Can you believe it’s mid-August already? At the time of writing summer seems to have disappeared leaving days of showers, wind and torrential rain. Hope sunny days will be back soon.
August is the month that British grown dahlias are really blooming their socks off. They’re one of my favourite summer flowers because of their many different forms and colours from the huge dinner plate sized Cafe au laits and Labyrinths to the more delicate, tightly packed petals of the pom pon dahlias. Colours include soft whites, acid lemon yellow, all shades of pink, coral and lilac right through to the bright reds, sultry dark chocolatey reds and purples, every colour except blue. Many have great names too: Linda’s baby, Karma Choc, Waltzing Mathilda, Wine eyed Jill…..
Dahlias are enjoying quite a revival currently with many florists using them in their work for all occasions. They’re vase life isn’t especially long even when freshly picked and well conditioned, usually about 5 – 7 days, but their vibrant beauty more than makes up for that. In the home I think the best thing is to pop them in a lovely vase or jug with a few sprigs of garden foliage and place them somewhere you can see them from your armchair or kitchen window and just enjoy them.
This year for the first time we’ve grown some on our cutting patch. I bought the tubers a bit late to be honest and there wasn’t a huge choice left. I only bought a few but was delighted to get some Cafe au Lait, a bridal favourite, and the gorgeous Labyrinth which is orange/ coral/ pink streaked with darker pink. I’m pleased to say all the tubers grew into big strong plants, nurtured in the shed to start with at the beginning of April and then planted out after all the frosts were gone.
The bigger blooms can be tricky to use in bridal bouquets but can look stunning in compotes with flowing foliages and other cutting garden goodies such as peachy roses, chocolate cosmos, mint and sweet peas. Dahlias have a very annoying habit of growing with their heads turning to bloom in different directions than the one your bouquet or arrangement requires, you just have to work with it as that’s part of their charm!
A couple of weeks ago I visited Withypitts dahlias in Sussex to see their farm and to buy a few blooms. It was a sunny day and all you could see all around was row upon row of perfect blooms. Truly a sight to behold! Many of their blooms go to New Covent Garden Market and florists in London to adorn weddings and events all across the city.
Once the frosts come in October dahlias die down for another year. Some people lift all the tubers and put them into storage for the winter whilst others leave them in the ground with a thick layer of mulch to protect the them. Then in spring they can be split to make more plants and the whole cycle begins again. I’ll certainly be checking out the plant catalogues a little earlier this autumn and make sure I get some different varieties to add to my collection.