Gardening tips - Are dahlias coming back in fashion?

The brigh and beautiful Pooh dahlia

The brigh and beautiful Pooh dahlia - Credit: Archant

A one-time outcast among blooms is now welcomed back in many a garden border and flower vase, says Jo Banks

Hillcrest Royal, a personal favourite

Hillcrest Royal, a personal favourite - Credit: Archant

Summer may well be cooling off but there’s still plenty of time to enjoy the really hot vibes from a lovely display of dahlias. There’s been a much deserved (in my opinion) resurgence in popularity for this native of Mexico. What was once considered a rather vulgar, showy bloom is now thought of as a very stylish and dramatic addition to a garden border or to a decorative vase of flowers.

I am addicted to the bright, vivid colours, the different sizes and shapes, unfolding like origami…utter stunners, and I can’t help myself when it comes to deciding on varieties for my own cutting garden at home - I want them all and with hundreds to choose from this poses a real dilemma.

I’ve always admired the dahlia bed in Harrogate’s Valley Gardens, so much so that I arranged to meet up with Sue Wood, horticultural officer with the borough council to find out more about the planning and planting of dahlias. She tells me there are 51 varieties of dahlia on show under the large willows in the Bogs Field area of Valley Gardens this year. They include the Bishops of York, Leicester, Canterbury, Oxford and Llandaff nestling against the likes of Catherine Deneuve, Princess Marie Jose, Pooh, Mabel Anne and My Beverley.

I am particularly pleased to see the display has the beautiful Café au Lait dahlia, as large as a dinner plate and a wonderful pale peach colour, which makes it popular with brides and florists. Another personal favourite is Hillcrest Royal. I love its deep pink, sea urchin appearance.

Arabian Night dahlia loved for its rich colour

Arabian Night dahlia loved for its rich colour - Credit: Archant

The Valley Gardens dahlia tubers are potted up in March in the nearby glasshouses of the council’s nurseries. As the new shoots emerge they are taken from the parent plant and grown on to become the current years’ new plants. Sue, in her role as a Britain in Bloom judge, enjoys the privilege of learning about varieties of dahlias from all over the country and she is always on the lookout for more unusual blooms and colour blends for us to enjoy here in Harrogate.

In May, two dedicated gardeners plant thousands of dahlias in Valley Gardens. The soil is enriched with plenty of organic matter as dahlias are hungry plants. Understandably so when you appreciate the size and amount of blooms they produce from July until the first frosts.

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The plants are spaced 40cms apart and each one is tied to a substantial 5ft wooden stake to prevent them from falling over because of the heaviness of their flowers. Pests can include earwigs and wasps, but Sue reports that the Harrogate dahlia bed is relatively pest-free. The first frosts mark the end of the flower season. The leaves blacken and the tubers are carefully dug up, dried in the glasshouses and stored over winter until the cycle begins again.

The dahlias in Valley Gardens are now in full bloom. Enjoy them while you can and don’t forget to take your camera. Tweet your pictures to us @Yorkshire_Life

A collection of dahlias

A collection of dahlias - Credit: Archant

Dahlias can provide the most stunning arrangements for the home. Even just a single bloom in a vase can look spectacular.

My favourites are the dark flowered Rip City and the orange David Howard. Together with some lime green foliage they look amazing. Imagine an autumn dinner party table dressed in these rich, jewel colours fresh from your dahlia bed. It takes just a little forward planning and the ability to make up your mind which blooms to choose. w

Why not join me for a fun, imaginative autumn workshop, arranging your own hand-tied bouquet of dahlias, sunflowers and whatever else the garden has generously produced. The details can be found on my website

Alternatively contact me on 07764 237142 for more information.

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