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National Dahlia Collection shows 2018

Show dahlia
Show dahlia at Beamish Museum leek show. Picture; Sue Welford

My love-hate-love dahlia relationship!

It never fails to amaze me how flowers come and go in fashion but the upswing in the fortunes of dahlias has cheered me no end.

For anyone of my advanced age, (a 1970s childhood), dahlias were the preserve of the allotment enthusiast, grown for the flower classes in leek shows, in orderly rows.

Bigger and brighter was the rule of thumb, at least in the North-East England allotment fraternity I grew up in – and they were almost exclusively the preserve of male growers.

At best, a row of plants not selected to grow on for shows would be available for vases for ‘she who must be obeyed’.

Admiring the dahlias at the 2016 Harrogate Autumn Show
Admiring the dahlias at the 2016 Harrogate Autumn Show

Allotment monster flowers

I wasn’t a fan of the monsters, created after nipping out every flower bud but one.

However, my attitude has softened with the rosy glow of age – the allotment men like my Uncle George were geniuses, with very little cash or equipment, just knowledge and skill.

Now, there’s room for the enthusiasts (and I really do like seeing the huge flowers at shows) and people like me who like to see them in border interacting with other plants.

Next, we need to get the children and inexperienced gardeners involved!

National Dahlia Collection shows

The National Dahlia Collection (NDC) aims to share members’ knowledge of growing dahlias, provide insight on what goes on behind-the-scenes at flower shows, and inspire people to get into gardening.

Fresh from their triumph at RHS Chelsea, the NDC will be attending these main shows:

  • RHS Chatsworth Flower Show: June 6-10
  • BBC Gardeners’ World Live: June 14-17
  • RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show: July 3-8
  • RHS Malvern Autumn Show: September 29-30

My favourite dahlias

Since dahlias became popular again, it’s great to see them taking their place with other plants in borders and containers – I hate seeing flowers in rows.

My main delight in dahlias nowadays is the dark foliaged single Bishop series (Bishops Children is a good mix), which I often grow from seed as half-hardy annuals and occasionally overwinter.

They blend so well into a hot-coloured tropical-style border and are easy enough for beginners to grow.

I’m also very fond of a trio I bought last year – Jescot Julie, Arabian Nights and New Baby, sold as a so-called Chocolate Orange Collection. I’ve propagated these and they’re in pots this summer.

For more NDC information and advice, visit  https://nationaldahliacollection.co.uk/.

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