How wonderful that this gorgeous garden cut-flower is making a very notable comeback in every floral designers' repertoire. Getting down at 5am on Friday to Flemington markets meant that I dodged the scramble for these gorgeous White Ballerina Waterlily Dahlias and quickly snapped up my bunches before they all vanished. Combining them with stunning snow white Porcelain Roses and the fabulous "Snow of the Mountain" or Euphorbia marginate "Summer Icicle" made this "Remembrance Day" bouquet extra memorable.
The Dahlia is the national flower of Mexico. Spaniards reported finding the plants growing in Mexico in 1525, but the earliest known description is by Francisco Hernández, physician to Philip II, who was ordered to visit Mexico in 1570 to study the "natural products of that country". They were used as a source of food by the indigenous peoples, and were both gathered in the wild and cultivated. The Aztecs used them to treat epilepsy and employed the long hollow stem of the (Dahlia imperalis) for water pipes. Dahlias are members of the family Asteraceae, which is part of the daisy family. These wonderful flowers originated in the mountain ranges of Mexico, Guatemala and Columbia, before becoming popular throughout the world.
A gardening expert once said of Dahlias, "Never have so many enjoyed so much with so little time and work." And he was right. There's probably no plant in the flower kingdom that gives the gardener more spectacular reward than the dahlia.
Dahlias are a little like roses. Or hostas. Most gardeners can't grow just one. Once you grow a Dahlia, you want more. And like roses or hostas, there are seemingly endless dahlias to keep a Dahlia gardener happy. Growing them is remarkably easy, so that just adds to the frenzy. If you've never grown a Dahlia, it's high time you did.
They’re also available in many forms and different sizes, ranging from dwarf 40cm to 1.5-2m giants. You can grow dahlias from seed or tubers – both will happily thrive in a pot or planted in the garden. And, with reasonable care, they will produce a mass of colourful blooms for years to come.
Dahlias prefer warm areas but can be grown outdoors in all climates. In colder climates, tubers should be planted only when the last frost has passed. These plants are sun-lovers, so choose a sunny position in the garden where they’ll get at least six hours of sunlight. Ensure they are protected from strong winds.
Dahlias have been celebrated in many of the art work of the great impressionists, Pierre-Auguste Renoir and Claude Monet. If you happen to have been in New York between May and November 2015, you would have had the joy of seeing these gorgeous blooms take centre stage at the Frida Kahlo exhibition at the New York Botanical Gardens. If not, you can still see them in bloom in late summer and early Autumn if you wander down the Seasonal Walk.
The Dahlia I chose to use in this arrangement is called The White Ballerina, from the Waterlily Dahlia Group. These flowers have double blooms, broad sparse curved, slightly curved or flat florets and very shallow in depth compared with other dahlias.
Dare I say that I have a new darling on my "must have" list.