Dazzling Dahlias

There is an abundance of dahlia tubers on display in garden centres at the moment. Once the province of village Flower Show competitors the dahlia has enjoyed a dramatic change of fortune in recent years and has now become highly fashionable as a plant to grow both in the border and as a cut flower. The plants produce a continual supply of blooms from July through to the first frosts.

There are colours, shapes and sizes to suit all tastes, indeed the brighter and more dazzling the better. I particularly like combining deep dark reds with oranges and brilliant pinks. Favourites include ‘Chat Noir’, ‘Downham Royal’ and ‘Bishop of Aukland’ in the dark red range. ‘Roxy’ ‘Hillcrest Royal’ and ‘Purple Haze’ are all strident pinks. There are whites or softer shades for those who prefer something more subtle, but a timid dahlia is hardly worth your while.

They bloom at the height of summer when hot, dramatic colours look good in the strong sunlight.

I grow most of my dahlias in the pottager where they are planted with several varieties of scented narcissi also grown for cutting. The narcissi flower from March to May and as their foliage dies down the new growth of the dahlias emerges to take their place. This gives an almost continual supply of flowers for cutting from March through to October from the same area of garden. I do not lift the dahlias but mulch with a layer of compost in late autumn to protect them from frost. Then by early February the narcissi start emerging and the cycle begins again.