Monday, July 18, 2011

Fashionably Beautiful

Dahlias are back in 'fashion' again, about time too! I never did quite understand why it went out of fashion in the first place, blame it on our 'grandparents' they say for it's overuse in the past. But I'm glad it's now back in 'fashion', as the blooms of most of them are absolutely stunning.

I've observed it's steady resurgence in the past few years, being used more in more in summer borders in both private and public gardens. Now they're almost everywhere and I suspect it's not even near it's peak yet, we'll see more of it in the next few years to come.

I've always admired Dahlias but it's one of those plants I haven't given more serous attention until recently. Apart from a few choice ones (Dahlia excelsa and imperialis for the height and foliage; Dahlia 'Twyning's After Eight' and 'Bishop of Llandaff' for the flowers and rich, dark foliage) I never bothered to remember all of their names and bought them as cheap packets of tubers in the spring, and based my choices on what blooms are shown on the packet.

But what gorgeous blooms they have, bright, loud, and attention grabbing even on a dull summer's day. Dahlias are exotic in themselves (being originally from Mexico) but with bloom colours chosen correctly, it looks great in an exotic/tropical border, as it is at home in a cottage style garden. Even the late Christopher Lloyd of Great Dixter sing its praises for it's use in an exotic garden even before it became 'fashionable' again.

This bloom is now past its prime but there are more buds about to open

Excuse me if I don't have an ID label on all but one photo, nor have I got a big selection, only a select few complementing the exotic/tropical theme of one of our borders. But I'm intending to add more to our modest collection as my fascination for them is steadily increasing, as well as be better in remembering their names :)

Special mention to Dahlia 'Twyning's After Eight' which has turned out to be a hardy, reliable plant for us. It has been through the last three harsh winters here, left outside with nothing more than bark mulch as protection, and yet comes back reliably in the spring. It is even sited on the edge of a patio that gets lots of water run in the winter (not an ideal thing for Dahlias) and yet it doesn't seem to mind it. A tiny cutting in a tiny pot left outside all winter unprotected has also come back, and is now growing vigorously.

Dahlia 'Twyning's After Eight', this photo was taken September last year. Right now it's full of flower buds and is just starting to open one or two flowers 

I'm glad Dahlias are now back in 'fashion', and this time around I think it deserves to taper into a 'classic' after a few years, just like the Rose, and not near disappear again.



  1. I completely agree - Dahlias are great and it is high time they come back full force. If I were not away at university in the spring when it is time to plant them and in late fall when - around here - they need to be dug up, I would be planting oodles of them in my family's yard. My aunt in Germany, never one to interested in trends, used to have an enormous collection of Dahlias built up over decades which I loved as a child. Unfortunately she lost all of it last fall when she was hospitalized right when the tubers needed to be brought inside for the winter. She has already started collecting again, though...

  2. I really don't like Dahlias. The photo at the top of the page tempted me to review my taste (it really is lovely) but as I went down through the pictures . . . - no, I don't like dahlias. Now I'm uncertain whether the first is an exception or whether it's just an especially interesting photo.


  3. They are not something we can grow here (it's too hot and humid in Summer)but I like them especially the large flowers in the strong colours which go so well with the dark green of tropical foliage.

  4. I like dahlias and specially the cactus dahlias. They have a funny appearance! I had dahlias earlier, but haven't anymore as I live in an apartment without lots of place to have the plants that don't survive the cold winter.

  5. Great photos! I have never been a dahlia fan, but they certainly brighten the summer garden and add an exotic touch. I do think the ones in your first and last photos could happily find a place in my garden!

  6. I think I missed the time when dahlias were out. I've always loved them, and I tend to buy them the same way you do: photo first, then name. Interesting that you can maintain a tropical garden in your area -- I guess that has to do with the Gulf Stream's mild infuence. Beautiful photos!

  7. I fell in love with dahlias a few years ago, and haven't looked back. I never cease to be amazed at the variety of flower types, leaves, colours. You already have a great selection, I love that first one of yours in particular, stunning, and will file away 'Twyning's After Eight' as a future must-have. Even the insect life will love that one.

  8. I have a few dahlias that I really like, and I like all yours, but I have to say that there are more than a few out there that are just too garish or too cute for my taste, which is probably how they got out of fashion in the first place.

  9. College Gardener, I definitely see why a lot of people are getting back into them. They’ve always had a persistent group of followers even through the long, ‘unfashionable’ years but they’ve been getting better press as of late and they’re becoming popular again. Glad to know your grandmother has started collecting again :)

    Esther, quite a contrast but that’s good to hear too. Dahlia flowers can be bold and brash and has their fair share of gardeners who aren’t keen on them. Some prefer delicate looking flowers. It all depends on the particular bloom, I like both sorts and tend to just acquire flowering plants on individual merits rather than collect the entire lot. The first one is indeed a beauty and probably my favourite (up there with Bishop of Llandaff and After Eight). I just wish I knew it’s name! I must dig up the tubers just in case I’m not able to buy it so easily again.

    Missy, that’s something new to me, didn’t realise they don’t tolerate the heat and humidity of a tropical location (and there’s me thinking of sending some tubers to relatives in the tropics!). They would have looked great in your tropical garden :)

  10. Gentiana nivalis, glad you liked them! Maybe some of the smaller Dahlias are worth a try grown in a pot in your apartment, placed either on a windowsill or somewhere not too warm and dry?

    I agree Debs, they can add so much colour in the garden :) The first and last are amongst my favourites!

    Nittygrittydirtman, you can still buy some Dahlias now from garden centres, already in leaf and some of them flower all the way till the first frosts. It’s an exotic garden, not strictly tropical but we incorporate a few tender tropical plants in the summer and take them under cover in the winter. It’s mostly about creating the ‘tropical’ look using mainly hardy plants :)

    Janet, more Dahlias would look fab in your garden :) The first and last one are lovely and amongst my favourites of the lot. With the Twyning’s After Eight you can even risk leaving it in situ (unless you fancy it somewhere else for next year).

    Ryan, I agree, there are also loads out there that are very garish, and so many varieties have been produced to the point of OTT. Unless you’re a Dahlia collector it’s worth just choosing a few that you like and personally find elegant :)


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