Since 1996, Keith Pierpont has grown flowering shrubs and bushes for cut flowers at Pierpont Blossom Farm, a small four-acre plot on Sound Avenue in Baiting Hollow. He sells the flowers at seven farmers markets on the South Forks and to 20 florists on Long Island and in New York City and at the Riverhead Indoor Farmers Market in the winter.
Now he has expanded the operation to include leased farm land in Calverton where he began growing dahlias last year.
He has planted 3,000 tubers on about an acre and each plant continues to bloom from July through the first fall frost. There are 42 species of dahlias with many hybrids which vary in color and size — from two inches up to one foot tall, a species known as the dinner plate. And all have interesting names like the Deborah Renae, Black Red, Keisha Lea, Mikayla Miranda, Kelvin Floodlight, Ottos Thrill, Ryan C, Cafe Au Lait and Sherwoods Peach.
Pierpont said he loves the way they look and that there are so many varieties to chose from.
At the end of the season, after the first frost, the tubers are dug up and spend the winter indoors in a cool dry place. Pierpont then divides them so he will have twice as many bulbs to plant next year.
Spainards reported finding the plants growing in Mexico in 1525 where the Aztecs used the tuber as a source of food and as an epilepsy treatment. In 1963, it was declared the national flower of Mexico.
According to the American Dahlia Society, which turns 100 this year, they are the perfect summer flower — large and showy with abundant petals, but not fragrant.
See more photos of this beautiful plant (and their funny names) below.