Plant Profile: Dahlia ‘Nicholas’



I should have predicted it. I take a holiday, I unwind (sort of), and up creeps the dreaded tonsillitis. It happens every time, without fail. I don’t suffer from many afflictions but this one comes along as regular as clockwork and it’s debilitating. Tonsillitis is one of the few things that changes my cup from overflowing to empty: I am, shall we say, feeling glum.

I worked from home today, conserving as much energy as possible, slumped dejectedly against my desk with all considerations of posture going firmly out of the French doors. I would not recommend a full inbox as a cure for any minor or serious ailments, and mine was brimming over with circulars, copy-addressees and general nonsense: all serious dealings seem to have stopped in line with the start of the school holidays. Backlog dealt with, I had a minor triumph to celebrate.



Meanwhile a garden is like a young child, in that you can’t neglect it if you’re feeling off-colour. The show has to go on. Tonight I’ve been outside watering, rather cursorily I admit, in order that we both get through the next few days with some semblance of vigour intact. As I look around I am reminded how much joy flowers can bring, even when one’s feeling low. In the Jungle Garden, high on a wave of crisp green foliage sails Dahlia ‘Nicholas’, a new dahlia at The Watch House for 2018 and one I’ve warmed to very quickly. The leaves are nothing extraordinary, but the flowers are simply stunning, verging on perfection. There is something so alluring about the blooms’ gently rounded petals and warm tones, beginning with a flash of crimson at the centre and bleeding out to sulphur yellow and then soft apricot towards the edges. Followers will already know I have a soft spot for any dahlia possessed of an ‘inner light’, meaning that ‘Nicholas’ is in with a strong chance of joining ‘Firepot’ and ‘American Dawn’ to make my top three.



Dahlia ‘Nicholas’ was introduced to gardens in 2010 by Swan Island Dahlias of Oregon, USA. They are one of the largest dahlia growers in the United States, offering almost 400 varieties. The equivalent in the UK might be The National Dahlia Collection, boasting over 1600 varieties (get in!). Although I could not readily find ‘Nicholas’ in their catalogue, I did stumble over tens of others I’d like to try next year. In the meantime Sarah Raven is always a great source of dahlias since the Sarah Raven team are so good at editing the choice down to the best and easiest to coordinate plants: clever, commercial, and they know it!

As dahlias go ‘Nicholas’ is a little taller than many of the others I grow, holding its own alongside tall gingers such as Hedychium ‘Stephen’ which shares some of the same peachy tones. American gardeners applaud the longevity of Nicholas’ blooms on the plant and in a vase, but bemoan the short length of the flower stems, which I can attest to. A small gripe with an otherwise immaculate and uplifting dahlia. A ‘must add’ for next year’s summer bulb order and a good gift for the glummest gardener. TFG.