A new garden at the front of my house was created with Dahlias in mind. The appearance of this site without the dahlias is quite different, as you will see below. The picture to the right displays the dramatic effect the Dahlias produce.
Dahlias have an interesting history. The first tubers arrived in Europe at the end of the 18th century, sent over to Madrid by the Spanish settlers in Mexico. Andreas Dahl (after whom the plant is named) regarded it as a vegetable rather than a garden flower, but interest switched from the edible tubers to the blooms when the first varieties with large, double flowers were bred in Belgium in 1815.
Within a few years nearly every colour we now admire had been introduced and Victorian catalogues listed hundreds of varieties. The favourites in those days were the Ball and Small Decorative Dahlias. Today it is the Large Decorative and Cactus varieties which capture the public fancy. Fashions change but the popularity of this late summer flower continues to increase.
The reasons for this devotion to the Dahlia are fairly obvious. First of all the skill of the breeders in England, Holland, Germany, Australia and America has produced a range of sizes and colours unmatched in the world of garden flowers. Plants ranging from dwarf bedders (twelve inches high) to giants taller than a man. Flowers range in size from an inch to the largest dinner plate.
Equally important is the time of flowering. From the end of July to the first frosts, Dahlias provide large orbs of colour when so many flowers are past their best. Above all the Dahlia is an accommodating plant. It likes a good loam, but will grow almost anywhere. It relishes sunshine, but can still do well in partial shade. A bed just for Dahlias is really the ideal way of growing them, but they are quite at home in the herbaceous border or even the rockery for dwarf bedding varieties.