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My five favourite dahlias
I love early September: the sun is still hot but the nights are not stifling. The majority of plants have flowered and faded away but there are still some, particularly the dahlias, that are flowering their little heads off. There was a time when the dahlia was persona non grata in our gardens and was banished to the vegetable garden, where it was grown purely as a cut flower or for competitions. Dahlias were they garden equivalent of battery hens. Now they range happily through our borders bringing joy to the late summer. These are my five favourite dahlias for this year: as always I reserve the right to change my mind at any moment.
Dahlia ‘Chat Noir’: I have planted this in other gardens before but this is the first time I have grown it myself. It has truly spectacular flowers with big heads about six inches across. It contrasts rather well with a short kniphofia called ‘Nancy’s Red’.
Dahlia ‘Honka’: I found this in the plant centre at Coton Manor Gardens this summer. It is quite short (about 40cm) but the pale yellow flowers have a rather charming twist. Good for pots and the front of borders.
Dahlia ‘David Howard’: reminds me of the finest chunky cut marmalade. The orange is quite strong but very cheerful. I grow it with the second flush of flower on Rosa ‘Penelope’.
Dahlia ‘Hillcrest Royal’: not a pink for the fainthearted. It is a full-bottomed swaggering pink that can really enliven a dowdy corner where the other plants are suffering from a bit of post-summer tristesse.
Dahlia merckii: close to the wild dahlia (which grows in Mexico where it scrambles around the edges of jungles and has tiny mauve flowers) and much taller and more sophisticated than her flashier cousins.
Dahlias are pretty trouble-free, although because the flowers are quite big and heavy some sort of staking would be advisable. Keep deadheading through the flowering season and dig up and store the tubers immediately after the first frost. By store I mean put them in a box of dry compost in a shed then they will be ready for potting on again next spring.
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