers, you could leave some clumps undivided to see if they form better clumps with better tubers. You can do a business analysis. You can take a rest : ) You can train teams of people during the off season to help with the skilled labor. Finally, you can take a careful look at your plants to see if you can identify dahlia virus infected plants that need to be culled, to try to address the widespread serious problem of dahlia virus and viroids. This is a big problem. A high proportion of plants grown from tubers (as many as 30-40% of some varieties) from commercial growers show signs of virus. So i start all of my tubers in March in pots and cull out the virused ones before setting them out. Just a few suggestions for you. Keep on keepin’ on!

    Reply
  9. Maria Rempfer on

    I’ve never grown dahlias. I live in the high desert of Southern California and this might be too hot and arid for dahlias. I am gathering seeds and eventually tubers for our new home in Washington State, We are retiring this year and will move to Washington, where I hope we will grow all the flowers and vegetables that I have been dreaming about. I love your book and I ordered so many seeds. I look forward to ordering more and taking some classes at your new farm if and when they are made available. Thank you for such beautiful flowers. Maria

    Reply
  10. Annie on

    Regarding some dahlias, I seem to have trouble even getting them to emerge from the soil. One local dahlia society member advised me that dinner plate size dahlias do not do well in our area and that seems to be true. It gets too hot here in the summer. So I try to buy medium sized ones. Dahlias are one of my absolute favorite flowers and I would like to continue to experiment with them. I would like to know if there are any farms or sources who do not treat their bulbs with fungicides before shipping. I.e., I’m looking for organically raised bulbs if possible. I believe your farm does that but I’m not sure. I have your book and love it. Thanks for all the beautiful photos and information. Now if I can only grow ranunculus – I did not have much success with those this year either despite reading your instructions.

    Reply
  11. Danielle Allen on

    I love all your pictures and well everything. Except I was not a fan of when I received my box of dahlia tubers they were not sectioned out well. I had to sit and organize through them to figure out which were which when it came to planting. Better labeling for the individual types of dahlias. Name and the color of the dahlia ON the packaging for that dahlia.
    I also received a refund automatically after like a month. for some dahlia tubers that you ran out of. And no explanation as to what that was for. So it wasn’t until 4mo later when I got my tubers that I realized my favorite one wasn’t coming. Very dissapointing.

    Reply
  12. Linda Hovgaard on

    It’s just like fishing…sometimes you need to close the season in order for the fish to regenerate. I have missed out on your dahlia sales and am looking forward to a healthier inventory in the future. Floret Farms Cut Flower Garden has been so helpful and such an inspiration to me. Thank you for all your hard work and dedication. So many gardens and gardeners have benefited and blossomed thanks to all your endeavors. This gardener so appreciates all you’ve given me.

    Reply
  13. Jean Shaw on

    You can’t be all things to all people—after all, Swan Island has 40 acres, and that’s all they do. I applaud your decision to think things through.

    Reply
  14. Christine O' Leary on

    just read your book absolutely loved it and your pictures are amazing. You have sparked my mind. My mother grew dahlias here in Ireland when i was a child and we all loved them neighbors and all. Then dahlias fell out of Fashion plus our pet rabbits loved them too. Dahlias remind me of my mother who sadly passed away 2 years ago. I am just after potting up some I got in my local shop and intend to start a collection again. My mother had all sorts in all colors back in the 70s they are hard got now. I have memories of helping dig them up before the winter and storing them in wooden crates in a out house and re planted the following spring when frost has passed. Hugh tubers. Thank you for reigniting my lovely childhood memories. I also have planted a large bed of mixed flowers just for cutting. looking forward to this summer.

    Reply
  15. Holly on

    I hope you’ll take us with you on your dahlia journey -what you’ve learned, what works for you and what you will change because we’re all learning right beside you. One thing I absolutely love about Floret and what I hope you won’t change is keeping a really carefully curated collection. Through your trials you have selected the most beautiful dahlias -gorgeous forms and color palettes and your photography is fantastic – it’s eye candy and it makes shopping a pleasure. Even if Dahlia ‘Cara Elizabeth’ makes one good tuber a year I will wait for it! There are so many ugly dahlias out there to sift through or great dahlia growers who have horrid websites with tiny thumbnail pictures that you can hardly see. They could all take a page from your book. You have a great team and you’ve been growing dahlias for a long time so I have no doubt that whatever improvements you make will be fabulous and we’ll be waiting!

    Reply
  16. Patricia on

    Dahlias are so beautiful not to mention the amazing colors they come in. It is understandable that you want to pull back and reevaluate things, however, dahlias are a favorite of your customers. Is it a good idea to scale back on what you have come to be associated with by many? This seems like a project that will be worth the effort both in the short and long-term. Anyway, I hope you make the decision that will be best for your business.
    http://www.flowersandflowerthings.com/

    All the best,
    Patricia.

    Reply
  17. Andrea Z on

    Maybe I misread the post and survey, but I took it that you are taking a break to figure out how to grow more dahlias to supply your customers better. I, for one, am very excited about what you are doing. I have tried in vain to order tubers the past few years, but have never been able to get to the site before everything is already sold out. I am hopeful that your time reassessing and building stock will allow more of us to order in the future and that it good news for all of us.

