Like most other things, plants and gardens follow fashion.
Once tastefully muted colours were the thing for a flower border, but it’s all changed and after decades of being grown mostly by men for competitions, the showy, brightly coloured flowers of dahlias are everywhere, which is why the The Dahlia Society annual show marquee at R.H.S. Wisley last week was packed.
Their popularity is due to people like the late Christopher Lloyd and Fergus Garrett at Great Dixter, and Sarah Raven, championing them as cut flowers.
Named after the Swedish botanist, Anders Dahl, there are many differen types of dahlia flowers, ranging from exotic cactus type flowers to small, geometric pom-pons, so you’re sure to find at least one type to fall in love with.
This glamorous flower is a cactus type with frilly tips to the petals called fimbriation.
Collarette dahlias are some of my favourites, and the bees love them because they can reach the pollen easily.
this is one of my colarrette flowers.
How to buy dahlias:
Order tubers now for delivery in February, store them somewhere cool and dry out of their packing and plant them up in March. Keep them in a greenhouse or similar place until the end of May when they can be planted outside. They originate from Mexico, so you can see why they need light and warmth to grow.
The can also be bought as rooted cuttings and grown on in a greenhouse.
They can of course also be bought as plants in May, the easiest option but more expensive than tubers and rooted cuttings.
How to grow dahlias:
I surround my plants with three firm stakes when I plant them and loop twine round the canes as the plant grows.
Once planted, the can be left in the ground if you live in the South of England, and covered with a nice, thick mulch [at least 150cm/6in] of compost or bark. They tend to flower later when grown like this, so I dig mine up, clean off the soil and keep the tubers in a box of straw in the shed over the winter, and plant them the following Spring. They go on for a few years like this, so they’re good value and sustainable.
Happy gardening, Jill
all photos: Jill Anderson.