Dahlias always make me think of old fashioned allotments where they were grown alongside carrots and peas and potatoes. My Grandad would bring home a heap of fresh veg and a bouquet of these bright, zingy dahlias for my Nanny - what a treat! Nowadays I find that people either wax lyrical about these tubers or shudder with revulsion at their vulgarity. I understand what they mean for some dahlias are indeed grandiose and a little out there with their dinner plate size fluffy heads in eye aching reds and purples. However, if you dig a little deeper into the world of the dahlias I challenge you not to find one to suit you. The range of styles and hues is mind blowing and I'm going to share some of my favourites and how to grow them with you and hopefully turn you into a passionate Dahlia fan!
As always nature stuns me with her sense of humour! If I had to sit down and design a tuber would I have designed this?? Not in a million years. It's like something out of a sci-fi movie or one of thise knitted animals I used to make in Brownies with too many legs and ears :-) This is where the magic begins. To take something so unsightly and transform it into luscious blooms makes me feel like Paul Daniels (an English Magician for those who don't know!) You don't even need to be a member of the Magic Circle to perform this amazing trick either. All you need is a clean, scrubbed pot, some compost or potting mix and a label.
Part fill your clean pot (make sure it's scubbed clean as any bacteria left from previous plants might damage the tuber) and then tuck the tuber as best you can into the pot. Some tubers are especially annoying with extra bits that stick out but learn to love your tubers and they will love you back! Keep the stem just above the soil level.
Then cover with soil leaving just the stem poking out and label. Label really clearly and don't let the dog knock these labels out of the pots otherwise you'll struggle to know what's what......just saying... Finally give them a little water and leave until you see little shoots popping up all over the show. Don't over water otherwise you run the risk of rotting the tuber. Keep in a warmish place (a greenhouse will do or a covered veranda) and let them work their dahlia magic.
If you're really lucky you may even have some sprouts on your tubers already. This is a Good Sign that you have a very healthy tuber desperate to fulfil it's destiny and grow big and strong. If the shoots appear to be wonky or growing downwards don't panic. Just keep them above soil level and they will grow up to the light.
Dahlias, rather like jeans, go in and out of fashion. The Dahlia of the Moment is Cafe au Lait and you can see why. It's soft pinky/caramel colour and it's blowsy romantic mop of petals is truely breathtaking. It's a bit of a naughty miss though once picked. I've experimented many times with this dahlia and find that it's best to pick when a quarter to a half open, stick straight into water and you will probably get 4 days out of it in a vase. However fleeting it's beauty, it's definitely a must for me.
This beautiful dahlia called Embrace was such a workhorse last summer. It complimented so many other flowers in posies and had a good vase life too.
I'm growing lots of new varieties this year including some Novelty ones like Tangerine Dream and Hots Cakes. I'm also growing lots and lots of the Pom Pom and Ball varieties as these do last well in a vase. I'm hoping to provide flowers to some local cafes and I can already see them adding a splash of colour and old fashioned charm as people happily drink coffee and chew the fat around them. I'll be talking about taking cuttings from dahlias to really get some bang for your buck as soon as I have some shoots to play with.