    Reply
  18. Virginia on

    Good for you, Erin–Floret offers all of us so much inspiration, experience and beauty–and now you are modeling for us the importance of “hitting the pause button” as a small business owner. Thank you.

    Reply
  19. Nathan Honken (Honken Dahlias) on

    I’m happy to hear you are hitting the pause button. I have heard through many some disappointment in the quality of your dahlias. You are an important part of this flower farming movement so it’s crucial you do it right! Good for you for taking some time to learn and figure things out. I have a few ideas. Some; you maybe already know- others you may have some different views on.
    1) you are planting those dahlias too close together. To get decent tuber size, you need to plant them further apart. I know this is against a model that has worked well for you with many of your other crops and you have inspired many flower farmers to follow suite. I just don’t think it works for dahlias. I plant 20 inches apart; and I think that’s pretty tight. Dahlias are heavy feeders and they are stealing eachother’s nutrients if they are too tight.
    2) Focus on varieties that make lots of nice big tubers. Swan Island’s #1 breeding criteria is that it makes lots of tubers. Some of the varieties that you have popularized are just terrible tuber makers…or have terrible tuber storage qualities. Many Dutch bred varieties have this trait because they sell them as pot tubers instead of “regular” tubers – meaning they sell the whole clump. They want those clumps small to ship across the ocean as cheap as possible. It just doesn’t fit with your model. There are some fantastic breeders active in the U.S. today and many place a high premium on only breeding dahlias that produce good quality tubers (Hollyhill, AC (Ken Greenway), Clearview to name a few). –
    3) don’t keep tubers that are tiny unless you want to really fuss with storing them carefully. I may get 10 tubers off a plant – but I would only feel good about shipping maybe 3 or 4 of them out as the others are just little pieces.
    4) Build good stock. When I am adding a new variety to my collection – I like to buy it from a few vendors and then look for the healthiest stock to multiply. I only dig 75% of my plants in the fall. I eliminate anything that lacked vigor or showed any signs of virus. Hang on to a variety a few years before offering it for sale in order to multiply only the best stock.
    5) Don’t fertilize after August 1st. when you promote green growth above ground – your plants aren’t able to focus on building tubers under ground.
    6) Hire some staff that have lots of dahlia experience. Dahlia nuts that have been a part of dahlia societies, maybe done some breeding, worked on another commercial farm etc. You have all the makings of a beautiful opportunity for the right person.
    6) Put the horse before the cart. :) Good for you for hitting pause. You have grown so quickly and some projects take a lot more time. Dahlias a fickle. They take time to get to know. I have been growing for many years; but still make really dumb mistakes all the time when I am trying something new.

    Reply
  20. sara on

    I am in Canada B.C
    and always have tubers for sale –
    some of the most beautiful ones in my minds eye
    I started growing in 2013 – and do not advertise my sale of tubers
    it has always gone on word of mouth –
    can contact me at [email protected]
    if of need of some in Canada

    Reply
  21. Robbie on

    If I could send a picture of your dahlias growing in my back yard I would. I set my alarm to wake precisely when your dahlias went on sale. I was able to get a few but not all I wanted due to others doing the same. Even though I live in California I would gladly volunteer a week of my time to helping get these treasured tubers to market. I understand the need to reevaluate. I will be sad to lose you as a resource for my precious dahlias. Thank you for what you do. Your IG posts and educational blogs have been pure joy. Your book has been a treasure I have devoured. The first year I grew dahlias were for a wedding job. To my ignorance and grace they came up the next year in mass. I had left them in the ground. I made weekly bouquets from June until November giving them to the nurses taking care of my husband in the chemo ward. My grouchy husband became the most favored patient as he always came with a lovely bouquet of dahlias. Whatever you decide we dahlia lovers will understand as all your flowers are a treat. Looking forward to your new book.

    Reply
  22. Karen on

    I agree with Lisa. It seems short sighted to get rid of the thing that brought you the attention and expansion in the first place. Calender/notebook/gift item sales are possible because of all the attention your dahlia and flower sales have brought to your company. I learned of you on Pinterest last fall and wanted to place a dahlia order but you were completely sold out. Your seeds intrigued me so I signed up for your emails, purchased quite a number of seeds from you this past winter and was hoping to get some dahlias ordered ths fall. Now, as lovely and charming as your operation is I wonder why I should stay interested? Best of luck to you and your business!

    Reply
  23. Aura Ellis on

    I was looking forward to order your dahlias next year and beat the crowd. So I am definitely disappointed but understand. It’s so nice to order with confidence knowing you’ve tested, tried and back your selections. We trust you and that’s why we want your dahlias and will order many. Keep us posted. Can you tell me where you purchased your vases in this blog post and what they’re called?

