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Everybody Gardens: Dahlias draw deep dedication

Doug Oster
| Thursday, Oct. 22, 2015, 8:55 p.m.
Amy Krut, 48, of Ross Township has fallen head over heals with dahlias. She grows 80 varieties everywhere in her yard. She even has a roadside bed that rush-hour drivers can enjoy while they wait in traffic.
Doug Oster | Trib Total Media
Amy Krut, 48, of Ross Township has fallen head over heals with dahlias. She grows 80 varieties everywhere in her yard. She even has a roadside bed that rush-hour drivers can enjoy while they wait in traffic.
Amy Krut, 48, of Ross Township has fallen head over heals with dahlias. She grows 80 different varieties everywhere in her yard. 'Hulin's Carnival' looks like it was dipped in paint.
Doug Oster | Trib Total Media
Amy Krut, 48, of Ross Township has fallen head over heals with dahlias. She grows 80 different varieties everywhere in her yard. 'Hulin's Carnival' looks like it was dipped in paint.

Like many gardeners, Amy Krut hated the hobby as a child. Her stepmother from Hungary introduced her to gardening.

“It was horrible,” she says. “We had to do it every day, and if we didn't do what she wanted, we got a deduction from our allowance.”

That's why her family is so surprised by the amazing dahlia garden she's created in only three seasons. Just about every spot around her house is filled with the beautiful flowers, including a spectacular front-yard bed. She got tired of mowing the difficult hillside. After finding a couple of dahlias at a big-box store and seeing them bloom, she was hooked.

“Then I saw a Swan Island catalog, and that was the end of it,” says Krut, 48.

Dahlias grow from an underground bulb, called a tuber, and offer an incredible variety of flower shapes on various-sized plants. The flowers peak at the end of the season, usually putting on their best show right before frost.

“I keep finding more that I want, and I need to figure out where to put them,” she says with a laugh.

Krut sheepishly admits to already growing 80 different varieties. She'll be giving away extra tubers to friends and family so she can add other shapes to the garden.

It's an astounding collection. One called ‘Coup du Soleil' has different-colored flowers on the same plant. Roughly translated, the name means Cups of Sunshine. Every blossom is unique. Many are bi-colored with pink or white centers and brownish-orange petals.

‘Hulin's Carnival,' introduced in 1954, has variegated blooms that are white-specked and splashed with purple. They look like they were dipped in purple paint. The other 78 varieties vary in color, size, shape and bloom type. Krut's gardens are filled with a rainbow of colors that literally stop traffic.

One of the true pleasures Krut gets out of growing her dahlias is sharing them with others. One way she does that is by growing them on the edge of the road near her Ross home. As rush hour traffic builds, drivers wave, honk their horns and comment about how much they enjoy the flowers.

She cuts the flowers, takes them to a retirement home and has shared them with sick friends, too. “When you know that you can grow something like this, that can make people happy, it's really incredible to see how they love and appreciate them,” she says.

Many of the varieties she grows need to be staked to keep them standing tall. She starts the tubers inside in April. Many are grown in pots on a tarp she keeps in the garage. When the weather is warm enough, the tender plants are dragged out into the sun and brought back into the protection of the garage at night. The sprouted tubers are planted outside around Memorial Day, begin blooming toward the end of June and are in full force during September and beyond.

The tubers under the ground are tender, too. After the foliage is blackened by a freeze, it's removed, she says. The tubers are dug and the dirt is shaken off.

“I line sturdy cardboard boxes with newspaper and fill them with peat moss,” she says.

The tubers are nestled into the peat moss so they don't touch each other, then another layer of peat moss is added, along with more tubers until the box is filled. Last year, she had six boxes of tubers; it might be eight or nine this season. The boxes are stored in an unheated garage. When the temperatures threaten to drop below freezing, Krut uses a portable heater to keep the tubers alive.

Like so many gardeners, she discovered her passion by accident, which, in turn, became a wonderful obsession.

“I stumbled upon them, really, and once I stumbled, I fell big time,” she says. “I just fell in love; they are so pretty.”

Know someone who should be featured in Everybody Gardens? Contact Doug Oster, Home and Garden editor for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-965-3278 or doster@tribweb.com. See other stories, blogs, videos and more at triblive.com/lifestyles/dougoster.

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