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 😉