Thank you so much to everyone who commented on last week’s blog post, not only here but on Instagram as well. I know it was very different from my usual blog posts. My aim for this blog is for it to be a place for people to escape to and find inspiration. I want it to be a happy place and try to keep real life out.
But last week it just didn’t feel right to write about flowers when so much is happening in the world. I may write more personal blog posts in the future, but today’s post is all about flowers 😉
The flower du jour is, of course, the dahlia. My dahlia garden is at its peak at the moment. I try to cut as many flowers as I can and take many photographs. My plot is rich with colour this year, looking much better than last year. I can almost make a dahlia rainbow.
I am very happy with this year’s selection, and in this post, I am sharing my thoughts on planning a dahlia garden. This is not the time to plant dahlias, but it is a good time to think about next year. Visit Instagram for inspiration or even visit a show garden where you can see hundreds of different varieties.
Dahlias as a cut flower
Dahlias can be grown in pots, in the border and as a cut flower. I have an allotment plot dedicated to dahlias, so I am only talking about dahlias for cut flowers.
Dahlias are one of the best-loved cut flowers. They are easy to grow and produce blooms so abundantly that there are plenty to share. Whenever I visit a friend these days, I always cycle by the allotment and pick a bunch of flowers to give away. You can’t get flowers fresher than that.
Choosing a plot
The dahlia originally came from Mexico so they thrive in sunny locations. Dahlias grown for cut flowers are best grown in a dedicated plot, however small, in rows. Plant 3 to 5 dahlias per m² depending on the size of the varieties. My plot is 20 m² (215 sq ft) and I planted 72 dahlias in 8 rows.
Dahlias come in all colours but blue and in sizes ranging from the small pompon dahlias to the dinner plate varieties. Because there are so many varieties, it is said choosing dahlias is much more difficult than growing them.
Choosing dahlias is fun, but if you are not a professional flower farmer you will have to be selective. I have a tiny plot, so I can’t grow them all.
If you are growing dahlias as cut flowers you will want flowers of different size and form. The Café au Lait dahlia is gorgeous on its own, but even more so in a bouquet with other flowers.
Most dahlias fall into one of three groups: the decorative, the cactus and the ball form. I don’t want to get too technical, but if you want some variety in your garden, it’s good to know the different groups.
Decorative dahlias have flat, broad petals that are sometimes wavy. The Café au Lait is a decorative dahlia.
Cactus dahlias have spiky blooms. The petals are rolled and pointed.
Ball dahlias are obviously ball shaped. The smallest ball dahlias are called pompons. We had a funny conversation on Facebook the other day, wondering if it was ‘pompon’ or ‘pompom’. It is pompon, of French origin, meaning a small, ball-shaped decoration on women’s clothing or shoes.
In my experience, ball dahlias make the best cut flowers. Stems are long and strong and they last a long time in the vase.
Peony and anemone dahlias
There are many more flower forms, the collarette dahlia is still on my wish list. I do have dahlias in the form of the anemone and the peony. I love these lesser known dahlias. Totally tangerine is one of my favourites. The colour is amazing. The petals are a soft orange with a pink glow. The centre is a deep orange. Everyone who passes my plot remarks how beautiful they are. The bees love them too because of the open centres.
Choosing colour is a very personal thing so choose the ones you love. I think it’s a good idea to choose colours that go well together. I wanted to grow lots of dahlias in pink and orange and everything in between, peach, salmon, coral. But I may have overdone it in the orange department. Jomanda and Zundert Mystery Fox look very much alike, next year one of them will have to go. I don’t know which one, though!
Size does matter
My last suggestion when planning your dahlia garden is to choose tall plants that will produce long stems perfect for cutting. Plants should reach about 90 cm – 100 cm (36 in – 39 in). Most dahlia growers list the height of the plants on their website. You can still go wrong. I bought Totally tangerine online. On the website, the height description is 100 cm but it is more like 50 cm. Doesn’t matter, I still love it.
Planning a dahlia garden
So, in short, here are my thoughts on planning a dahlia garden;
- Choose a sunny spot.
- Estimate how many dahlias you can fit in.
- Visit Instagram, Pinterest, dahlia growers and show gardens for inspiration.
- Make a long, long list of your favourites.
- Consider shapes, sizes, colours and height and make your selection.
Have a good week.
4 thoughts on “Planning a dahlia garden: choosing shapes, sizes and colours”
A very inspiring post. Can we see a shot of the actual garden bed? I can’t wait to plant mine out in a few months time.
Thank you so much, Elisha. Of course, I should have written: now is not the time to plant dahlias, except when you live in the southern hemisphere. Lucky you! I almost never take the time to take photographs when I am at the allotment, there is always so much to do. And there are always chatty neighbours. But I will try to take some this weekend.
Hello, what would you put in with the dahlias so as not to have an empty patch the rest of the year?
Thank you Pauline for this blog! Indeed, I’m more considerate for next year. I have some good base already [Cafe au lait, Sandra, Pinelands Princess, Eveline, Alfred Grille,Fleurel ,Lavender Perfection and some others] but I discovered I need more shape variety to have more smaller ones, preferably pompon/ball and colour wise some peach and white. Clearly, a good stem is a must. Evelyne, great flower but the stem is very weak… this one I bought because it is my name ;). I also need to grow some fillers…. then the boquets will be much nicer! Well, at least I hope so!