Sunday, November 13, 2011

Autumn Bonus!

As it's been such a mild autumn so far, one of our very late flowering Dahlias actually had the chance to flower this year.

Dahlia excelsa currently in bloom
We grow Dahlia excelsa mainly for it's foliage and stature rather than it's flowers, growing very tall during the season which makes it perfect for specimen planting or at the back of a border. This one is currently towering over 12' tall. If you trim off the lower side branches and leaves you can even get a bamboo culm effect from this plant. As it normally flowers very late in the year, well into autumn, the first frosts and sub zero temperatures normally induces this Dahlia to go dormant before it has the chance to flower. As it's been such a mild autumn, this year was an exception and it's delicate flowers is giving the garden some extra cheer at this time of the year. A rare occurence!

Dahlia excelsa towering at the back of the border at over 12' tall

This plant was given to us a few years ago by a friend, which he originally sourced from Crug Farm. It has been reliably hardy for him, with his location much colder than ours, and as expected has been reliably hardy so for us too. It is deciduous in the colder months and sprouts back from the ground again in the spring. I tried to overwinter one in a pot before, inside a heated greenhouse wondering if it will remain evergreen, but it still went dormant regardless.

It's one of the most statuesque Dahlias you can grow, and I highly recommend if you want a foliage plant that looks majestic in just one season. And like this year you might get an autumn bonus and get it to flower too!



  1. Very interesting, Boys. I had to cut back and dig up the dahlias at the Priory earlier than normal as I was going away on holiday. They weren't as frosted as I would've liked. The tubers, now in the greenhouse, are re-sprouting and though I knew that they would eventually go dormant it's good to hear that confirmed. (I don't normally dig up dahlias but for reasons I won't bore you with, I do at the moment). That is an amazing 12 ft plant. Something else for the list – sigh. Dave

  2. I really might have to add this to my list!!!

  3. I have one in my garden. With our milder climate it always flowers...but very late in the season. I always cut it off at the ground, I hadn't thought of leaving stems. You are right, it is very bamboo-ish when dormant.

  4. David, I nearly put one in the box but removed it last minute, I should have left it. I have several cuttings but might not be worth sending them till next year as it will go dormant anyway. I'll get one your way come spring :)

    Libby, I could send you a rooted cutting too in the spring :) just remind me if I forget!

    Hazel, glad to know you have one! With your milder winters at least you can enjoy their flowers much more reliably than in here. Strip some of the lower leaves and see if you like the look :)

  5. Fabulous! how does it compare to Imperialis?

  6. It seems much more vigorous and throws out more shoots from the ground in one season. Overall it's a denser, leafier looking plant compared to Imperialis but it's main advantage is that it is more reliably hardy too. It took us three goes to get an Imperialis to come back, no problems with Excelsa :)

  7. Very unusual is excelsa. Dahlias are not so often appreciated for the beauty of their leaves. I doubt if it would reach flowering stage in Aberdeen.

  8. What a fabulous plant, though at 12' it must be hard to get up close to the flowers...

  9. Alistair, it's worth a try in your garden even for just the foliage which you can use as a backdrop to your other plants :)

    Janet, yes it was difficult to get up close to the flowers! And where we sited it was extra awkward to take photos of it. So lots of stretching and bending when I took those photos, lol!


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