Garden Photo of the Day

The Dazzling Dahlias of Longwood Gardens

By: Kim Charles

Fine Gardening Assistant Editor, Carol Collins, perfectly captures the abundant blooms of the Dahlia.

"There are 30 public gardens within 30 miles of Philadelphia, so Fine Gardening editors visit the area quite often. The first week of October I was in Kennett Square, PA. With a few free hours and great afternoon light, I went to check out the trial beds at Longwood Gardens. The dahlia beds were huge, and in full, riotous bloom. What an autumn treat for any plant lover!"

Attention GPOD'ers–Let's keep the Garden Photo of the Day blooming year round! We would love to see your captivating combinations, your favorite new plant choices or how your garden is looking in the midst of the fall season. Keep the submissions coming. We all thank you for sharing! See details below.

Have a garden you'd like to share? Email 5-10 high-resolution photos (there is no need to reduce photo sizing before sending–simply point, shoot and send the photos our way) and a brief story about your garden to [email protected]. Please include where your location!

Sending photos in separate emails to the GPOD email box is just fine.

Have a mobile phone? Tag your photos on Instagram or Twitter with #FineGardening!

You don't have to be a professional garden photographer – check out our garden photography tips!

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  1. frankgreenhalgh 10/18/2017

    Hi Carol - That's the spirit showing leadership from the front! Lovely dahlias and photography. Sounds like Philadelphia is spoilt with so many nice public gardens. Cheers from Oz

    1. user-7007498 10/18/2017

      Good morning, Frank. I also happened to be at Longwood Gardens over the weekend. I attached a few more photos of the garden I thought you might enjoy.

      Have a great day in Oz.

      1. frankgreenhalgh 10/18/2017

        G'day Kev. - Wow, what a spectacular display! Your pics. provide another dimension to and complement those provided by Carol. Longwood is obviously a wonderful and popular garden. FYI one of my good friends recently visited Butchart Gardens in British Columbia and he said that they are the best gardens he has ever seen. I seriously need to get my act together and also visit some of these gems you guys have in USA and Canada. Cheers mate

        1. user-7007498 10/18/2017

          I have also been to Butchart Gardens, which is also spectacular. Those 2 are indeed bucket list gardens. If you ever get out here, make sure to let me know, and I would love to show you around.

          1. user-4691082 10/18/2017

            And you have to include me! And Frank, I can put you up in the Molin B&B for as long as you want to stay!

          2. frankgreenhalgh 10/18/2017

            You're very generous indeed, Rhonda. I wouldn't dare visit anywhere near your neck of the woods without landing on your doorstep (giving you prior notice of course - at least 30 min. - haha) and saying hello and learning more about your mushroom compost stories and your dairy farming background etc. etc. There is just something about the GPOD community which is fascinating and addictive to me, including interactions with your good self.

        2. chelleisdiggin 10/18/2017

          Put the Missouri Botanical Garden on your list Frank!

          1. frankgreenhalgh 10/18/2017

            Thanks for the tip, Chelle. I had a quick search and the gardens look amazing.

        3. User avater
          LindaonWhidbey 10/18/2017

          When you visit us, Frank, Butchart will be part of your tour:)

        4. user-7008735 10/18/2017

          Frank (and everyone), if you come all this way to visit Butchart Gardens on Vancouver Island, be sure to pop over to the City of Vancouver on the mainland of BC to visit VanDusen Botanical Gardens and UBC Botanical Gardens, too. If you especially love trees, try to time your visit to coincide with one of the open days at Darts Hill Garden in Surrey, BC (a suburb of Vancouver). Francisca Darts started her garden in the 1930's, growing many trees from seed before they were available in local nurseries. She planted a line of magnolias when she was in her 80's and left her garden to Surrey to preserve it.

          1. frankgreenhalgh 10/18/2017

            Thank you very much indeed for that information, Lorraine. Wasn't it a great post today (although we are into Thursday here) with all the additional pics. and comments! Cheers from down under

          2. user-7008735 10/18/2017

            You are most welcome, Frank. I hope you will get to make the trip up here. We are having torrential rains here in North Vancouver today, so it has been lovely to have some indoor fun. Yesterday was sunny so I spent 5 hours planting bulbs and dividing plants; all my muscles need a rest today! I hope you're having a wonderful springtime down under.

        5. user-6536305 10/19/2017

          Our Butchart Gardens is world class. If you are ever in Vancouver, my domain, please give me a notice at least 30 min, I would show you around.

          1. frankgreenhalgh 10/19/2017

            Hey Lilian - Thank you very much for your kind offer. My mate only planned to spend 2 hours at Butchart Gardens, but spent the whole day there because he and his wife were blown away by what they saw. He showed me his photos and told me the interesting history of the gardens. I will definitely make it there one day. Perhaps we could tour the gardens with our good friend Linda O.
            Cheers from Oz

  2. user-7007498 10/18/2017

    Thanks, Carol, for submitting those lovely photos of Longwood. I was also there over the weekend, and the dahlias were spectacular.

