It’s rare that I regret not buying a plant. This is because I scarcely ever resist temptation in the first place. ‘Buy it now, you might never find it again and then you’ll be sorry’ says the mischievous flower fairy that follows me around gardens, markets and nurseries wherever I go. ‘Don’t worry about where to plant it. Look, it’s sooooo pretty! See how it grows…..’
My particular flower fairy must have had the morning off the day I placed my summer bulb order. Despite marking the catalogue with a spidery black asterisk, I completely forgot to tick the box for Dahlia ‘Waltzing Mathilda’. I had great plans for this dizzying damsel with her fiery flowers and bronzy leaves: she would can-can with cannas, tango with taros and girate with gingers. I was even considering a sprung dance floor in place of the terrace.
My oversight was forgotten until this weekend when I spied the twirling lady herself in a trial bed of dark-leaved dahlias at The Salutation in Sandwich. Like other dahlias that have marked my dance card, D. ‘Waltzing Mathilda’ has flowers the colour of a September sunset. What distinguishes her is her purple-brown leaves, the relaxed arrangement of curvaceous petals around a central boss of golden stamens and the attaractiveness of her blooms to bees.
As a rule single-flowered dahlias are vastly more attractive to pollinators than doubles. It’s immensely entertaining watching bumble bees, their panniers already bursting with pollen, greedily coming back for more. D. Waltzing Mathilda, with such a profusion of flower, provides them with a veritable feast.
The next time I hear my flower fairy’s cheeky whisper I will chastise her for allowing me to pass Mathilda by. I hope she’ll be saving her last dance for me.