I am probably late to the party, but a couple of weeks ago, I stumbled across ‘Café au Lait’ dahlia. Have you grown this cultivar before? Holy cow! The colors are exquisite. The best way to describe them is like… a café au lait. I take my coffee black but my wife, Carrie, has to have a bit of milk and a spot of cream in her coffee. The color of coffee with milk and cream is dreamy. I remember as a kid seeing my parents’ coffee and thinking that it must taste like a caramel square. After one sip, I realized otherwise, although I did like to dip vanilla wafers into their coffee.
There is something about that soft, caramel color that draws us into thinking about sweet smells, gingerbread, and now this magnificent dahlia. Everywhere I read about this plant, people rave about it. The center color of this dinnerplate dahlia can range from the a fore to mentioned cafe au lait into shades of tawny peach. Towards the outer parts of the petals, the flowers transform into a near white. Over the course of the summer, these plants can reach a height of nearly 4 feet in height. As summer heats up, these gargantuan flowers are borne on long stalks. This combination of color, large flower, and long stalk makes Dahlia ‘Café au Lait’ a hit for floral designers. The lovely Floret Flower Farm blog has a wonderful post on harvesting these beauties as cut flowers.
As with most dahlias, do not plant the tubers until June when the soil really warms, making sure to lift the tubers again in the fall before frost. If you live in warmer parts of the country, say USDA zones 8 and higher, then you are probably ok leaving dahlias in the ground. During the winter, store the tubers in a cool, dry spot, being sure they do not freeze or get too wet.
Admittedly, I am starting to go through a dahlia craze phase. These beauties produce enormous flowers in late summer into fall which serves as the perfect juxtaposition to the wicked winter we are inching our way from. I am dreaming of walking past our Café au Lait dahlias with a cup of coffee from our local coffee shop. A slight fog wrestles with the sun in a yen and yang morning, while the dahlia blossoms stand erect, like a victory flag. We have conquered winter and our victory is summer! What better way to celebrate than with a gigantic dahlia flower. I plan on cutting the blossoms and scattering jars of them among the garden’s buildings at CMBG for all to revel and enjoy.