Dahlias are back in fashion in a big way, sales are up and there are thousands of posts of these dramatic beauties on Instagram. Once only grown on the allotments or in a dahlia bed for flower shows and flower arranging, they’re now being used mingled amongst perennials, ornamental grasses and shrubs in borders. The darker, richer colours look great in tropical schemes, working well with lush large-leaved plants.
Dahlias come in an enormous array of colours from deep velvety purples to pale peach and corals, as well as hot and pastel pinks, whites, creams, yellows and reds (just no blue). There is also a huge range of forms from spiky cactus and anemones, simple single-flowers and stars, pom poms and massive dinner plate varieties. They can be very tall or for smaller gardens, dwarf varieties are ideal.
In terms of care, tubers are traditionally dug up in autumn, dried off and stored over winter to be planted out in spring. But you can leave them in the ground, mulched thickly, especially in London if your soil doesn’t get too wet. You’ll also need to protect them from slugs. Encourage side shoots by pinching out the top and feed every three weeks with tomato fertiliser. If you keep deadheading them, they’ll give you fantastic colourful blooms right through autumn when everything else is fading.
Some of my favourites:
Dahlia ‘Walzing Matilda’
This is a pretty fiery coral dahlia with relaxed slightly twisted petals, which contrast beautifully with its dark purple brown stems and foliage. It’s lovely with ornamental grasses such as golden deschampsia or miscanthus. D. ‘Labyrinth’ is another peachy pink dahlia, but more lavish and romantic.
A lovely white variety with large blousy creamy-white flowers with pink petal tips. For a more delicate white dahlia try ‘Honka Fragile’ with delicate, striking star-shaped petals also edged with pink – it can keep flowering until November if it’s deadheaded.
Dahlia ‘Chat Noir’
A large cactus variety with dark burgundy flowers this’s great for adding almost black accents in a border. The double D. ‘Arabian Night’ also has dark burgundy velvety flowers and works well with golden grasses and pinks.
Dahlia ‘Bishop of Llandaff’
An iconic single with crimson flowers, a yellow eye and dark purple foliage. Others in the Bishop Series include D. ‘Bishop of Canterbury’ with deep pink flowers, a golden eye and dark foliage. As well a simplicity that’s easy to incorporate into planting schemes, singles are also great for attracting pollinators.
Dahlia ‘Café au Lait Royal’
The vast dinner plate flowers of this are an edible-looking milky coffee colour with hints of dusky pink – gorgeous! Another whopper is D. ‘Otto’s Thrill’ , glamorous and spectacular with luminous pink fully double blooms. It looks great amongst verbena bonariensis.
Dahlia ‘Zundert Mystery Fox’
A neat ball-shaped orange dahlia – fab as a cut flower with looser- looking dahlias. D. ‘Wizard of Oz’ is a super-pink pom pom that looks lovely toned down with cool blues and whites.