My wife and I started gardening together almost forty years ago and dahlias were the height of fashion at that time. That was also the era of azaleas under planted with heathers and interspersed with dwarf conifers – oh, how misplaced was that “dwarf” description. We had a border where azaleas and dahlias were – now, put on your mental sunglasses before reading any further – yes, azaleas and dahlias planted alternatively along a narrow border. Oh, what a riotous clashing of colours.
We moved to our present house while the azalea, dwarf conifer and heather craze was still in full swing and planted an area in that style again. Fortunately, our dog, a corgi, Timmy, found the heathers made a very comfortable bed and they quickly went into decline and into the compost bin. Some of the azaleas still remain as do some of the dwarf conifers – some actually remained dwarf after thirty years while a few others have grown to nuisance size and a Thuja ‘Rheingold’ is presently being revamped as a possible candidate as a “cloud-pruned” feature. If it looks well after reshaping it will remain in the garden and, if not, it will be removed. It’s worth a try and a bit of fun before the final decision has to be made though there is always the danger that after investing time and effort into reshaping this plant I may be reluctant to dump it even if it is not really a success.
As to the dahlias, well they make me feel old as they are having a resurgence of popularity. It all reflects the saying that if you live long enough everything will come back into fashion again. Yes, it does make me feel old but I am very happy that the dahlias are once again popular. They are great garden plants which give us a wonderful display of colour from July onwards and they are easy to grow – yes, after the scare of the severely cold winter here of 2010 – ’11 we now feel it is wiser to lift and store them in frost-free situation for the winter, bring them into growth under glass in spring before planting out again in late May. For so many years we enjoyed mild winters and left our dahlias in the ground, covering them with some garden compost for protection from light frosts. Lifting, storing overwinter, and bringing into growth under glass in spring does offer the opportunity to take cuttings early in the year to increase stock.
As with any plant which has enjoyed periods of high fashion there is a plethora of cultivars available, some more tasteful than others but, surely, something to suit all tastes and even to suit those who lack all taste. I find myself most attracted to the rich and darker reds but not exclusively so. Here is a selection of some which I particularly like at the moment.
Now, a picture parade of beauties which have caught my eye this last week and which might tempt you to try a few in your own garden.