Sarah’s guide to selecting dahlia types

In this video Sarah shares how to mix and match

different dahlia shapes, sizes and colours

It's a daily bonanza at this time of year, and I love it for that. So in this garden, which we call Adam's Garden, it's all dahlias now but in the spring it was narcissus and tulips. And then the dahlias come through. They're all left completely, permanently in here and there are trial varieties, there are some old and some new. There are some singles, there are some doubles, there are some little ones, there are some big ones.


There's just sort of like every colour and shape and size of Dahlia. And that is, I guess, one of the main reasons I love them is that there's a dahlia for everybody. And I spend a lot of time at this time of year putting together collections and deciding which I think goes best with what. But I also think it's really nice if you put together your own collections. And so I thought I would just guide you through, kind of the range of what's available in dahlias.


So the thing about dahlias is there is such a massive range, after all the breeding that's gone on in the last ten years that there really has to be a dahlia for everybody. I'm just going to give you an over sort of view of the whole family. So obviously if you're making up your own groups in the garden and you've got to think first of all about colour, so you can have pretty much any colour. Obviously, there's not blue here, but this pretty much all other colours.


And then you've got to think about size. So are you somebody who likes things quite subtle like this one, which is called 'Mexican Black', or are you somebody who likes things really sumptuous and a bit crazy like this one, which is 'Penhill Dark Monarch' and, well , I love both, actually, but I tend to put large dinner plate varieties together and the singles together, depending on where I'm putting them in the garden.


So start with colour. Move on to size, then it's about form. And one of the first dahlias I fell in love with was this, which is 'Chat Noir', and this has got lots of needle like petals. It's called a cactus variety, and it looks like a sea anemone in a rock pool. And then another one that I grew next was this variety, which is a water lily and a water lily variety. It's called 'Gerrie Hoek' and it's got fewer petals than this one, and they're broader and it looks like a water lily like in Monet's painting or whatever.


And then you go into decorative varieties, and this one, which is 'Molly Raven', is a decorative and they have lots of petals. You can't see the centre of the flower on the whole. And so lots of petals, but they're rounded at the tip. Not pointy, like that. So that's a characteristic of a decorative Dahlia.


Then you move on to the sort of just slightly more single varieties, and so this one, for instance, is not actually totally single. It's in fact called an anemone flowered variety that's 'Platinum Blonde'. And it's got this sort of central boss of petaloids at the centre of the flower but it still has nectar in all of those still really great for the pollinators.


Whereas all these apart from this one, obviously, because I can see the centre of the flower, haven't got any nectaries at all. Their nectaries have been bred to be extra petaloids, so they don't have forage for the bees and butterflies. So you've got the anemone flowered group, then you've got the collarettes, which is similar in that they're not quite singles, but nearly and 'Sarah Raven' is sort of a cross between an anemone flowered and collarette. And that's because it's got this secondary row of petaloids within the outer petals and between that and the central boss of the flower. So that's a collarette. And then you move on to the more true singles. These I'm crazy about, which are the honka series, that's 'Honka Fragile'.

And then, of course, the bishops, which have got one here, I've got a 'Bishop of Dover' here. With a sort of purple wash over it. But there are lots of lovely bishops, and they're all the single forms, totally single like that with lots of pollen in the middle. And on the whole, rather black foliage, so those are the singles.

I forgot one group. And that's the ball and pom poms. They used to be really unfashionable now they've become very fashionable because they're brilliant as a buttonhole. And they last very well out of water, which is why they go as a buttonhole. But actually, they also have a superb vase life. So these are really, really popular at the moment, particularly for florists.

So that's your kind of full gamut. So think color, think size and then think form, and then you should be able to hone down to, I don't know your favorite two, three, five, ten, in my case, one hundred varieties of dahlia

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