Dahlias are invaluable for at this time of year in borders, patio containers and as cut flowers. They offer a wide range of flower types, often with very showy double forms in warm vibrant colours. Dahlias are enjoying a much deserved return to popularity. We love them!
Where are they from? Are they European? Well, they’ve been grown and enjoyed in Europe for more than 200 years, but originally they’re from Mexico. They were brought to the Botanical Gardens in Madrid towards the end of the 18th century and named by Abbe Cavanille in honour of botanist Andreas Dahl.
From these first specimens, growers noticed the tendency for dahlias to hybridise and before they knew it, a very wide range of cultivars became available in an enormous range of sizes and colours to delight gardeners. And now, in the 21st century, plant breeders are still having plenty of fun – there are loads of developments in dahlia cultivation today.
We have to share the beauty of dahlias, and so a visit to the Hilltop Borders is highly recommended. They are looking stunning at the moment. Traditionally we have had long-term trials of dahlias on the Trials Field at Wisley, and we’re showing off almost all of the cultivars that’ve been awarded the prestigious RHS Award of Garden Merit (AGM) between 2010 and 2015. This is believed to be the only display in the world of such modern cultivars and demonstrates the latest trends in dahlia breeding and selection.
We are grateful for the help of the National Dahlia Society and the RHS Dahlia Forum for their advice and support in the development of this display, as well as the skills of our own propagation team who took innumerable cuttings from overwintered tubers and grew on bought-in rooted cuttings.
Dahlias, dahlias, everywhere!
Having no beds or borders isn’t a reason to hold back from growing dahlias either - a number of the dahlias have been bred especially for use in pots. You can see some in the nearby Container Garden.
One of the biggest attractions isn’t in the Hilltop Borders but in the lawn between them as our colleagues in the Turf team have given free rein to their inner creativity and come up with a fantastic ‘dahlia’ mown into the grass. Marvellous.
And finally... don't forget you can see hundreds of varieties of dahlias at the RHS Wisley Flower Show, which runs until 11 September.
This blog was co-written with John Edgar.