A Last Hurrah for the Dahlias.

We have been threatened with frost this weekend and so I suppose my dahlias are probably living on borrowed time. But what an abundance of blooms I have had over several months. I am a total convert now. My grandmother used to grow them in serried ranks and as a child I was revolted by the earwigs they attracted and of course there was always the possibility that the earwigs might crawl into your ears and lay eggs in your brains. Or so my big sister told me. But this year I have been revelling in them and although the earwigs are a bit of a nuisance, so far I have managed to keep them out of my ears. I started off a few years ago growing the black leaved ‘Bishop of Llandaff’ as so many of us did. I then amused myself by growing on seedlings and trying to get really black children like this one.

This year I have enjoyed  bright red children as well as the dark ones  and to my astonishment this pink, stripey one. Goodness knows what the naughty bishop has been up to.


This spring I created a large new tropical bed  so I could indulge my new-found passion for these gaudy beauties. Never mind tasteful dark ones with black leaves,  I bought the brightest coloured pompoms, dinner plates, anemone- flowered ones and the rest; anything which took my fancy.  They needed copious watering throughout the hot dry summer, proper staking and feeding two or three times during the season, but what rewards.

The perfect pompoms of ‘Cornel Bronze’ are still going strong, this photograph was taken today. I love the soft apricot colour.

Dahlia ‘Cornel Bronze’

I grow a lovely anemone -flowered tangerine one called ‘Totally Tangerine’. Both of these two look great with the almost black ones which I still seek out.

Dahlia ‘Totally Tangerine’

These anemone- flowered ones are sometimes called powder puff dahlias and you can see why. I love them and next year I shall probably grow a few more.
‘Blue Bayou’ is  a vibrant pink with red centres.  The flowers vary and on some of them the ‘powder puff’ is missing.

Dahlia ‘Blue bayou’

Dahlia ‘Mambo’ is pink with such beautifully formed petals it looks as if somebody has cut them out with pinking shears.

Dahlia ‘Mambo’

I am not terribly keen on the dinner plate dahlias or ‘Giant Decorative’ as they should be called, but I grow the popular ‘Cafe au Lait’ simply because it is such a fabulous colour. There is also a ‘Cafe au Lait Rose’ which is a sport of it and  a lovely soft pink.

Dahlia ‘Cafe au Lait’

I have another giant decorative which is a gorgeous deep purple. It is called  ‘Thomas A Edison’ It is an American dahlia dating from 1929. It is a perfect foil for ‘Blue Bayou’.

Dahlia ‘Thomas A. Edison’ with Dahlia ‘Blue Bayou’

Another favourite is ‘Labyrinth’ which has lovely shaggy petals of a peachy colour mixed with pink.

Dahlia ‘Labyrinth’

Another striking dahlia this time with bright pink and yellow Da-Glo colours is Dahlia ‘Karma Fuschiana’ .

Dahlia ‘Karma Fuchsiana’

Nearby ‘Walzing Mathilda’ has semi-double flowers in lovely sunset shades contrasting with dark leaves.

Dahlia ‘Walzing Mathilda’

For a total contrast I have a delightful dahlia which is the colour of blueberries and cream. It is called ‘Creme de Cassis’.

Dahlia ‘Creme de Cassis’I

Single ones are beloved by the bees and so I had to include a few. ‘Night Butterfly’ is gorgeous with a central ruff of white petals contrasting with the velvety red.

Dahlia ‘Night Butterfly’

There are quite a few in the ‘honka’ series and I have a couple. I am rather underwhelmed by ‘Honka Fragile’. It has white petals delicately edged with pink.

Dahlia ‘Honka Fragile’

I prefer the starry flowers of ‘Honka Red’.

Dahlia ‘Honka Red’

I love  red dahlias and ‘Apache’ is a particularly striking, bright red fimbriated one.

