Growing up my parents grew  a few dahlias. In the back garden. Never the front. Me.  I hated them.  Yes they were colourful. Yes they were large. Looked great in a vase. But I still hated them. The reason. Earwigs. I always associated dahlias with creepy crawly earwigs. Out of the layered petals. Out of the Pom Poms. Out of the cactus flowers. Jumping out all wriggly. . Making me scream when they appeared on your arm as you carried them in. Getting told off for virtually dead heading the blooms by violently shaking them before I took them in to rid the petals of those horrible little critters. Nope. Nothing persuaded me. 

 So for years when I started gardening and had my own garden I ignored them. No. Not years. Decades. They somehow fell out of ‘fashion’ too. You didn’t see them in bouquets.  Yes you had the standard inter flora bouquet. Standard flowers. Standard price. Standard quality. No individuality.  Flown not grown. Chosen by looking at a picture replicated in every town and county across the British Isles. 

So what changed my view. I had a number of bouquets & jam jar posies from my friend and flower farmer Georgie Newberry at Common Farm Flowers ( I may have mentioned her once or twice in previous blogs! ) – which included some lovely flowers. Yep. . I was surprised. Amongst other flowers of varying degrees of gorgeousness there were dahlias. Guess what. I liked them. A lot. They weren’t your standard dahlia. To me. They were unusual in colour. In shape.  They looked great in a vase. They lasted well. I didn’t expect to get dahlias. But then one never knows what your going to get from Georgie! What you do know  is that you’ll get something different every time. Different because the flowers are seasonal. Oh. And beautiful.  So encouraged by Georgie and introduced to Karen  at Peter Nyssen I decided to grow some. 

Last years dahlia 

Last year was my first  and I was pleased with the results. I had set aside  a small patch purely for dahlias. Largely for cutting. Encouraged  & educated as well by the excellent  book by Andy Vernon ( dark prince of dahlias/big Mary flower fairy- his description. Not mine) – stop there. I’m not describing myself. Am I?  So I had a bash at growing them.

How did it go. T be honest I could have done better but I had some great cut flowers right up until the Autimn. 

I was rubbish  at staking but that’s nothing new for me.  I could have nipped them out a bit better at the start but I had blooms. And do you know what. I liked them. A lot. I am a dahlia convert.  Am I any better this year! Mmm jury is out. But it’s been a funny old  start.  

The dahlias proved a great addition – it was fab to be able to pick some single blooms to sit around the house. Especially to use the single stem glass things ( good technical term ) I had bought at a fab Vintage Glass  shop run by my friend Mr Glass in Londons Camden Passage. A small collection! – I have hidden the others for fear of Ian finding them. 

Last year I loved the darkness of Black Jack Rip City. Chat Noir. The different shapes. Textures. If only dahlias had a scent! 

Autimn came. Should I dig them up? Should I leave them in. Being lazy I left them in.  This year the garden was going to be a big hit and miss. We were due to do an extension. Plants would need to be moved. Given away. Discarded. Replaced. Beds were to be moved. Reborn.   – none of that has happened. Maybe next spring. 

Our ground is also pretty wet during the winter. We are in the South West after all – but most survived the winter and later than I’d hoped have just started to flower.  First to arrive was a Bishop. A Leicester. There’s a Llandaff in bud – has to be done as I lived in Llandaff in a past life though I’m not a huge Llandaff lover. The dahlia. Not the place. The place has a fab grand parents are buried there and a fab cross designed by Epstein. Like many things I think dahlia Bishop of Llandaff  over rated. 

But  The bishops arrived  first to  welcome in the rest of the team when they decided to arrive.  But most I think have come through. My nightly slug watch has been worth it. Though the little b….rs  still appear. This is the year of the slug for me – certainly in Somerset. In London it’s been snails. 

One of the first arrivals Bishop of Leicester

I have decided I have too many reds so I am thinking already of next year. I have seen some lovely yellows and whites and some orange Pom Poms. Not my favourite shape as I like them a bit of a spiky cactus or a bishop.  Plus there’s more little places for earwigs. Like a bug box. But I need to get over it. I need to be brave. 

Morning Dew on the dahlias this year 

This week I was up early and was surprised at the dew on the ground. Armed with a cup of tea and my phone I wandered around  the garden taking some early morning pics. Best ones were of the dark dahlias. Lovely shapes. Lovely form. Been a long time since I’ve been described like that ! 

So my hunt for new colours has started even before this years bed is in full bloom. I am still pondering tulips. But for dahlias  I have a list already – Cafe au Lait. White star. yellow star. Veronnes Taylor Swift. Summer flame. A couple of the Karmas. Little snowdrop. But I need to be early if I want to get what I want!  And realistic unless I increase the patch. Like my bald patch. Ever increasing. Year on year. 

Any suggestions on personal favourites gratefully received! 

 A lone yellow 

Big fat flouncy yellow dahlias seen in a florist in Paris last year. 

6 thoughts on “Dahlia love 

  1. My parents grew dahlias too and just like you I hated them because of the earwigs – not just one or two; they just seemed to keep appearing / breeding in there – even when you were sure you’d shaken them all out hey presto another two or three would scurry out – usually up your arm and they really are evil looking things. With their horned heads, numerous legs and the speed at which they moved – scary stuff at four.


    1. Ha ha. So it wasn’t just me. I am now turning into your father. Worrying about going away when I have tomatoes! Was a constant thing when we were trying to arrange his visits to the cottage. Was either the cat. Or the tomatoes we worked around.


  2. I love D. ‘David Howard’ and what about ‘Tahoma Star’ for something really different? Wish I could grow them in the ground; even nightly checks would not be enough to defeat slugs and snails here. I’d need an armed guard!


  3. Lovely post! I am embarking on dahlia growing too, starting with April Heather, though I worry my list is getting bigger than the ground available. Look forward to hearing more about your choices and thanks for the earwig warning!


  4. I have had a similar dahlia journey from hate to love via earwigs! Yours look sublime esp the dark reds. The book looks like a winner too. I can’t stop buying new tubers at the moment, especially as the Pound shops have named varieties in stock (small tubers , but, hey, they grow!) and they cost, you guessed it, one pound! Also looking at specialist growers on line . Soon be time to pot them all up!


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