Dahlias, Back in Fashion Again – I Feel So Old.

Dahlia 'Bishop of Llandaff' one of the most popular of dahlias and, perhaps, the one responsible for bringing dahlias back to popularity.
Dahlia ‘Bishop of Llandaff’ one of the most popular of dahlias and, perhaps, the one responsible for bringing dahlias back to popularity.

My wife and I started gardening together almost forty years ago and dahlias were the height of fashion at that time. That was also the era of azaleas under planted with heathers and interspersed with dwarf conifers – oh, how misplaced was that “dwarf” description. We had a border where azaleas and dahlias were – now, put on your mental sunglasses before reading any further – yes, azaleas and dahlias planted alternatively along a narrow border. Oh, what a riotous clashing of colours.

Another wonderful dahlia - Dahlia 'Arabian Night' which is a wonderfully rich red colour
Another wonderful dahlia – Dahlia ‘Arabian Night’ which is a wonderfully rich red colour

We moved to our present house while the azalea, dwarf conifer and heather craze was still in full swing and planted an area in that style again. Fortunately, our dog, a corgi, Timmy, found the heathers made a very comfortable bed and they quickly went into decline and into the compost bin. Some of the azaleas still remain as do some of the dwarf conifers – some actually remained dwarf after thirty years while a few others have grown to nuisance size and a Thuja ‘Rheingold’ is presently being revamped as a possible candidate as a “cloud-pruned” feature. If it looks well after reshaping it will remain in the garden and, if not, it will be removed. It’s worth a try and a bit of fun before the final decision has to be made though there is always the danger that after investing time and effort into reshaping this plant I may be reluctant to dump it even if it is not really a success.

Dahlia 'Bloodstone' again showing this colour that I like, a deep dark red.
Dahlia ‘Bloodstone’, a wonderfully strong red.

As to the dahlias, well they make me feel old as they are having a resurgence of popularity. It all reflects the saying that if you live long enough everything will come back into fashion again. Yes, it does make me feel old but I am very happy that the dahlias are once again popular. They are great garden plants which give us a wonderful display of colour from July onwards and they are easy to grow – yes, after the scare of the severely cold winter here of 2010 – ’11 we now feel it is wiser to lift and store them in frost-free situation for the winter, bring them into growth under glass in spring before planting out again in late May. For so many years we enjoyed mild winters and left our dahlias in the ground, covering them with some garden compost for protection from light frosts. Lifting, storing overwinter, and bringing into growth under glass in spring does offer the opportunity to take cuttings early in the year to increase stock.

I have been taken by this beautiful dahlia this year, Dahlia 'Danseuse'
I have been taken by this beautiful dahlia this year, Dahlia ‘Danseuse’

As with any plant which has enjoyed periods of high fashion there is a plethora of cultivars available, some more tasteful than others but, surely, something to suit all tastes and even to suit those who lack all taste. I find myself most attracted to the rich and darker reds but not exclusively so. Here is a selection of some which I particularly like at the moment.

Now, a picture parade of beauties which have caught my eye this last week and which might tempt you to try a few in your own garden.

Dahlia 'David Howard' has rich orange flowers against dark foliage.
Dahlia ‘David Howard’ has rich orange flowers against dark foliage.
Dahlia 'Glorie van Noordwijk'  with a rich orange flower on green foliage. This one has performed fabulously this year and is great garden plant.
Dahlia ‘Glorie van Noordwijk’ with a rich orange flower on green foliage. This one has performed fabulously this year and is great garden plant.
Dahlia 'Evening Glow'  - perfectly  named, I think.
Dahlia ‘Evening Glow’ – perfectly named, I think.
Dahlia 'Show n' Tell'  - a very striking red, certainly an eye-catcher.
Dahlia ‘Show n’ Tell’ – a very striking red, certainly an eye-catcher.
Dahlia 'Danseuse'  - One I hadn't taken much note of until this year but I like it very much.
Dahlia ‘Danseuse’ – One I hadn’t taken much note of until this year but I like it very much.
Dahlia 'My Love'  - I think few dahlias grow as well. It holds its flowers very strongly and they last for ages. Also, I like a perfectly clean white flower.
Dahlia ‘My Love’ – I think few dahlias grow as well. It holds its flowers very strongly and they last for ages. Also, I like a perfectly clean white flower.
Dahlia 'Regalia'  - a change of colours, rich!
Dahlia ‘Regalia’ – a change of colours, rich!
The delightful and deservedly popular Dahlia 'Bishop of Llandaff'
The delightful and deservedly popular Dahlia ‘Bishop of Llandaff’
Dahlia 'Arabian Night'  - so deeply coloured!
Dahlia ‘Arabian Night’ – so deeply coloured!
Dahlia 'Jersey Beauty'  - I'm not sure I could live too long with this "beauty". It is big, brash, blousy and a shocking pink.
Dahlia ‘Jersey Beauty’ – I’m not sure I could live too long with this “beauty”. It is big, brash, blousy and a shocking pink.
Dahlia 'Kelvin Floodlight' - to prove that dahlias are not all demur but the name should have told you that. This is big, huge, and glaringly lemon-yellow. Sunglasses, please!
Dahlia ‘Kelvin Floodlight’ – to prove that dahlias are not all demur but the name should have told you that. This is big, huge, and glaringly lemon-yellow. Sunglasses, please!

Paddy Tobin

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7 thoughts on “Dahlias, Back in Fashion Again – I Feel So Old.

    • Yes, I am very taken by it. There is a big patch growing in Mount Congreve Gardens, Waterford, but I’m not sure if they propagated from it this year though I imagine they have. No mail order so you would have to visit to collect. I’ll have a look when I’m out there next.

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      • Thank you. If you visit Mount Congreve that would be much appreciated. It’s an obvious thing to say but the name `Danseuse’ suggests it may have been brought from France at some stage.

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  1. Wonderful photos. After a very enjoyable and informative day in Mount Congreve with IGPS members I came home and googled some of my Dahlia purchases. Imagine my surprise when I found myself looking at the IGPS blog. Thank you

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    • It’s a small world, Mary. We were blessed on Saturday with the weather and a walk around the garden with Michael is always fabulous. I have walked the gardens with him on many, many occasions and each time there is something new and interesting. I’m glad you liked the visit and hope you will come back in spring when the woodland garden is absolutely fabulous. Paddy

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