Dahlia ‘Apache’

The best and brightest red dahlia is called ‘Murdoch’ and it has a story attached.
Thirteen years ago a man arrived at Bob Brown’s wonderful nursery, ‘Cotswold Garden Flowers’ with his car full of this dahlia which he had collected and  then grown on for years. He thought Bob was the best person to entrust it with and what a wise choice that was. Now we can all enjoy this fabulous dahlia which Bob believes is the best bright-red ever. I agree and that is why I have it as my header at the moment. I simply love it.

Dahlia ‘Murdoch’

I have several sumptuous nearly black dahlias and I can’t decide which is my favourite. ‘La Recoleta’ is an almost pompom shape of perhaps the deepest colour.

Dahlia ‘La Recoleta’

But then ‘Karma Choc’ has such a delicious velvety dark flowers and stems too.

Dahlia ‘Karma Choc’

And ‘Rip City’ is stunning .

Dahlia ‘Rip City’

I have been enjoying these blooms in the garden and in bowls in the house since July. I shall be very sad to see them lying in black heaps after the frost has attacked them. I never dig dahlias up to store them inside. I believe it is winter wet rather than frost which kills them. After I have cut them down I cover the tubers in several layers of newspaper and then a thick mulch of wood chippings.

I am a bit late with my Top Ten October Blooms but I shall be posting it very soon. I really wanted to pay homage to my glorious dahlias before they disappear.

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33 Responses to A Last Hurrah for the Dahlias.

  1. Wow! so fabulous. Still trying Dahlias in my garden. Think I actually need some clay. Creme de Cassis is my favorite.

  2. March Picker says:

    Chloris, your selection of dahlias is superb! I’m so happy you’ve rediscovered all the beauty and the vast variety. You’ve jumped right in with a generous supply! I grow many of these, but Labyrinth is probably my current favorite. Let’s hope our mild autumn continues for a bit longer so that we can continue to relish the blooms.

    • Chloris says:

      I have picked great armfuls today to give away to family and friends in case there is a frost tonight. Yes, Labyrinth is gorgeous. I’m already thinking about new ones for next year. Any suggestions?

  3. I never realized there were so many different ones. It would be hard to pick a favorite.

    • Chloris says:

      They come in so many shapes and sizes. The Pianist looked at a huge vaseful today and asked how they could all be dahlias as they are all so different. At least it’s a new flower word he has learnt to add to his list of rose, bluebell and snowdrop.

  4. janesmudgeegarden says:

    What an exquisite collection- each one has something to recommend it, but I must say I gasped out loud when I saw ‘Night Butterfly’! Its unusual petals made it a standout for me. This year I’m growing some from seed for the first time, so I’ll probably be using copious amounts of water for them in the summer too.

    • Chloris says:

      It is great fun growing them from seed, you never know what you will get. Night Butterfly is gorgeous and the bees love it. I am going to try some seeds ftom it.

  5. Kris P says:

    Earwigs! Yuck, I hate those things but fortunately haven’t seen any in or near my dahlias. (Perhaps it’s because they prefer my artichokes.) You don’t do anything by half, do you?! 😉 Although I lost several of my new tubers to rot, including ‘Labyrinth’, and one of my newbies, ‘Penhill Dark Monarch’, never even produced a single bud, I was satisfied with my output this year. Next year, I’m going to seek out some additional varieties and I’m adding your ‘Creme de Cassis’ and ‘Blue Bayou’ to my working list.

    • Chloris says:

      Apart from being revolting earwigs damage the flowers. I have read that vaseline on the stems stops them reaching the flowers.
      I loved your orange ‘Punkin Spice’ this year. I lost some tubers to rot when I was starting them off too. I was sorry to lose lovely ‘Mel’s Orange Marmalade’. I will try it again next year.

  6. tonytomeo says:

    Hurrah! Gee, yours still look better than mine. Sadly, ours do not get started until halfway through summer, so they are one of the few flowers that gets a shorter season here than in other regions. I do not know why they start late. I do not think that they lack for chill in winter. I do not think that they even need chill. It is a mystery.

