The order from Swan Island Dahlias arrived, filling me with heady anticipation.   I’ve been thinking about them for months.  I could already see those gorgeous photos from their glossy catalog transferred into my gardens; bouquets of beautiful blooms were in my future!  Even though they were expensive…way more than any dahlias I’ve ordered before, they would be worth it.

Imagine my surprise when I opened the bag of peat moss to remove the tubers!

SI dahlias  They were TINY!  Shown above with a couple of quarters for visual reference, it is obvious that most are smaller than an egg.  And each one was a single tuber.  Normally when I’ve ordered dahlias before from other companies, they were a cluster of two or three bulbs around a single stem.  These two were $7.95 and $9.95 respectively, pretty pricey for the itsy-bitsy size.  SI dahlias 2  I planted them in 3″ pots rather than the gallon pots the earlier ones went into!  I’ve totally had to change my garden plans, because these teeny-tiny wee things will have to remain in pots all summer rather than going into any gardens.  Maybe if I baby them, there will be enough growth that they can be planted in the gardens next year, but I’m not holding my breath.

Guess I’ll go seed some more zinnias…the Cutting Garden plan suddenly looks very empty.  Thank goodness the dahlias purchased last year from Brent & Becky’s Bulbs were substantial, grew very well, bloomed great, and most tripled in quantity.  They were dug last fall, divided, planted in gallon pots earlier this month and will return to the potager’s interior border next month, so at least there will be some dahlias this year!

Live and learn.  I wish now I’d place a very small order, just to see what the quality of the product shipped was like before placing a larger order.  I won’t make that mistake again…it’s too sad to be disappointed, and to use a large part of the plant budget so ineffectively.  If you’ve had a different/better experience I’d be interested in hearing about it!



About carolee

A former professional herb and lavender grower, now just growing for joy in my new potager. When I'm not in the garden, I'm in the kitchen, writing, or traveling to great gardens.
This entry was posted in cutting garden, dahlias, Uncategorized and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

20 Responses to Disappointed

  1. bcparkison says:

    Oh I’m sorry but we do learn from our mistakes. Sometimes it is a very hard lesson.
    What kind of ‘dirt’ do you use in the pots?


  2. Sandra J says:

    I was thinking of ordering seeds on line. The ones I buy in the store do not grow so well.


    • Diane S Clark says:

      Why not contact the and share your disappointment with someone who can do something about it? Or post it on their website? Then you’d have a better idea of how reputable they are especially since you’ve already posted about them on your blog. Tell them that, too!

      Liked by 2 people

  3. Going Batty in Wales says:

    What a shame! I hope they prove to be outstanding and unusual flowers to justify the cost and extra effort! Good luck with the revised plans.


  4. Not only is that disappointing, but downright irksome! You can’t simply send back those tubers and demand a refund? At least you know now not to do business with this company.


  5. Margo says:

    I order from Swan Island every year — don’t worry, they’ll get big! And they’ll grow much better in the ground than in pots, despite how small they may look. I’ve had far better experiences growing dahlias from single tubers than from clumps.


  6. Maybe their blooms will surprise you. Fingers crossed!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. March Picker says:

    I understand your disappointment, Carolee, just by looking at the size of the tubers. Like a commenter above, I’ve ordered from Swan Island (2015 or 2016), was disappointed by the meager tubers, then surprised and delighted by the resulting blooms. It might take a couple of years with those tubers to get multiple stems, but I’m sure you know to prune back to the third set of leaves once the plants reach roughly 18″ which will increase your branches of flowers. If you do not have a productive tuber, S.I. returns your money! I have had only one tuber fail from them. Honestly, the best and biggest tubers I’ve received are from Dutch Gardens, Floret, and Bear Creek (although Floret is taking a year off of tuber sales). Best of luck for gorgeous dahlias!!


  8. Wow I can believe you must be disappointed! Suggestion from a slightly “cowboy” gardener: Why don’t you try some in pots (like you intended to) and some in the ground (as two people have suggested)? Then you can track the difference and see how they go. (Unless, of course, you have a bed that MUST simply be filled – I would then fill it and see how they go, but that’s just because we’re very bad a keeping stuff alive in pots through our hot dry summers. In-ground and irrigated works for us.) Good luck, hope it works out for you.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. kathyscrafts1 says:

    I hope they grow better than they look. Fingers crossed for you!


  10. Island Time says:

    Sad to be disappointed. You could return them, get your money back. But perhaps they will turn out to be useful after all, as previous commenters have suggested. I liked the idea of trying some in the ground and some in the pots, use it as a bit of an experiment. I hope you will be pleasantly surprised.


  11. Island Time says:

    Just wondering, have you tried growing dahlias from seed? I did once, they grew well and didn’t take too long to grow up and multiply. Just a thought.


  12. Cortney says:

    I hope they exceed your expectations, but I too would be disappointed if that is what came in the mail! My fingers are crossed for you!

    Liked by 1 person

  13. cavershamjj says:

    They do look small, likely divisions of bigger tubers, but they will bulk out if you plant them, I think. I’ve grown dahlia from seed before and they put on a pretty good size tuber in the first year, bigger than yours certainly.


  14. Oh goodness, that would have been disappointing! I’ve visited their fields, and have ordered from them in the past. When I received my order they were not that small, but mine were a different type so maybe that it is a case to be made? Honestly, they did not do well in my soil, but my dahlia’s struggled in general last year, so I can’t be sure it was SID issue, or my dirt, or what it was because even my non-SID tubers didn’t do well until late September. Best of luck, I’m sure we are all anxious to hear how it goes. I too placed another Zinnia order – in all honesty I panicked when I realized that I wouldn’t have any focal points until August, so I purchased a bunch of large Zinnia’s in hopes I will have something to use as a focal point. We’ll see how it goes! Each year is an adventure! Happy planting!


  15. carolee says:

    As a follow-up: Two of the tubers never put out any growth at all. The other four did grow a bit, were pinched back and babied all summer. The two in pots survived but never did flower that year. The two in the ground did not thrive at all, although the tubers from other companies were gangbusters, so it was not the soil or growing space. The two kept in pots were wintered over and planted out the early summer of 2020, after the soil was warm. Both were slow starters. One grew and suddenly passed away. The other grew but when it flowered, was not any of the varieties I ordered. I did not contact the company, because I had no interest in replacement tubers or to deal with them in any way again. I have found many other more reliable suppliers, and now have lovely, happy dahlias in my gardens, expanding their number of tubers and shooting out dozens of blooms. Live and learn….


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s