This week The Frustrated Gardener is devoting itself to that dazzling diva of the autumn garden, the dahlia. Since Christopher Lloyd re-ignited our fascination with this Mexican marvel gardeners have fallen head-over-heals for the dahlia’s beguiling blooms. I grew up with dahlias, growing bedding types from seed every spring and planting tubers directly in the ground after the last frosts. In the 80’s the varieties were brash, bright and burly, delivering flowers in spades from July until the first frosts. Catuses, collarettes, pom-poms and waterlilies, I adored them all. I recall dashing outside on freezing November mornings to rescue the last few blooms before the cold finally turned the plants into black mush.
Nowadays dahlia appreciation is almost considered sophisticated, with dahlia festivals springing up across the country. Hybridisation has taken these vibrant flowers from the Americas beyond the exhibition classes, creating garden-worthy cultivars in a multitude of colours and forms. My personal favourite is Dahlia ‘Amercian Dawn’, but to choose just one is to deny the extraordinary extent of the dahlia’s range.
Today I feature Dahlia ‘Happy Halloween’ which I am growing for the first time this year. A more appropriately named flower it would be hard to name: the flowers are the clearest, most delicious orange one can imagine. I find myself admiring them as if they were impossible, almost artificial. Photographs do not do them justice. The blooms are neat and unblemished, held aloft on bushy plants covered with bright green leaves. A tricky colour to place in some gardens perhaps, but not in mine where brighter shades reign supreme. This year was a trial, but next year D. ‘Happy Halloween’ will be front and centre of my display.
Do you consider dahlias de rigueur or de trop? Which are your favourites and why? I promise not to judge 😉
Categories: Dahlias, Flowers, Foliage, Photography, Plants
20 comments On "Dahlia Week: Dahlia ‘Happy Halloween’"
With dahlias, it’s all about how you use them. Great Dixter exotic garden; there is nothing better. One lone, indiscreetly staked Dahlia amongst more delicate plant types; disaster!
Indeed. I work hard to hide my stakes as they are invariably required. Can’t quite imagine them blending in with an Aussie native scheme though. Too leafy!
Precisely… So I was quite radical last year and put mine in pots and then placed on the paths in the formal veggie patch. Double delight for me. Every night I would go to pick veggies for dinner, water and admire my beautiful dahlias. Heaven. The other blessing was that the pesky sulphur crested cockatoos did not attack the blooms and leave shredded stems. So yes, my rainbow collection of colour,pom-poms, spiders etc not quite suited with the green and white or the grevillas!!!!
What a stunning colour this dahlia is…And what perfect bloom…I must get one! I plan to visit Anglesey Abbey in the next few week for their dahlia festival, I may write a short post following my visit. I just visited Wisley for some tropical plant therapy. I think you get my posts but if not here’s the link https://anneguygardendesigns.wordpress.com/2015/09/06/a-taste-of-the-tropics-in-surrey/
I like dahlias, though I can’t take pictures of them. The one I like best is Cafe au Lait (not from a growing point of view, as I’ve never grown dahlias – I just like the look of it). It’s widely pinned and seems to be a favourite of florists.
I am dipping my toe in the water really. I’ve just replaced last year’s Karma Chocolate which I was too lazy to dig up before winter set in. Gorgeous deep deep Crimson, almost black with dark coloured foliage. This year it will get the full intensive care treatment.
Well done. I grew Karma Choc last year but my seaside garden isn’t sunny enough and the foliage didn’t colour up well. The whole plant was a bit leggy and disappointing. A lovely variety but one for a brighter spot perhaps.
I really like winkys whopper for its huge blooms and kens gold , it os a yellow that makes everyother yellow look pale
Thanks Jade. Looked them both up – they are cracking choices. Especially like Winkie Whopper, but what a ridiculous name!
I love them, ‘Happy Halloween’ looks delicious, will look out for that. Here my current favourite is ‘Arabian Night’ alongside an unknown double bright, BRIGHT, pink, looking good in the light at this time of year.
Well Hello Torrington Tina! I think this might be your first comment, although I feel I know you through ‘Off The Edge’! Arabian Night is a stunner – it’s on the list for next year 🙂
Stunning. I ‘pinned’ it so I can remember next spring. Now my questions – do you have to stake each one? Do you have to dig them up in the fall?
Well now. I do stake them yes, as we are in a windy coastal position and it’s better to be safe than sorry. Because they are all in pots in my garden I do put them in a cellar, even if I don’t dry them off properly and store them in vermiculite. Back at home with my parents we would always leave them in the ground and mostly they would be fine.
I’m glad you’ve shown Dahlias (sorry I am so late to comment). I love them all.
They remind me of my childhood, and my grandfather who doted on his in the front garden each summer. I utterly despair at the style police who had such wonderful, generous, magnificent and easy blooming plants relegated to the wastes of tastelessness for the best part of two decades.
They have a lot to answer for 🙁
Next it is time to bring back the gladiolus (which I am hoping to do this summer, together with more dahlias!)
Mystic Illusion is one I’ve grown for many years. The yellow flowers are probably a little acidic for some, but they have an odd eerie effect floating above the dark foliage which is especially noticeable at sunset. Interplanted with Verbena bonariensis which has a similar vibrant flower effect, it makes a stunning fall display at the edges of a shrub border.
Great combination Dean. I agree, I like the contrast of the yellow with the black foliage. It really fizzes!
I meant “autumn” as I’m not sure if the rest of English speakers use “fall”. Funny American word for the season, but appropriate when considering the leaves.
You are forgiven. Unlike many American terms, ‘fall’ has never caught on here. It’s descriptive, but I prefer autumn 🙂
It’s been a terrible year for dahlias in my garden in central Scotland. Many had rotted as last autumn when I lifted them it was so wet I couldn’t dry the tubers as much as I wished before storing them. Then we had endless rain through July and early August so the flowers didn’t appear until the beginning of September. I got one orange flower on a new tuber of Happy Halloween, new flowers on the same plant are yellow. Some plants still haven’t flowered at all. Will have to buy new tubers next year and try again.
I think that’s a good plan Helen. Don’t give up! There are good dahlia years and bad ones. Only ‘Happy Halloween’ and ‘American Dawn’ have remained blemish-free for me, proving their worth again and again. Other varieties were very disappointing. I probably planted too many in retrospect. Less is more has never appealed to me as a mantra 😉