Sometimes the sheer audacity of a flower grabs your attention and simply won't let go. The first time I saw a dahlia, I was stunned. Not only is their size larger than life, but also the colors are absolutely amazing! The intricacy of petal structure, the huge array of shapes, oh yeah, did I mention the COLORS! In short, I was mesmerized. In the intervening years, not much has changed, except of course, there are better selections of these incredibly immense dahlias. Stronger stems, better foliage, brighter colors are all thanks to the hard work and intuitive genius of many hybridizers.
I know several people who have devoted their entire garden to growing dahlias. Some people might say it's a sickness. I don't agree - if dahlias are your passion, live it! On the other hand, not everyone can - or would want to -- devote a large amount of time and effort to one kind of plant. But, seriously, there's room in just about any garden for a few of these show-stopping flowers. Besides border dahlias, there are decorative, dinner plate, karma, powder puff, tree, collarette and a huge number of unique dahlia shapes available.
Flower sizes range from under 2 inches wide to more than 10 inches in diameter. While the colors include everything under the rainbow with a few surprises in between. That's a lot to choose from; I'm certain there is more than one for your garden. One of the best reasons of all to grow dahlias is their flowering time. They begin to bloom usually in late July and continue unabated until frost, a time when many other perennials are finished blooming and there's not much else going on in the garden.
Dahlias are native to the mountainous central region of Mexico and Guatemala. Spanish settlers in Mexico sent the first dahlia seeds and tubers back to Spain in the 18th century. Spanish botanists at the Royal Botanical Garden in Madrid sent seeds and tubers to botanists in other parts of Europe, and the dahlia began to spread across Europe.
The first varieties with large, double ball-shaped flowers were bred in Belgium in 1815 and within a few decades nurserymen had expanded the combinations of colors as far as they thought they could be. Most turned their attention to other projects, and dahlias languished. Then, in 1872, a box of dahlia roots from Mexico arrived in Holland. All the roots had perished except one, which produced a brilliant red flower whose shape was distinctly different. It was combined with earlier varieties and the resulting babies became the parents of today's diverse hybrids.
Thanks to the skill of breeders in England, Holland, Germany, Australia and America, dahlias come in a range of sizes and colors unmatched in the world of garden flowers. There are some spectacular dinner plate sized dahlias that grow 36-48 inches tall. How about 'Emory Paul', biggest of them all in orchid lavender; maybe 'The Big Wow', with enormous bright, scarlet red flowers.
What about checking out 'Ferncliff Illlusion', fabulous in white with violet tips or 'Kelvin Floodlight', immense, dazzling, deep, clear yellow. Any one would be perfect for creating a dramatic display in your garden. There are more demure dahlias that come in powder puff shapes and grow 24-40 inches tall. Most of these large flowers have a petticoat of regular petals with a puff of smaller, ruffled petals in the middle. Try 'Blue Bayou' in lavender-blue; or 'Soulman', in a rich, deep maroon, a color very rarely seen in the horticulture industry. You can mix it up with Karma dahlias for an array of different shapes and vibrant, iridescent colors.
These tall dahlias (36-44 inches) were developed for the Dutch cut flower market and have long, very sturdy stems. The colors are truly magnificent. For an amazing effect in your garden, try 'Karma Sangria' with a rose center, and golden yellow petals tipped in salmon rose.
Single colored flowers include 'Karma Prospero', in soft lilac-pink with a golden center and 'Karma Ventura', a dazzling lemon yellow the perfect contrast to the pink petals of 'Prospero'. Like I said, there are delightful dahlias for every gardener! You just have to find the one that suits you best.
Since 1893 Van Bourgondien has been providing the finest quality Dutch bulbs and perennials in the horticultural industry. See all of the dahlias mentioned in this article by visiting the author's website: Van Bourgondien http://www.dutchbulbs.com/bulbs/article-wrapper.do?mainPage=articles/bulblady/plantProfiles/delightfulDahlias.vm&utm_source=ArticleSubmission&utm_medium=article&utm_content=dahlias