Read anything about dahlias and the first thing most people say is that after years spent in the horticultural wilderness, dahlias are now back in fashion.
I’m not sure they ever went out of style in the first place and, in any case, all that matters is that a plant delivers what you want and that you love it. And dahlias, with their vibrant flowers in almost every colour under the sun, beautiful range of flower shapes, often richly-coloured foliage and versatile nature, are one of the easiest plants to fall in love with.
There are hundreds to choose from (the National Collection holds around 1,600 varieties!) and, fortunately, it’s hard to go wrong. They flower from July until the first frosts, as long as you keep deadheading them – so lots of flower power for your money. Nearly all of them make fantastic cut flowers, as well as great border plants.
Some dahlias are justifiably well-known and popular – ‘Bishop of Llandaff’ is a real favourite for its dark purply-green leaves topped with bright scarlet flowers. But don’t overlook the other dahlias in the ‘Bishop’ series. They all have the same dark foliage, but with different coloured flowers. ‘Bishop of York’ is a zingy yellow, but my favourite is ‘Bishop of Canterbury’, which is a beautiful plummy magenta.
‘David Howard’ is another well-known variety, with deep bronze foliage and intricately-petalled orange flowers. Orange is a colour dahlias do particularly well; keep a look out for ‘Jescot Julie’, which has relaxed flowers made up of purple-backed, orange petals and ‘New Baby’ with its mini-balls of tangerine. It’s hard to beat dahlias with coral flowers too. Varieties such as ‘Karma Fuchiana’ glow with warm, rich colour. And the deep maroons are especially opulent – velvet-petalled ‘Chat Noir’ and ‘Karma Choc’ can’t fail to add drama.
They’re still in flower right now, so if you see any you like , make a note of their names and order the tubers for planting next spring. Whether it’s fashionable or not, you definitely won’t regret it.
MUST-BUY PLANT… Hydrangea
Everyday: Hydrangea macrophylla
Mop-head hydrangeas, with their rounded balls of blue or pink blooms, are popular and easy to grow, but you can find them everywhere!
Extra-special: Hydrangea aspera Villosa Group
If you want something different, try this unusual species with fluffy mauve central flowers surrounded by ‘satellite’ flowers in palest pink.
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