    Attached are a few photos I took on Saturday (it was a cloudy day, but great to see the garden).

    1. tennisluv 10/18/2017

      Love the different perspectives you provided - the hallway with the softly glowing green paper lanterns, the banana plant and the pretty purple orchid. Thanks for adding to Carol's offering.

      1. user-7007498 10/18/2017

        My pleasure, Sonya. They change the look of that long hallway seasonally, and it is always spectacular. The photo of the bananas with red canna and mums, and the photo 2 below it with the yellow cannas and mums, are part of the same very long border. Each section has a different color scheme and is also changed seasonally.

    2. Sunshine111 10/18/2017

      Wow Kevin, what a change from August! I love the balls!

    3. User avater
      treasuresmom 10/18/2017

      My gosh, Kevin. Amazingly beautiful!

    4. hontell 10/18/2017

      Kevin, I love Longwood, and the Victoria just blows me away, thanks for the picture

    5. User avater
      LindaonWhidbey 10/18/2017

      Great photos, Kevin. Thanks for sharing your weekend treat.

    6. user-7008735 10/18/2017

      I love those great glass houses, Kevin. I haven't been to Longwood (yet!) but saw some massive Victoria water lilies in the glass house at Kew Gardens in London last year. I tried to get my sister to swim out to one for a sense of scale, but she wouldn't cooperate. The lily pads can grow to nearly 10 feet across!

      1. user-7007498 10/18/2017

        Beautiful pictures, Lorraine. The water garden at Longwood is outdoors in a protected courtyard surrounded by wings of the conservatory. The picture is of Victoria ‘Longwood Hybrid’, that was successfully hybridized at Longwood from 2 South American parents years ago. They state that each platter can support between 60 and 100 pounds if distributed evenly.

        1. user-7008735 10/18/2017

          Thank you, Kevin. Outdoors? Wow! Do they heat the pool or bring the plant indoors over winter? I know the gardens are in the southern part of Pennsylvania, but you get some real winters there, don't you?

          1. user-7007498 10/18/2017

            I know all the plants come in for the winter and they drain the pools.

          2. user-7008735 10/18/2017

            I love how gardeners everywhere take such pains to grow beautiful plants and flowers!

      2. frankgreenhalgh 10/18/2017

        Great shots, Lorraine. Thanks for sharing.

        1. user-7008735 10/18/2017

          Thanks, Frank! I don't know why the photo of the spiral staircase turned sideways, but it was really cool to be inside a double-decker glass house.

    7. user-6536305 10/18/2017

      Great photos Kevin and I especially like the Yellow chrysanthemum and Canna. Thanks for sharing.

  3. tennisluv 10/18/2017

    Carol and Kevin, thanks to both of you for sharing your visit to Longwood. I've never thought much about using dahlias in my landscape, but the WOW factor you both captured as amazing. Will definitely have to figure out a niche for some of that great fall color and find time to visit one of the public gardens in my area to see if they come anywhere close to Longwood's spectacular display.

  4. Sunshine111 10/18/2017

    I saw them too! When I was there in August it was a bit overwhelming to see so many all at once. Thank you for sharing

  5. User avater
    meander_michaele 10/18/2017

    Wow, Carol and Kevin, here's a math equation even I can get the answer to... Longwood+Gardening = Spectacular. Gorgeous, gorgeous photos from the both of you.

  6. User avater
    treasuresmom 10/18/2017

    I have no luck here with dahlias but sure do love them.

  7. cheryl_c 10/18/2017

    Beautiful job capturing the joyful chaos of dahlias! I'd never grown them before - was a bit intimidated, and wasn't sure their style would fit in my garden. But with the garden re-do we did this year, I decided to dive in. So glad I did - 5 plants have given prolific blooms for three months solid now, and the more you cut, the more they bloom. The taller ones do sprawl - I found out belatedly that I should have clipped the main stem when it was about 8" tall to get them more compact. And the stems fracture easily under the weight of the foliage and flowers, but they just keep on blooming, even with the stem wide open! Thanks for sharing these photos!

    1. User avater
      LindaonWhidbey 10/19/2017

      Thanks for the photos. Love your gardens. I’m thinking of trying one next summer since I have a perfect spot. It’ll probably be mostly lavender, Russian sage, and salvia ‘Black and Blue’. May also throw in a few nepeta and calamintha ‘Montrose White’.

  8. Chris_N 10/18/2017

    This is a great combination - Carol's detailed focus on the Dahlias and Kevin's overview photos. Longwood is definitely on our list to visit.

    On a separate note, headed down to St. Louis this weekend. Plan to visit Missouri Botanical. I'll try to get some photos while I'm there.

    1. User avater
      LindaonWhidbey 10/18/2017

      Hey, Chris. Wasn’t that a nice article in the latest FG about Olbrich Garden and Jeff Epping. Have you ever attempted a gravel garden? Enjoy Missouri Botanical
      and please do share.

