Dahlia Week: Big and Beautiful

When I was a boy, most dahlias looked a little like D. ‘Lady Darlene’. They were bold and brazen, not afraid to be bi-coloured or brassy. Their flowers were either big, top-heavy confections or perfectly pert little pom-poms perfectly designed to hide earwigs. The dahlias of my childhood were the drag queens of the floral world, all loud and artificial, the rude girls in the garden. Is it any wonder that I adored them? And now they are back, perhaps not in the mainstream, but creeping into connoisseurs’ collections and creating a buzz again.

Dahlia 'Babylon Lilac'
Dahlia ‘Babylon Lilac’

At The Salutation on Saturday, Head Gardener Steven Edney shamelessly confessed his love for these buxom beauties, even admitting that his girlfriend described his taste in flowers as ‘a little bit gay’. Here in the 3.5 acres surrounding one of Lutyens’ masterpieces there’s room enough for all persuasions. Steven’s passion for dahlias extends from shy singles to the kinkiest of colarettes.

Accompanied by a chorus of tithonias and cannas Dahlia ‘Lady Darlene’ put on quite a show. Her Phoenix-like petals would not look out of place on the Eurovision stage or in Shirley Bassey’s wardrobe. Quieter, but not a lot, was Dahlia ‘Babylon Lilac’ (above), her gorgeous, swept-back lavender-pink petals carried on plants of supreme stature. How fitting that she was bejewelled with raindrops. And then there was her sister D. ‘Babylon Gevland’, with apricot flowers slashed across with tangerine-orange.

These dahlias are fierce flowers, not afraid to be out and proud. They’ve been there, done that and thrown the t-shirt in the bin.

Dahlia 'Babylon Gevland'
Dahlia ‘Babylon Gevland’

Rather like real drag queens, such diva dahlias are fun to spend the evening with but perhaps not what you’d take home to meet the parents. They are still too kitch and outrageous for most of us to integrate into our gardens. Time will inevitably change that view and in a few year’s time we’ll all be trying to out-do one another with our new fabulous friends. You heard it here first.

The Salutation Dahlia Festival continues until September 15th 2015

Dahlia 'Lady Darlene'
Dahlia ‘Lady Darlene’


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16 thoughts on “Dahlia Week: Big and Beautiful

  1. I am in LOVE with Darleen…I hope I can get her here.. the D catalogue arrived last week but I haven’t had a proper read….stunning.. and love the witty prose of this post made me smile lots and lots – a great start to the morning – thx!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Jan – yes marvelous pollinators – I also have a l lot of walkers blue nepetas an of course marigolds everywhere. around the perimeter of the patches and the three together make it bee heaven. I have only once had an issue with pollination on pumpkins a couple years ago, but once I put the nepetas in problem solved!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thank you, Helen, for creating such a wonderful bee paradise . . . so important these days. I had never heard of the blue nepetas. Looked them up on the web. Such peaceful, welcoming coloring!


  2. Have grown Dahlias off and on since I was a kid. Have mostly had them big and extreme like some of the cactus types. Lacinated or curved/twisted petals are big too. I know that my taste in Dahlias is what one neat writer called vulgar. She loved her own vulgar Dahlias by the way. Here in the US I enjoy Bodacious, Inland Dynasty, Clyde’s Choice, Maki and a huge favorite is Maniac. Crevecour, Zorro, Gitt’s Perfection, Encore, Magic Moment, and Juanita and Nutley Sunrise are others. Cafe au Lait and David Howard are new ones to me and Prince Noir I’ve had a number of years. Not all of these here are vulgar but these postings have given me some more to consider. There are a lot of different sorts of Dahlia; something for every taste. They are not troublesome and repay more than fully the effort put in to holding them over the winter. Great gardens plants no matter you like them ‘Bodacious’ or proper.

    Liked by 1 person

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