7th September 2015
Last week saw Sarah Raven join myself and Matthew Rice for a day celebrating what is a favourite mutual flower of ours the Dahlia.
When I was little, the Dahlia was very much out of fashion. Back then, it was a bloom primarily of the country show tent scene; where men would bicker over who had the biggest, often awfully pastel-coloured flower of a ridiculous size, forced to be so by having a paper bag plonked over it from its beginning as bud.
Today, largely in fact due to Sarah showcasing them in her garden at Perch Hill for the past 20 years, the Dahlia has sprung onto the cat walk of in-vogue garden plants and cut flowers. Sarah visits Holland most summers to view the newest varieties being grown there in the trail fields. Those she likes are then sent to Perch Hill as tubers, the following spring and if they perform well and look fabulous in the garden they make it into Sarah’s spring catalogue. About 60 people came to see Sarah arrange Dahlias and other summer flowers all of which were grown here by me or by Martin, Emma and Matthews’s gardener at Bampton. Sarah used a range of bowls, plates and vases, talking the whole time about how to use Dahlias to best affect in arrangements and advice about growing them in the garden.
Currently we have small Dahlia beds in the factory garden but next year these will be made to be larger taking up almost all of the 2 beds which go around the side of the garden. The reason I wish to devote so much garden space to a plant native to Mexico, is that no other summer flower gives as much pizzazz and boldness both in the garden or vase as much as the Dahlia does. They come in the most beautiful array of tiffany stain glass colours and in so many different forms and sizes, as Sarah said; you really cannot have enough of them. Perhaps most importantly the more you cut them the more they are spurred on to bloom more.
The first hard frosts of Early November will see the foliage of the Dahlias become black and dead. Once this happens, I will then cut all of the stems and foliage to the ground and mulch them with compost. Sarah firmly recommends this and while her garden is more southerly than the one here, I have faith that the gardens walls and raised beds may help me preserve the dahlias without the hassle of lifting each tuber to protect them frost. They won’t reappear until the following spring in late April. So that the garden does not have a great sea of black soil until then in-between the tubers, this autumn, I will be planting Alliums and Narcissus. By the time the Dahlias begin to grow at full pelt, the foliage of these bulbs will have begun to brown allowing me to chop them back giving the emerging dahlias the light they need.
My favourite Dahlias that I’ve grown at Stoke this year have been –
- ‘Darkarin’ which is like a strawberry jam sea anemone.
- ‘Blue Bayou’ of a sugar plum fairy dress purple.
- ‘Soulman’ of crushed mulberry velvet.
- 'Rip City' A classic, huge and very hard flowering
Huge thanks to Sarah Raven for coming to the Stoke factory and giving an inspiring talk and doing several beautiful flower arrangements. I hope all whom came left equally inspired and had a great time. You can view Sarah’s range of current exclusive Dahlias available to buy in Spring 2016 on - her website now
With best Wishes and happy late summer gardeningArthur Parkinson
7th September 2015