The Dahlia Bequest

May 15, 2017  
Filed under Feature Stories, Home & Garden

Photo by Fred Kenney

Photo by Fred Kenney

By Fred Kenney

When my father-in-law passed too soon in 2015, he left many legacies.  I experience his faith when I’m with his wife of 60 years and with his daughter, my wife. I hear his passion for a good debate or deep conversation when I’m with his son.  I see his enthusiasm for a great book, love of an adventure and appetite for good food in my kids. And for me, his love of gardening is alive and well when I sink my hands into the dirt each spring to replant his dahlia bulbs.  

Spencer raised several varieties and colors of the plant. Each fall he dug up, cleaned, dried and stored the bulbs for winter, meticulously grouped and labeled by color. In spring, he would divide the bulbs and his basement would be covered with plastic pots waiting for the ground to warm enough to plant in the numerous gardens surrounding his house.

After dividing, there were always many more than he would need, so neighbors benefitted from the abundance and several sprouting pots would join the chocolate bunnies for the ride home in our minivan after our Easter visit.

Now, as the snow melts and spring rains begin, it’s my turn to pull the bulbs from winter storage, line up the pots, carefully divide the bulbs and sink my hands into the soil.  I’m not so careful about keeping the colors separated. I enjoy the adventure of just planting the bulbs and getting a glorious mix of yellows, whites, purples and pinks.

Dahlias grow from tubers, which can be saved each fall, dug up, split and replanted in warmer weather.

Dahlias grow from tubers,
which can be saved each fall, dug up, split and replanted in warmer weather.

But I have continued his tradition of sharing the abundance after dividing the bulbs. Neighbors, friends and family can take them from a “free if you’ll pass it along” table in my front yard or they might find a surprise sprouting pot at their front door or in the back of their car. I know Spence is happy that one way his legacy lives on is through the propagation of the beautiful dahlia across Vermont.


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