dahlias | why sarah loves them

In this video Sarah shares why dahlias are her favourite.

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If I had to really nail why I love dahlias so much, there are so many reasons, but I guess the first is that they are cut-and-come-again. So, I’m a lover of cut flowers, and I like bountiful, abundant harvest, and dahlias give you that better than any other plant in the whole world. Cosmos, close second, but dahlias still win. The other thing is that they come in this increasing range. So you get beautiful single ones, that look really sort of classic and almost like a cosmos, things like the anemone flowers or the single – the Bishop series – and they then go up to these massive, sort of Ascot hat style, really dinner plate varieties.

Dahlias are without doubt my favourite plant in the world. Originally from Mexico, there’s just been massive breeding in the last twenty years. They’ve become incredibly fashionable, which is exciting for me because I fell in love with them first in Monet’s garden, Giverny, about twenty years ago, or even twenty two years ago, and I brought back one called ‘Rip City’ which is a dark, rich crimson. But since then I’ve trialled maybe – I don’t know – five hundred different varieties here at Perch Hill, and this garden is what we call our dahlia garden, and these are the ones that have really landed. They are our absolute favourites, tried and tested, complete stalwarts, like this one ‘Fairway Spur’. Others are really traditional favourites that have been around for ages, like ‘Cornel Brons’. And then there’s a beautiful curvy one there that we totally adore, which is probably one of my – well certainly my top three – which is called ‘Labyrinth’.

And then we’re also involved in quite a lot of breeding out of dahlias, and this is a real favourite of mine, called ‘Sarah Raven’, and I love that because it’s got this dark ebony stem, it’s quite sort of bony and airy, so it’s beautiful in a pot, it’s beautiful in a vase and it’s beautiful in the garden. Or this one which is called ‘Omega’, and it’s got a great vase life, this one too. So from little to large, or even gargantuan, they just give you this incredible range, the pollinators love them – all the singles, not the doubles – but the anemone flowers and the singles – that was a bee – the pollinators absolutely love. They’re stacked full of nectar and pollen. But also, they’re brilliant in a border, I love particularly ‘Totally Tangerine’ and ‘Schipper’s Bronze’ in a border because they’re not too big and they can go right at the front, and really carry a colour baton, from midsummer until the beginning of winter, till November really. And, they’re brilliant in a pot, they’re an edible flower, they make wonderful natural confetti, you know, they just are the best ever garden plant.

And I suppose there is one final thing, which is a negative which has been turned into a positive, which is with climate change, certainly down in the south of England and Sussex, we can treat them like any hardy, herbaceous perennial. We just mulch them six inches deep with compost, through the winter, once the frosts start, clear it away in the spring, and all these around me here haven’t been lifted for many, many years. They just stay in the ground mulched and then up they come in the spring.

So, incredibly productive, incredibly easy, incredibly floriferous, incredibly colourful, they’re just marvellous.

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