  7. Ali says:

    There I was thinking I might scale back my dahlia production next year and you have completely reversed this with your post! My dahlias in pots were very disappointing this year, including ‘Blue Bayou’ but I don’t think I watered or fed them nearly enough, so maybe I should forgive them. I do love the anemone-flowered dahlias – that’s the thing about dahlias, isn’t it? You can be satiated for the dinnerplates or the cacti and along come collarettes and whirligigs (I can’t remember the proper term for the Honka type ones). I was inclined to like the Honka series because this was the name of my youngest daughter’s invisible friend, now long departed. I too found them a bit underwhelming, but I saw a gorgeous near-black one at the Salutation which won me over. Labyrinth is definitely on the list for next year, and your ‘Cassis’.

    • Chloris says:

      I have never had much success with dahlias in pots. But I don’t know why it’s taken me so long to embrace the whole colourful tribe of them. I can’t think of anything which keeps on blooming so abundantly from July until the frosts. I think the near black honka you saw was probably ‘Verrone’s Obsidian Star’. I bought one but I overwatered it in its pot in the spring and it rotted.
      What an original name for an imaginary friend. My daughter’s was called Mary.

  8. susurrus says:

    You’re growing a lot of my favourites. I hadn’t realised there were sports of Cafe au Lait until I saw the Royale version at a flower show this year. I’ll be looking out for Rose!

  9. pbmgarden says:

    Glad you shared your rich collection of dahlias with us. I love the hue of Dahlia ‘Cornel Bronze’ and the red-black ones are wonderful.

  10. We will miss them. They are glorious!

  11. I don’t know why I bother even thinking about choosing a favourite from your posts. I am always in a complete quandry by the end, they are all so wonderful, so I refuse to pick one, so there! By the way, your sister was quite right about the earwigs. 🙂

  12. Chloris says:

    I’m glad you like them. I still can’t bear earwigs, they remind me of scorpions with those pincer things on their rear end. I did have one in my hair after I’d been dead heading. I expect it was making for my ear, but I foiled it.

  13. Cathy says:

    You nearly tempt me to keep mine in the ground too, Chloris – I often get plants popping up from bits of tuber left in the ground and they have got through the winter OK… Are yours in borders, or cutting beds – or both? Admittedly I have come not to mind the digging-up ritual which has now become one of my autumnal rites of passage. Thanks for sharing your choice varieties – TT was already on my wishlist, and T Ed but I am sorely tempted with others too although sadly space is becoming a premium!

    • Chloris says:

      My new dahlias are in the tropical bed but I have them all over the place. I find I lose more by digging them up than I do leaving them in the ground and now I have so many I can’t be bothered with the fuss of storing them and then starting them off again.

      • Cathy says:

        Hmm, perhaps with more planning and foresight I might start to do the same. In fact there are a few in pots I might try planting out and overwintering…

  14. snowbird says:

    What a stunning collection, and wonderful to hear of all the children! I loved the story around Murdoch. I shall take your advice and leave my dahlias in the ground this year covered and mulched. So glad the earwigs stayed out of your ears!xxx

  15. Cathy says:

    They are all so lovely Chloris. And until recently I was not keen on dahlias at all! 🙂

  16. Chloris says:

    Thank you Cathy. I think many of us are new converts to dahlias.

  17. ‘Bishop of Llandaff’ is my favorite Dahlia. As for earwigs, they tunnel into my Clematis and eat the flower petals before they bloom. But I don’t worry about my ears.

  18. I’m with you about being a convert to Dahlias! This is my first year growing them, too. I had a few little ones in years past, but I planted several dinnerplate varieties this year. They did pretty well, but I need to start them earlier next year. They won’t survive my brutal winters, so I had to dig them up or start all over. Interesting–I’d never heard about the connection of earwigs to Dahlias, although I do have earwigs on other plants in the garden. I use beer traps to get rid of them. You had a luscious collection of Dahlias this summer!

  19. Pingback: Dahlia ‘Café au Lait Royal’ – Susan Rushton

  20. Brian Skeys says:

    A wonderful collection Chloris, if you are looking to add to it I would recommend ‘David Howard’, a C. Lloyd favourite,

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