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A cultivated love for dahlias

Cultivating a garden leads many gardeners to become collectors. Justin McLaughlin of Newport, Rhode Island, has done just that, curating a very large collection of dahlias.

McLaughlin grew up with dahlias in his mother’s garden. He began to grow his own — “fewer than 10” — in the 1970s when he lived in Naples, Italy. By 1983 and living in Virginia, he was up to about 20 dahlias.

“It wasn’t long after I started gardening in Newport that I discovered Swan Island Dahlias which became, and has remained, my principal source of tubers,” he said. “By [the year] 2000, I was close to 100. Each year after, as I dedicated more space to dahlias and learned to plant them closer together, that number grew by roughly 10 a year until I reached 210 in 2018.”

McLaughlin, the Director of the Newport Secret Garden Tour, opened his garden to the public during the tour in September, which is where I had a chance to walk amongst the living rainbow and experience his blooms first hand. What makes this colle…

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