I could not finish this season without a blog about dahlias. They have always held a special place in my heart being the first cut flower I ever grew, back in my early 20s. I was captivated by their saturated colour and impossibly perfect forms and have grown them ever since. I also love their productivity, anything that responds to being picked by producing more flowers has got to be a winner. They are a controversial flower; you either love them or hate them. I think a lot of people say they don't like them because they associate them with earwigs and garish rows of flowers on the allotment. I always say "there is a dahlia for everyone" and will do my best to convert any dissenters by showing them every shape, size and colour in our dahlia beds which house about 80 varieties. Dahlia breeding has come a long way since being Grandad's favourite, with smaller, more delicate shapes and colours working well in mixed borders. I favour the Karma range, a relatively new strain bred by the Dutch for the purpose of cutting. They have lovely long stems, are mostly waterlily in shape and have a longer vase life.
We have just been lifting a few hundred tubers this week which need to be divided and relocated next spring to free up the spanish tunnel for more roses. The tubers are drying off (upside down) for a couple of weeks before they get stored in the barn in crates of compost over winter. In the other dahlia bed I have left the tubers in with about 70cm of compost and straw on top. It worked well last year despite geting down to minus 20.
I have had some really good whites and creams this year for all of our weddings. I have always found white very difficult in dahlias as it is prone to weathering very easily, but 'Eternal Snow' and 'Nathalies Wedding' (both waterlily shapes) remained pristine and featured in many bouquets this year.
I will keep an eye on the tubers for rot through the winter months. In February/March my favourites will come out of store and on to a heat mat to get them to shoot. These will provide cuttings for plants to sale in late spring.