Learning from her experience with the original seemingly unpromising starts that she was given, Sus now stores her tubers over the winter to produce more buxom plants. After frost, they are whisked into the basement and stashed in black garbage bags with a little soil to keep them from drying out. There they rest through the winter until late March or early April when she pots the tubers into containers to grow under lights. By mid-June her Maine coast garden has warmed sufficiently to receive the plants. The tip is removed to encourage branching, the ultra-sandy soil is amended with generous compost, and the dahlias are placed where they are buffered from brisk ocean gusts by a hedge of native shrubs framing the water. Lashed with twine to sturdy bamboo stakes, they soldier on despite the wind. “They are such robust plants,” Sus explains.
By late July, the dahlias are the stuff of dreams. Not only does the easel come out with regularity to document their glorious performance, but dahlias adorn every nook and cranny inside the Millers’ beachside house. “It’s such a luxury to pick your own bouquets,” Sus enthuses. Currently, the dahlias have eclipsed all of Sus’s other infatuations because, as she says, “They inspire worship.”