      1. Chris_N 10/19/2017

        It was a great article. I've put in two gravel gardens at work. If I could, I would switch over more. I've attached a couple of photos.

  9. btucker9675 10/18/2017

    A kaleidoscope of dahlias!

  10. User avater
    LindaonWhidbey 10/18/2017

    Thanks, Carol, for the great walk through Longwood Garden. What a great fall dahlia display. Dahlias have become one of our favorite plants now that we garden in the PNW and don’t always have to dig the bulbs, although, they get better with division. Between you and Kevin, I feel like I was there with you.

  11. Cenepk10 10/18/2017

    Gorgeous. I should send you my pic. Planted many dahlias- I have 1 stick with some leaves on top ?

  12. user-6536305 10/18/2017

    Dahlias are my one of my favorite plants. Flamboyant blooms and photos.Thanks for sharing! Attached are some photos of my Dahlias

    1. user-7008735 10/18/2017

      Really pretty, Lilian!

    2. user-7007498 10/18/2017

      Beautiful, Lilian. I especially love the first picture of yours.

    3. User avater
      meander_michaele 10/18/2017

      Very fancy. Do you get to keep them in the ground all year round? I guess my downfall in not growing any of these beauties is my frugal streak... thinking I should dig them up and save them over the winter. I seem reluctant to be willing to make that effort so I'm left in the fall with dahlia envy!

      1. user-6536305 10/18/2017

        I normally keep them in the ground but I am in zone 7, PNW. Gets lot of rain. What I normally do is I cut the dahlia down to ground leave at this time of the year then I slide a larboard inside a large garbage bag. I put it on top of dahlia. Put some rocks on top to secure it and pile leaves on top. I do this for calla lilies and some board line hardy orchards. The current issue of Fine Gardening magazine has a tip P14 that A lady in Pennsylvania over winter her Canna under 2 ft deep and 3 ft wide leave and sort of the same idea but we are lot wetter so the plastic bag acts as an umbrella. This way, Dahlia comes out a lot earlier and bigger because its root system is not disturbed.

        1. User avater
          meander_michaele 10/18/2017

          Your technique to over winter your dahlias in the ground sounds very well thought out...and, obviously, successful. I'm impressed that you take the amount of wetness into consideration. I suspect that many would not realize how important a step that is. I do have some canna that I leave in the ground and cover with evergreen boughs . The canna that have survived this approach are the variegated leafed orange flowered ones. I had another variety mixed in and those died out...often times, I accept mother nature's decision and don't fight her.

          1. grannieannie1 10/22/2017

            I had a huge canna that popped up out of nowhere this my raised bean bed of all places. It grew about 5 foot tall with 4 thick stems. I'm still trying to figure out how such a huge tuber got started there since all that plant matter couldn't have grown from one seed in one season! And I cannot picture a squirrel lugging it into the fenced veg. garden. Quite a mystery.

          2. User avater
            meander_michaele 10/22/2017

            That is a fun garden mystery and a real head scratcher. Are you going to keep it in that location and over winter it with some protection?

          3. grannieannie1 10/22/2017

            I was wondering if it would need any protection since it must have over wintered itself last winter in that same place judging from the size of it. I'm not a real fan of cannas since they don't really fit into my cottage style garden and aren't attractive to butterflies as far as I've seen--so if it doesn't survive it is no great loss.

        2. grannieannie1 10/22/2017

          Lilian, I'm going to try your great idea this winter because digging up huge dahlia roots is quite a pain in the back besides wrapping and storing them. We're a bit colder than you so it might not work but it is worth a try. Your dahlias are lovely, too.

    4. frankgreenhalgh 10/18/2017

      Nice work, Lilian.

  13. user-7008735 10/18/2017

    Carol, your photos bring new meaning to the phrase "a riot of colour". Just beautiful! Today's photos remind me of a garden I used to see from my rented top floor of a house when I was a university student. Across the street, a man grew a whole back garden full of dinner-plate dahlias. It seemed to be just stems and leaves until the fall when they exploded into these massive, richly coloured blooms. I have so many favourites that I don't think I could limit myself to just one kind of flower, but to see so many at once is pretty special.

  14. peggyslemp 10/18/2017

    Oh, to have enough sun to get these armloads of flowers. I have content myself with a few large exquisite blooms in the sunniest spot of my garden, shaded by Douglas Firs.

  15. DarliBarli 10/18/2017

    Beyond lovely. Longwood does everything so wonderfully!!! Thanks!!

  16. alohaland 10/19/2017

    One of the places I miss now that I live in Hawaii is the lovely and lovingly cared for Longwood Gardens. There never seems to be a display from Tropical hot house to rose houses to topiary et all. These dahlias are surely a joyful display of nature's wild colors at its best! Mahalo!!!

  17. JoannaAtGinghamGardens 10/19/2017

    What a riot of color and texture. I would love to visit Longwood Gardens some day.

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