    Reply
  24. Andrea D. on

    I use your shop as a curated list of things that will do well if only I can get my hands on them, even if we can’t get them from you. We deeply appreciate your field tests, and depth of knowledge. A forum for this might be incredibly helpful going forward.
    Did you try Fleurel? How did it do for you? What might be a good substitute, etc.

    Reply
  25. Vickie on

    I too look so forward to the Dahlia Palooza each year and though I am usually unable to snag those I’d like most, I am always thrilled with the Dahlias I’m lucky enough to grab. It’s surely understandable what a challenge it must be for Floret each year but I am incredibly saddened to hear you won’t be offering them for next season. No one has a selection as beautiful as you guys do!!! Is the decision a forever one or just the 2019 season?

    Reply
  26. Betty on

    It was quite by accident that I discovered the Floret Instagram Account and for that happy coincidence began my love of dahlias. Sure, I’d heard about and seen them since childhood but not to the degree of what is available at the Floret Farm. Through the various postings it became clear just exactly how limited my selection is. All the beauty provided by the pictures however is merely a temptation as I live in Canada and ordering dahlias from Floret is not an option. If perhaps with the new farm expansion this would now become a possibility it would be wonderful.

    Reply
  27. Judy Schorscher Righetti on

    I’d love to share on a dahlia discussion group: people’s favourite varieties (and why), how they sell them, various experiences growing dahlias, etc. This is my fifth year growing dahlias (and flowers for market), I started with 3 varieties my first year, 6 the second year, and now I am up to 70 varieties. I avidly read all of Floret’s comments on the varieties they grow (plus other comments on the internet wherever I could find them!). Dahlias are the basis of my summer production (from end of June to mid November) and one of the flowers that grow best where I am, so I depend on them a lot!

    Reply
  28. BobbiLynn Miller on

    I must admit that’s hard to hear ! I’m one of those who has missed out on the Dahlias , due to the quickness of the sales ,so keep hoping for the next season. But, I do understand,and will continue to wait until the Dahlia market is alive and well !! Things to look forward to….

    Reply
  29. Tracy Douthit on

    I understand, and glad you are building your stock of dahlias! They’re my favorite too. I love your story, and can’t wait to purchase from you!

    Reply
  30. Debra on

    I hope you and your team are able to sort out dahlia production; your plants are breathtakingly beautiful and the tubers I purchased from you are doing splendidly. Several years ago, I ordered dahlias from a California operation that sold only live rooted cuttings. I had a very good outcome from all of their cuttings. Perhaps it’s worth looking into to see if this is a less labor-intensive way to produce dahlias in your area: Corralitos Gardens http://www.cgdahlias.com/

    Best of luck!
    Debra

    Reply
  31. Gloria cassell on

    I started growing and selling cut flowers on my residential property a few years, and i added dahhilas to my inventory last year. I was already maxed out of space so this year I rent a plot from my community garden which I intend to use for my dahilas. I have followed you and purchased your book once I decided that I can be a cut flower grower on my less than 5,000 sq. Property. You are an inspiration to us all and I believe if taking a pause is required in order to produce greatness than I say take the pause!

    Reply
  32. Janice Mankovich @ Little Flowering Mtn. on

    My first thought is “do what you love “. If handling Dahlias is over the top for your operation and employees,
    make yourself a happy bed of dahlias at your home and let everyone else fend for themselves. Keep a little stock in case the wind gets at your back again and you want to resume. Know your limits.
    And then sometimes all you need is a break……right?
    Another option, hand (sell) the whole dahlia operation over to someone else . We are not the only ones who can love (our children).
    Or, drink more coffee. Lol.
    True, Dahlias are to love ❤️

    Reply
  33. Julie on

    I’m pleased to see that you are stepping back and assessing. There are a finite number of hours each day, as you well know. Our children grow up quickly. You are a family business. Do take some family time. You can’t get it back.
    Julie
    Victoria, BC

    Reply
  34. Kristen on

    What disappointing news, but as a small business owner in the middle of massive growth as well, I completely understand. I’ve been incredibly happy with the quality of the products you’ve offered both in seed and dahlia form and know sometimes you have to step back in order to maintain the integrity of your product or service. Your growing tips and book have helped me move from a novice gardener to an intermediate gardener. I had no idea you were doing online workshops and hope this continues in the future. Have you considered a kind of rotating list for purchases each year or a VIP membership that expires every two years? I’d recommend a deposit requirement for a waitlist which could be applied to membership or purchase, but that way you eliminate duplicate waitlisting and individuals who are not necessarily serious. You could offer some free seeds as interest! You could sell memberships, which allow for a set amount of quantity (perhaps 3 different pricing/quantity levels) and then after you purchase for two years, you cannot purchase again, until you are up again on the waitlist if you chose to add yourself back onto it. It’s not ideal, but it would allow you to control production to a manageable level, and create an orderly system while you continue to find production resources experienced enough to harvest your stock.

    Reply
  35. Lisa on

    I guess I don’t understand the calendar/notebook/gift item sales over actual plants. I feel like this dahlia decision is a mistake. You don’t need to just expand at any cost, leaving the thing that people love about you behind in order to mass-market. I’m bummed.

    Reply

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